Extinction Rebellion climate protesters have promised to continue their mass civil disobedience campaign in London despite a city-wide ban on their demonstrations announced late on Monday night.
Hundreds of police officers moved in almost without warning to clear protesters who remained at the movement’s camp in Trafalgar Square on Monday night.
The crackdown, which was condemned by campaigners and politicians, came shortly after the Met issued a revised section 14 order on Monday stating that “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘autumn uprising’ … must now cease their protests within London” by 9pm.
However, by 8am on Tuesday it was clear the climate campaigners had no intention of backing down as one of the organisation’s founders, Gail Bradbrook, led a protest at the Department for Transport in London.
Standing on top of the entrance of the building before she was arrested, Bradbrook called on ministers to explain how their continued expansion of roads and airports fitted with a net-zero emissions target. “I do this for the beautiful pear tree at Cubbington Woods, 250 years old – they have no rights. I do this in fierce love of the 108 ancient woodlands threatened by HS2, this climate crime of a project. I do this in the spirit of what Emmeline Pankhurst called the noble art of window smashing.”
The group has brought widespread disruption to parts of central London over the past week to highlight the growing climate and ecological emergency. It has drawn support from scientists, doctors, grandparents and religious leaders – many of whom are among more than 1,400 people who have been arrested so far.
The group has three demands: for the UK government to tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency; for it to adopt a target of zero carbon by 2025; and for the government to set up a citizens’ assembly to decide future policy on the environment.
The police crackdown was condemned by politicians on Tuesday.
The Green MEP Molly Scott Cato tweeted: “A terrible sight in a democracy.”
A terrible sight in a democracy
Police are occupying Trafalgar Square to prevent peaceful protest
This is the work of Priti Pitel's Home Office
— Molly Scott Cato MEP (@MollyMEP) October 15, 2019
Ellie Chowns, another Green MEP from the West Midlands, was one of those arrested when the police moved into Trafalgar Square.
Last night I was arrested in Trafalgar Square while defending the right to peaceful public protest. That right is central to a functioning democracy. Yesterday, public protest was banned throughout our capital city. This is a completely unjustified and disproportionate measure.
— Ellie Chowns MEP (@EllieChownsMEP) October 15, 2019
However, the Met deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “These conditions have been imposed due to the continued breaches of the section 14 condition previously implemented and ongoing serious disruption to the community.
“We have made significant progress in managing Extinction Rebellion’s activity at sites across central London over this past week. Officers have begun the process of clearing Trafalgar Square and getting things back to normal.”
But despite the crackdown XR activists said they were determined to carry on with their protests, with plans to close one of the bridges across the Thames later on Tuesday with a No Food, No Future protest and an XR grandparents’ group planning a protest outside Buckingham Palace.
Ronan McNern from XR said the authorities could not ignore the crisis. “Those making the decisions around this need to realise that we are a peaceful organisation and that there is not a security solution to this … the climate and ecological crisis is here and it cannot be addressed by tougher policing.”