Met ‘ban’ of XR action ruled ‘unlawful’

Friends have welcomed the news that Metropolitan Police’s ban of Extinction Rebellion ‘autumn rising’ gatherings in London has been ruled unlawful

Quakers have welcomed the news that the Metropolitan Police’s controversial ban of Extinction Rebellion (XR) gatherings in London has been ruled unlawful.

The decision announced by the high court on 6 November said that the Met had been wrong to define XR’s ‘autumn uprising’ as a single public assembly.

Paul Parker, recording clerk of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), tweeted: ‘Good to see the courts doing their job and defending the right to protest. The climate emergency demands no less.’

Other Quakers welcomed the news, particularly those involved in the XR’s two-week rebellion. Loveday Craig-Wood, from Guildford Meeting, who was there the day before the ban was enforced, told the Friend that she was very grateful to the team who applied for the judicial review because ‘it felt shocking that the police would resort to something like that in our country towards a peaceful protest. It seemed an outrageous cunning way to get people off the street, because some people, like me, didn’t want to get arrested’.

The decision to overturn the order has meant that hundreds of people arrested during the ban period from 9pm on Monday 14 October until 6pm the following Friday, including many Quakers, may now consider sueing for unlawful arrest or false imprisonment. Lawyers branded it a ‘very expensive mistake’ and pointed out that, if force was used against the arrestees, they could also claim for assault.

Quaker and XR co-founder Ian Bray, however, who has been arrested fifteen times and is awaiting trial at the crown court next year, said this could be a long process. ‘I can’t speak for those people but, if it were me, I probably wouldn’t. It would involve a lot of energy just to persecute the Met, which wouldn’t end the problems we’re in. It’s not going to change anything around Section 14 either, although there might be room for some kind of class action.’

According to the Huddersfield Quaker, the Met’s use of the Section 14 order was ‘unenforceable’ and ‘badly backfired’: ‘I don’t know if it is indicative of the fact that the Met is under a lot of political pressure, and has to be seen to do something, or whether it shows that they think they can do what they like. But more people came on the streets because of it, and civil right groups and Amnesty [International], who had previously been critical of XR, got on side.’

The Network for Police Monitoring however said someone at the Met needs to be held accountable for the decision.

Kate Allen, from Amnesty International UK, welcomed the ruling: ‘The sweeping, ill-defined… ban sent the chilling message that basic freedoms in this country can be set aside when the authorities choose to do so.’

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