NEWS
16/10/2019 5:19 PM AEDT

Extinction Rebellion Launch Legal Action Against Police Over Protest Ban

The group said it would file a High Court claim challenging the ban on the grounds it is “disproportionate and unlawful”.

PA Wire/PA Images
Protesters gather their belongings as police work to remove the last of the Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Trafalgar Square, central London.

Extinction Rebellion activists are launching legal action against the Met Police after the force ordered a London-wide ban on their protests

The move comes amid growing criticism of the ban, which was made on Monday night under public order legislation already used to restrict the action to Trafalgar Square. 

Human rights lawyer Tobias Garnett, who works for Extinction Rebellion, said the group would be filing a High Court claim challenging the ban on the grounds it is “disproportionate and unlawful”.

The police order limiting protests “risks criminalising anyone who wants to protest in any way about the climate and ecological emergency that we face”, Garnett said. 

Under the current order, any assembly – classed as a gathering of two or more people – linked to Extinction Rebellion in London is unlawful.

Henry Nicholls / Reuters
Co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion group, Gail Bradbrook, speaks as she kneels atop the doorway into the Department of Transport

However, activists continued to protest on Tuesday, targeting the Department for Transport and locking themselves to a caravan on Millbank. It took police more than two hours to free them using electric saws. 

Meanwhile, demonstrators gathered outside of the MI5 headquarters in a bid to highlight the issue of food security. 

Speaking on Tuesday, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor said the protest ban was brought in after “continued breaches” of the condition limiting the demonstration to Trafalgar Square.

“This was an operational policing decision to help us get London moving again,” he said. 

“After nine days of disruption we felt it is entirely proportionate and reasonable to impose this condition because of the cumulative impact of these protests.

“A significant policing operation continues, and we will take robust action against anyone engaged in unlawful protests at locations targeted by Extinction Rebellion.”

But lawyers have questioned the legality of ban, with anti-Brexit barrister Jo Maugham QC calling it a “huge overreach” of police powers and human rights lawyer Adam Wagner dubbing the move “draconian and extremely heavy-handed”. 

Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “This ban is completely contrary to Britain’s long-held traditions of policing by consent, freedom of speech and the right to protest.”

However, her government counterpart, Priti Patel, tweeted: “Officers from around the country have done a fantastic job policing XR protests. Supporting our Police is vital.

“Labour support the law breakers who have disrupted the lives and businesses of Londoners. They cannot be trusted in Downing Street or the Home Office.”

More than 1,400 people have been arrested in connection with the protests.