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Extinction Rebellion police ban was illegal, court says
XR protests the police ban outside London’s Royal Courts of JusticePhotography Gareth Morris, courtesy Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion police ban was illegal, court says

Protesters arrested under the unlawful London order imposed in October may now sue the Metropolitan police

The high court has ruled that the police’s London-wide ban on Extinction Rebellion protests in October was illegal. 

Lawyers for the climate activist group have suggested that hundreds of protesters arrested under the unlawful section 14 order (Public Order Act) are now able to bring legal cases against the Metropolitan police.

XR was hit with the ban during their two-week autumn uprising, dubbed International Rebellion. Activists cleared Trafalgar Square as ordered by police on the evening of Monday 14 before defying the ban and continuing their planned action the following day.

Speaking to Dazed at the time, XR’s co-founder Clare Farrell called the ban “a fucking disgrace”, but said it had a positive effect on the movement. “It’s created a huge amount of public support and sympathy,” she continued, “because everybody thinks it’s a total outrage, which it is.”

The legal case was brought forward by XR supporters including Labour MPs Clive Lewis and David Drew, Guardian journalist George Monbiot – who was arrested during the uprising – the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and Ellie Chowns, Labour activist Adam Allnutt, and snowboarder Jenny Jones.

“This is a historic win,” Jones said, “because for the first time we’ve challenged the police on overstepping their powers and we’ve won.”

The ruling may get the public back on Extinction Rebellion’s side after the group’s controversial tube action, which saw demonstrators pulled off the top of a train by angry commuters. Reflecting on the incident in an interview with Dazed, Liam Norton – a member of XR’s action group – explained that “the general consensus is that the (tube) action was misjudged”. 

He continued: “One of (XR’s) principles is that we reflect and we learn, so I think with some of the criticism levelled at us, we’ve really tried to acknowledge it and grow.”

Even before the police issued the London-wide ban, the activist group had been widely criticised for its fetishisation of arrest. Although many members and supporters have acknowledged their white privilege, they believe this strategy is the only way to get the government to listen. “The poorest and most vulnerable people are feeling the effects of climate breakdown,” arrestee Gully Bujack said. “It’s my duty as a citizen of this planet to do what I can with what little time we have left.”

Look back at our exploration of climate activism and class structures here.