London’s Metropolitan Police are coming under increasing criticism for their plans for charge 1,100 arrested Extinction Rebellion protestors with crimes.
Arrested as part of last month’s climate change protests, over 70 activists have already been charged in connection with the series of protests that sought to raise awareness amongst the public and government as to the urgency of the climate change crisis.
The protests helped ensure that the British government declared a climate emergency, becoming the first government in the world to do so. The symbolic move came after two weeks of activism by Extinction Rebellion.
However, the Metropolitan Police are now seeking to make an example of protestors, with the Met managing to find 30 officers to investigate the case at a time of heightened violent crime and disorder.
“We have charged over 70. All the others are currently under investigation and we have got a dedicated unit of around 30 officers who are investigating those offences. It is our anticipation that we are putting all of those to the CPS for decisions. That’s a really significant resource put in place for a period of six to nine months just investigating that one protest.”Laurence Taylor, Deputy Assistant Commissioner
The time and money being poured into the investigation have been heavily criticised, with critics pointing out that the fact the levels of knife crime in the capital are seemingly out of control while police are busy prosecuting non-violent protestors.
The plans to prosecute the protestors has also come in for criticism from Labour, the Shadow Attorney-General Shami Chakrabarti suggesting that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor was overreaching on his powers.
“The deputy assistant commissioner would be wise to remember his constitutional role, which is not that of prosecutor, judge or commentator. The police perform a vital role in preserving the law and keeping the peace, which includes safeguarding the rights of peaceful protesters. The next Labour government will review the statute book to ensure that the right to peaceful protest is robustly protected.”Shami Chakrabarti, Shadow Attorney-General
Extinction Rebellion themselves were nonchalant about the possibility of charges, stating that it merely shows the dedication the group has to the cause.
“We have seen doctors, we have seen XR youth – kids with their parents’ permission – doing civil disobedience. If the Met plan is to take those people and put them through the court system, in a way it serves the purpose of Extinction Rebellion. More people will know who these people are protesting. Either way, we win.”Ronan McNern, Extinction Rebellion
The Metropolitan Police have expressly stated that the prosecutions will be designed to “deter similar tactics being used in the future”, leaving the justice system open to accusations that they are bringing malicious prosecutions in an effort to suppress peaceful protest. The case has alarming echoes of the Texas pipeline laws that have made protest illegal at the behest of American big oil.