Police ban on Extinction Rebellion protests 'was unlawful', court rules

Red Brigade activists were a highly visible part of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations which shut down roads in London this autumn

Extinction Rebellion won a High Court challenge on Wednesday against London's Metropolitan Police.

"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 act)", the court ruled.

"Therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under Section 14 of the 1986 Act".

The Metropolitan Police, on 14 October this year, imposed the ban on "any assembly linked to" XR's Autumn Uprising mass civil disobedience campaign.

However, in their ruling the judges noted there are powers within the Act which may be used lawfully to 'control future protests which are deliberately created to "take police resources to breaking point"' - one of XR's stated aims.

Ellie Chowns, a Green Party Member of the European Parliament who was among those arrested for gathering in London's Trafalgar Square following the ban, called the decision "an huge victory for the right to protest".

Responding to the ruling, Extinction Rebellion UK tweeted "we won't be silenced".

Speaking in a Facebook Live broadcast outside the court, she said: "The police can over-step the mark".

A climate protester from the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion has climbed scaffolding around the base of one of Britain's most famous landmarks, the Big Ben clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.

"It vindicates our belief that the police's blanket ban was an unprecedented and now unlawful infringement on our right to protest", human rights attorney Tobias Garnett said outside the courtroom.

The Metropolitan Police used Section 14 of the Law of Public Order initially to restrict the protest action to Trafalgar Square, but after "continuous infractions, quot; of the order, the agents moved to clean the area".

London police made 1,457 Extinction Rebellion related arrests during last month's week-long protests.

A supporter of climate action group Extinction Rebellion holds a placard outside the Royal Courts of Justice that houses the High Court in London on 24 October.

Ephgrave described the situation at the time as "untenable", saying protesters had created "unacceptable and prolonged disruption to Londoners". 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.

"I want to be clear; we would not and can not ban protest".

"The police have powers to impose conditions to manage protests but not to ban them", Jules Carey, a lawyer acting for Extinction Rebellion, said in a statement.

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