Extinction Rebellion threaten to send ‘millions of people on to the streets’ after government crackdown

·2-min read
XR activists protest in London last month  (REUTERS)
XR activists protest in London last month (REUTERS)

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has vowed to send “millions of people onto the streets” after the Government unveiled legislation banning “guerrilla protests”.

The climate change protest group said it was “foolish” for ministers to think that new curbs would stop activists “taking to the streets to demand their Government act to ensure a safe future”.

Ministers revealed the Public Order Bill in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday which allows courts to impose harsh sentences for anyone involved in certain types of protests.

The Bill seeks to outlaw tactics in England and Wales such as protesters “locking on” to public transport infrastructure or gluing themselves to roads which have been adopted by campaign groups such as Insulate Britain.

It will criminalise “locking on” to people, objects or buildings in order to cause “serious disruption” – with a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Reacting to the Queen’s Speech, XR protester Charlie Waterhouse said: “It is foolish to think that announcing new curbs in the Queen’s Speech will stop people taking to the streets to demand their Government act to ensure a safe future for people in the UK and around the world.

“As we in Extinction Rebellion know full well: what we do works. It’s worked countless times before. It has worked to give us weekends and the vote, human rights and freedom. And it will work again.

“Faced with a Government incapable of anything other than a desperate attempt to shore-up its own power and cover-up its criminality, it is the only thing we can do.”

He added: “Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, we thank you. Our organisations were set up to break the law to drive positive change. Your actions show that we are winning.”

As part of the Bill, it will also become illegal to obstruct major transport works such as the HS2 high-speed rail link.

Police will also be given enhanced stop-and-search powers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said ministers are determined to prevent protesters bringing the country to “a grinding halt”.

She added: “The law-abiding, responsible majority have had enough of anti-social, disruptive protests carried out by a self-indulgent minority who seem to revel in causing mayhem and misery for the rest of us.”

Ms Patel denied she is attempting to erode the right to protest, describing it as a “fundamental right… that we all cherish dearly” and dismissing such claims put forward by opponents as a “lazy excuse”.

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