High Court overturns ban on Extinction Rebellion public protests

The court ruled that the Met's decision to ban the protests was unlawful because they did not fit the legal definition of "public assembly"

The High Court has overturned a police ban on Extinction Rebellion protests that was brought in last month after the court decided the Metropolitan Police Service’s decision was unlawful.

The High Court ruled today that the Met’s decision to ban the protests under legislation designed to prevent "public assembly" was unlawful because the protests did not fit the legal definition of a public assembly and had yet to occur.

Extinction Rebellion had been in the middle of its Autumn Uprising protests, which took place between 7 and 19 October across various London sites, including Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and London City Airport.

The ban was brought in under section 14 of the Public Order Act and prevented Extinction Rebellion protests across London between 9pm on 14 October and 6pm on 18 October.

Extinction Rebellion said that more than 400 activists had been arrested by the police during the four-day ban.

The case against the police order was brought on behalf of Extinction Rebellion by the Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones, the former leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP, the Labour MPs Clive Lewis and David Drew, the Green Party MEP Ellie Chowns, the Labour activist and Extinction Rebellion organiser Adam Allnut and the journalist George Monbiot.

The court’s decision could lead to Extinction Rebellion activists arrested during the period covered by the ban suing the police for alleged false imprisonment.

Lucas said: "The police use of a section 14 order to ban all Extinction Rebellion protests across the whole of London was a huge overreach of police powers. 

"This power is there to help the police to manage protests, not shut them down altogether. Extinction Rebellion is carrying a message we all need to hear. 

"It won’t be silenced by a police crackdown, nor should it be in a free, democratic society."

Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer in Extinction Rebellion’s legal strategy team, said the movement was delighted with the court’s decision. 

"It vindicates our belief that the police’s blanket ban on our protests was an unprecedented and unlawful infringement on the right to protest," said Garnett.

"Rather than wasting its time and money seeking to silence and criminalise those who are drawing its attention to the climate and ecological emergency, we call on the government to act now on the biggest threat to our planet."

Nick Ephgrave, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, said Extinction Rebellion’s protests "created unacceptable and prolonged disruption to Londoners" and the force would consider the court’s ruling. 

He said: "After eight days of continual disruption, we took the decision to bring an end to this particular protest, a decision that we believe was both reasonable and proportionate. It is not uncommon for conditions instructing protests to end at a certain time to be imposed.

"There is no criticism from me of the decision to impose the condition, which was made with good intent and based upon the circumstances confronting the command team at the time. 

"It did in fact result in the reduction of the disruption. Nevertheless, this case highlights that policing demonstrations like these, within the existing legal framework, can be challenging."

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