London Police Ban on Extinction Rebellion Ruled ‘Unlawful'
The police imposed the ban Oct. 14 for the last four days of Extinction Rebellion's two-week "Autumn Uprising," a campaign of civil disobedience in London intended to pressure the government into action on the climate crisis.
"Extinction Rebellion is delighted with the Court's decision," Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer in Extinction Rebellion's Legal Strategy team, said in an Extinction Rebellion press release. "It vindicates our belief that the Police's blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest. Rather than wasting its time and money seeking to silence and criminalise those who are drawing its attention to the Climate and Ecological Emergency, we call on the Government to act now on the biggest threat to our planet."
The police had issued the ban under Section 14 of the Public Order Act of 1986, which grants them the power to impose restrictions on assemblies that "may result in serious public disorder." But the court ruled that the police had overstepped their authority by banning a series of protests as if they were a single assembly.
"Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if coordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of the Section 14 of the 1986 Act," Lord Justice Digemans said, according to CNN. "The XR autumn uprising intended to be held from October 14 to 19 was not therefore a public assembly ... therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under Section 14 of the 1986 Act."
Anyone who was arrested under the ban may now sue the London police for false imprisonment, The Guardian pointed out.
"It's a very expensive mistake for the Metropolitan police," Jules Carey, part of the legal team that brought the case, told The Guardian. "I'm sure most of them would want to start off with an apology for the ordeal that they experienced, but all of them could potentially be awarded several thousands of pounds depending on how long they were arrested for and whether force was used against them."
More than 1,800 people were arrested during the two-week protests, CNN reported, and 400 were arrested after the ban.
The judicial review of the police order was brought by Green Party Members Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas and Ellie Chowns, Labour Members of Parliament Clive Lewis and David Drew, Labour activist Adam Allnutt and Guardian columnist George Monbiot.
Chowns, a Member of European Parliament who was arrested for remaining in Trafalgar Square after the ban was announced, applauded the ruling.
"I'm delighted with this judgement because this is about fundamental democratic rights. The right to assembly and public protest are cornerstones of a functioning democracy," she said in a video shared on her Twitter feed. "Now Extinction Rebellion protesters have been raising the alarm about the climate crisis. We need to listen to that alarm, not outlaw it."
Extinction Rebellion launched in the UK in late October of last year and has since spread worldwide. In the UK, the group has three demands: that the government declare a climate emergency, that it act to halt biodiversity loss and achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and that it convene a Citizens' Assembly to guide its actions on the environment.
The group's London demonstrations in October cost the police $31 million, according to CNN. For comparison, the police spend £15 million (approximately $19 million) on their violent crime task force every year.
"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," Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said in a statement reported by CNN. "I want to be clear; we would not and cannot ban protest. The condition at the center of this ruling was specific to this particular protest, in the particular circumstances at the time."
In court, it was revealed that the police ban followed an online message from Extinction Rebellion urging protesters to adopt the "be water" tactics used by demonstrators in Hong Kong, BBC News reported.
"Be water, crowds split up into fast moving groups and pairs, that network via phones," the message said. "You gather at particular spots in large numbers, until the police response building then you move to a new disruptive site."
BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said the ruling would make it hard for the police to control similar protests in the future:
Today's High Court ruling takes away from officers the ability to impose a city-wide ban of future protests, which means demonstrators wanting to be "like water" - where they split into fast-moving groups - will be difficult to control if they are trying to disrupt a whole city.
So police will have to deal with what is in front of them.
If a specific protest in a specific place gets out of hand they will be able to close it down, but it will have to be a decision made by an officer on the spot, and not by someone sitting in a police station worrying about what protests may happen the next day.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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