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."
More than 400 @XRebellionUK activists unlawfully arrested for assembling (a human right) could sue the Met Police f… https://t.co/XDTKvg7OY1— Extinction Rebellion London (@Extinction Rebellion London)1573047748.0
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."
Here is the crucial section of the judgement: https://t.co/LxNJsE8YQc— George Monbiot (@George Monbiot)1573036583.0
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."
In Trafalgar Square at the place where I was unlawfully arrested three weeks ago for defending the right to protest… https://t.co/YveTsHcP5r— Ellie Chowns MEP (@Ellie Chowns MEP)1573048937.0
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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From Greta Thunberg to Sir David Attenborough, the headline-grabbing climate change activists and environmentalists of today are predominantly white. But like many areas of society, those whose voices are heard most often are not necessarily representative of the whole.
1. Wangari Maathai<p>In 2004, Professor Maathai made history as the <a href="https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org/Prize-winners/Prizewinner-documentation/Wangari-Maathai" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize</a> for her dedication to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She started the <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Green Belt Movement</a>, a community-based tree planting initiative that aims to reduce poverty and encourage conservation, in 1977. More than 51 million trees have been planted helping build climate resilience and empower communities, especially women and girls. Her environmental work is celebrated every year on <a href="http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/node/955" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wangari Maathai Day on 3 March</a>.</p>
2. Robert Bullard<p>Known as the 'father of environmental justice,' Dr Bullard has <a href="https://www.unep.org/championsofearth/laureates/2020/robert-bullard" target="_blank">campaigned against harmful waste</a> being dumped in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the southern states of the U.S. since the 1970s. His first book, Dumping in Dixie, highlighted the link between systemic racism and environmental oppression, showing how the descendants of slaves were exposed to higher-than-average levels of pollutants. In 1994, his work led to the signing of the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/albert-huang/20th-anniversary-president-clintons-executive-order-12898-environmental-justice" target="_blank">Executive Order on Environmental Justice</a>, which the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/" target="_blank">Biden administration is building on</a>.<br></p>
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Pollution has a race problem. Elizabethwarren.com
3. John Francis<p>Helping the clean-up operation after an oil spill in San Francisco Bay in January 1971 inspired Francis to <a href="https://planetwalk.org/about-john/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop taking motorized transport</a>. Instead, for 22 years, he walked everywhere. He also took a vow of silence that lasted 17 years, so he could listen to others. He has walked the width of the U.S. and sailed and walked through South America, earning the nickname "Planetwalker," and raising awareness of how interconnected people are with the environment.</p>
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4. Dr. Warren Washington<p>A meteorology and climate pioneer, Dr. Washington was one of the first people to develop atmospheric computer models in the 1960s, which have helped scientists understand climate change. These models now also incorporate the oceans and sea ice, surface water and vegetation. In 2007, the <a href="https://www.cgd.ucar.edu/pcm/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Parallel Climate Model (PCM)</a> and <a href="https://www.cesm.ucar.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Community Earth System Model (CESM)</a>, earned Dr. Washington and his colleagues the <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2007/summary/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nobel Peace Prize</a>, as part of the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change</a>.</p>
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5. Angelou Ezeilo<p>Huge trees and hikes to pick berries during her childhood in upstate New York inspired Ezeilo to become an environmentalist and set up the <a href="https://gyfoundation.org/staff/Angelou-Ezeilo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greening Youth Foundation</a>, to educate future generations about the importance of preservation. Through its schools program and Youth Conservation Corps, the social enterprise provides access to nature to disadvantaged children and young people in the U.S. and West Africa. In 2019, Ezeilo published her book <em>Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders</em>, co-written by her Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Nick Chiles.</p>
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