Priti Patel pledges to crackdown on ‘dangerous environmental protests’

Tower Bridge: Extinction Rebellion protestor blocks traffic

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The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will give officers more powers to halt or control protests which cause severe disruption. Extinction Rebellion staged “protest of one” roadblocks to demonstrate against the Government’s lack of action on climate change. Five men and four women were held for obstructing traffic in London.

Ms Patel criticised XR just days after six Extinction Rebellion protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite the judge directing jurors they had no defence in law.

The defendants said the verdict would encourage others to take similar action – and days later a group smashed windows at HSBC’s headquarters in east London.

Ms Patel said: “I would not be delivering on my promise to the lawabiding majority if I stood by as Extinction Rebellion deployed dangerous tactics in the name of environmentalism.

“These so-called activists blocked many of us from being able to access a newspaper last year.

“And last week they smashed up a bank’s headquarters.”

Saturday’s XR protests coincided with around 40 demonstrations across the UK against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Police in England and Wales will have more powers to halt or control protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.

Nine people were arrested in London, the Met Police said. In Newcastle, demonstrators faced off against officers stopping them from marching on a police station. Protesters let off flares and wore placards reading “Destroy power not people” and “No more police powers”.

In Bristol 13 officers were assaulted with some injured as bottles, cans, paint and eggs were thrown.

Ms Patel defended the new laws, saying: “The powers will help the police to balance the rights of protesters to demonstrate peacefully against the rights of others to go about their daily business, and to dedicate their resources to keeping the public safe.

“That is democracy in action.”

The six XR activists cleared at Southwark Crown Court on Friday were charged with causing £25,000 worth of criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters in April 2019.

Judge Gregory Perrins told jurors that even if they thought the protesters were “morally justified” it did not provide them with a lawful excuse.

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