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Statement on judgement re Extinction Rebellion protests

News   •   Nov 06, 2019 11:22 GMT

Whilst the Metropolitan Police Service is disappointed by today’s judgement we of course will respect the decision of the court. We will now carefully consider the judgement before deciding on our next steps.

The operational policing decision to amend the conditions on the Extinction Rebellion 'Autumn Uprising' protest was made on Monday, 14 October. This decision was taken after much thought, and followed more than a week of serious disruption to London which required a significant police response in challenging circumstances.

The activity by Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’ caused sustained disruption to parts of London. It resulted in the temporary closure of three bridges in central London, diverted more than 150 bus routes, impacted the livelihoods of thousands of people, and pulled officers who could have been and should have been working in their local communities, into the city centre. We witnessed sustained disruption to a range of public transport services - as well as at London City airport – and obstruction of the roads with encampments in various unauthorised locations.

The conditions imposed on 14 October, under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, stated “Any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’…must now cease their protest(s) within London (Metropolitan Police Service, and City of London areas) by 2100hrs [on Monday] 14th October 2019.”

These were the second set of conditions to be imposed. The first, on Tuesday 8 October, imposed a condition as to the location of any assembly linked to the Autumn Uprising, directing that it must only take place in the pedestrianised area in Trafalgar Square, surrounding Trafalgar Column.

A significant operation was in place between 5 and 16 October in order to police the sustained protests. During this time a total of 7,929 MPS officers were deployed.

More than 21,000 shifts with an average length of 12.5 hours were worked by officers, the majority of whom were taken from response teams across London. 3,695 additional officers were abstracted from other parts of BCUs and units to backfill response teams to stop them falling below minimum strength.

Over 35 police forces provided support to the Met’s operation. In the first week the MPS was supported by 500 mutual aid officers, and 500 more in the second week.

Throughout the 10 days of protest, officers made a total of 1,828 arrests. As of 6 November, a total of 165 people have been charged.

Whilst final costs will not be complete for several weeks, the cost to the MPS as of 30 October stands at just over £24 million.

Throughout the course of the protests officers seized a significant amount of equipment from the various sites including items such as tents, sinks, toilets, scaffolding and other equipment which would have enabled sustained protest.

They also removed a total of 495 lock-ons – 253 on the ground, 26 off ground on built structures, 193 glued on protestors and 23 others at height.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: "The decision to apply the conditions on 14 October 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.

“Their lock-ons, disruption to public transport, obstruction of the roads and encampments in various unauthorised locations created unacceptable and prolonged disruption to Londoners. After eight days of continual disruption we took the decision to bring an end to this particular protest, a decision which we believe was both reasonable and proportionate. It is not uncommon for conditions instructing protests to end at a certain time to be imposed.

"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.

“The conditions which have been ruled on today were imposed under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, and had the effect of making demonstrators face arrest if they continued to assemble to protest in central London past 21:00hrs on Monday, 14 October.

“There is no criticism from me of the decision to impose the condition, which was made with good intent and based upon the circumstances confronting the command team at the time. It did in fact result in the reduction of the disruption. Nevertheless, this case highlights that policing demonstrations like these, within the existing legal framework, can be challenging.

“We will carefully consider today’s ruling”

+ On Friday, 18 October following a review it was deemed there was no longer a necessity for either of the Section 14 conditions, and they were removed.