There have been yet further shocking scenes of police heavy-handedness during the latest wave of Extinction Rebellion protests, this time involving the arrest of a 77-year-old Rabbi earlier this week.
Police have been criticised for the arrest of Rabbi Jeffrey Newman on Monday after images and video began to be widely distributed on social media. Newman, the Rabbi Emeritus of Finchley Reform Synagogue, is seen to be dragged away by several police officers after kneeling and praying in the street.
Noted as a long-time campaigner on environmental issues, the Rabbi was accompanied by around thirty Jewish members of Extinction Rebellion, the “XR Jews”.
Newman was unperturbed by his arrest and was released Monday evening after being held for several hours.
“We are in a period of enormous, catastrophic breakdown and if it takes an arrest to try to find ways of helping to galvanise public opinion, then it is certainly worth being arrested.”Rabbi Jeffrey Newman
Police declined to comment on whether Rabbi Newman had been charged over his protest, his incarceration coming amidst a staggering 1,642 arrests of Extinction Rebellion members.
It is believed that Rabbi Newman is the first British Rabbi to ever be arrested for non-violent protest and his historic actions have brought widespread support from within the Jewish community.
“I support and endorse the actions of my friend and colleague Rabbi Jeffrey and those of others taking action to bring the potential climate tragedy to a wider audience of politicians and the public alike.Rabbi Danny Rich
“Although in general Judaism teaches us that the law of the land must be obeyed, every individual Jew may face a situation where non-violent and inconvenient breaking of the law becomes a requirement, in accordance with the thought in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers: ‘Where no-one is a human being, be a human being’.”
Shulamit Morris-Evans of the XR Jews said that the actions of Extinction Rebellion were in the greatest traditions on her faith.
“Extinction Rebellion Jews was set up because our tradition teaches us to be stewards of our world and to fight for justice with all our might. Tikkun olam, healing the world, is a Jewish concept that has never been all important. As Rabbi Hillel said, ‘If not now, when?’”Shulamit Morris-Evans, XR Jews
The decision to ban Extinction Rebellion from protesting in London has been widely resisted and condemned as an extremist and undemocratic overreach by Scotland Yard and the state.
The “draconian” ban has been criticised by both the Labour Party and Green Party alongside the likes of Amnesty International and Liberty.