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Court rules ban on XR protest was unlawful

08 November, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Extinction Rebellion protesters took to the streets in last month to highlight the lack of action on climate change

A BAN on Extinction Rebellion protests in the capital last month was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

Judges Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Chamberlain said the Met’s section 14 order, which said any assembly linked to the “Autumn Uprising” must cease their protests, was not lawful and it has been quashed.

The ruling reads: “Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not one public assembly within the meaning of section 14(1) of the 1986 [Public Order] Act.”

It adds that the XR protests intended to be held between October 14 and 19 was not a public assembly and therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it.

The Met argued that the XR “Autumn Rising” – which shut down key areas of London – was one public assembly taking place across London.

The order was revoked on October 18 after it was deemed no longer necessary.

The force could now face claims from those arrested for false imprisonment compensation, according to the campaign group.

Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer in Extinction Rebellion’s legal strategy team, said in a statement: “Extinction Rebellion is delighted with the court’s decision. It vindicates our belief that the police’s blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest.”

The court judgment does note that there are powers under the Public Order Act which might be used to “control future protests deliberately designed to ‘take police resources to breaking point’”.

Responding to the ruling, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “Today’s ruling confirms what we said at the time – that the police’s blanket ban on Extinction Rebellion protests was unlawful and a complete overstep.

“People are understandably deeply concerned at a lack of government action to tackle the climate crisis, and the authorities should be ensuring that those demanding climate justice are able to participate in non-violent protests.”

The Met said it will now “carefully consider” the judgement before deciding on their next steps.

They say although not finalised, the cost of the autumn protests to the MPS was £24million.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: “The decision to apply the conditions on October 14 on the Extinction Rebellion “Autumn Uprising” prot­est was not taken lightly.

“After more than a week of serious disruption in London both to communities and across our partner agencies, and taking account of the enormous ongoing effort by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and across the UK to police the protest, we firmly believed that the continuation of the situation was untenable.”

He added: “I want to be clear; we would not and cannot ban protest. The condition at the centre of this ruling was specific to this particular protest, in the particular circumstances at the time.”

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