Extinction Rebellion could disrupt Queen opening Parliament, police admit

Hayley Dixon
Police surround protesters on top of a wooden structure on Birdcage Walk  - PA

The Extinction Rebellion protest could force the Queen to abandon carriage trip to open Parliament, police have suggested.

Officers have told those leading the demonstration that state opening cannot take place if they are camped on the streets as Scotland Yard admitted that they have “contingency plans”.

As demonstrations shutting down the roads around Westminster continued into a third day an additional 500 officers were brought in from forces across England and Wales.

The Metropolitan Police said that it was victims of other crimes who were paying the price of their attention being diverted by climate change protests.  

More than 600 Extinction Rebellion protestors have been arrested and eighty tonnes worth of equipment has been seized. 

It came as Stanley Johnson, the Prime Minister’s father, addressed demonstrators to offer his support, telling them they “have exactly the right thing in mind here”.

When asked about Boris Johnson’s description of Extinction Rebellion as “crusties”, Mr Johnson said: “I wear that badge with pride.”

Stanley Johnson on stage at the Extinction Rebellion  Credit: Eddie Mulholland 

Police are now targeting the route of the Royal procession to try and clear the streets ahead of the state opening of Parliament on Monday. 

 Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor  insisted the officers will ensure that the event takes place but he admitted that “we will have contingency plans”, which he insisted was usual.

However, it emerged that officers have been told protestors that their security operations should have already begun and the event cannot take place if demonstrators remain where they are.

Paolo Enock, who has spent months liaising with Scotland Yard on behalf of Extinction Rebellion, said that they have seen officers taking a much harder line than they did during a similar protest in April.

Mr Enock said that they had no intention to disrupt the state opening, insisting: “We do not want to impede any democratic process in any way.”

Demonstrators have offered to move their tents but police say that they can only camp in Trafalgar Square, which they say is impossible with their numbers.  

Police moved on a pink octopus during the third day of protests  Credit: AFP

Because officers needed to begin preparations they would now be sending sniffer dogs into the camps, demonstrators have been told.

Mr Enock  told the Telegraph: “The police have said that our presence at all, anywhere but in Trafalgar Square, is impeding the security operation necessary for the State Opening of Parliament to take place.” 

Extinction Rebellion is hoping to meet with officers to try and find a compromise.  

Royal sources have said that the Queen intends to travel in her carriage to Parliament, as is tradition.

In 2017, in the wake of major terror attacks at Westminster and London Bridge she travelled part of the way in her armoured Bentley.

Simon Morgan, a former Royal Protection officer, said that such an event would always involve a number of plans to and officers will also be considering the terror threat and the risk of lone protesters .

He said it was possible those dealing with “threat and risk management” could advise the Queen to swap to an armoured car as a carriage “might not be an option on this occasion”.

Tents at the Extinction Rebellion camp on Marsham Street, Westminster Credit: PA

There is currently a heavy police presence on the route to the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Taylor said six of the 12 sites targeted had already been cleared, describing the operation as “very robust” despite criticism that the protestors had overwhelmed officers.

"The Met is a very large organisation. We will cope. But there is no doubt it is having an impact on our policing operation more widely", he said.

One consequence was that they could not “spend the amount of time with victims as we would like to”.

It can take hours to move activists who have trapped themselves with bike locks or glue, and a minimum of four officers is needed to move demonstrators who refuse to stand up when they are arrested.

A Government source said that the protesters had become “a lot more sophisticated” and are using the tactics of “hardened protestors”.

The source said: “They will have two people in the tents. You cut the tent away and it is not just handcuffs. They will like top to tail and have their arms in a big plastic tube filled with metal wire which has then been filled with concrete that has set.

“You have the people with interlinked arms in a tube of concrete and if you tried to stand them up their arms would break."

The protestors also need to be protected and "moving just 50 people takes a long time", they said. 

The protesters are planning to begin a three-day blockade of City Airport on Thursday but police have warned that they will “deal proactively" with anyone attending.