Police have taken pre-emptive action against environmental protesters who are planning to cause disruption in Westminster.
Dozens of officers from the Metropolitan police’s territorial support group raided a building in Kennington, south London, where Extinction Rebellion activists were storing equipment to use in a demonstration next week.
Protesters had said they planned to block 12 sites in Westminster from Monday morning until their political demands were met.
Earlier this week, police had promised to be more agile and assertive in dealing with the group after their demonstrations in April shut down parts of London for more than a week.
Activists who had begun to try moving equipment from the Kennington site in vans on Saturday were arrested and their vehicles and any equipment inside were impounded.
The Metropolitan police said 10 people – seven women and three men – had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.
A spokesman said: “They have been taken to a south London police station. Officers remain at the scene. Inquiries continue.”
Police used a battering ram to break into the building, the former Lambeth county court, after activists locked themselves inside.
Caroline Vincent, who works in police liaison for Extinction Rebellion, said: “Police don’t want us to move equipment out which is considered infrastructure because they think it’s going to be used to commit a crime, and the crime is blocking the highway.
“So pita and pans are considered to be equipment that will be used to commit a crime; cushions too, apparently. The only things we are allowed to move away are first aid kits, milk and fliers.”
Activists said they were concerned at the police decision to act pre-emptively against them.
Richard Ecclestone, a former police officer who has joined the group, said: “These tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest, and indeed our efforts to preserve people’s right to life that is currently being jeopardised by the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency that they know exists.”
XR said confiscated equipment included portable toilets, kitchen equipment, gazebos and big tents, cooking urns and big thermos flasks, 250-watt solar panels and 12v car batteries, food, waterproofs, umbrellas and hot water bottles.
The group said in a statement: “This escalation of pre-emptive tactics by the government and police is a sign that we are being heard and acknowledged as a significant movement. We ask that the government focus their attention and resources on responding to the climate and ecological emergency which threatens us all.”