Hundreds of trials are expected to kick off in the coming weeks.
Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion activists are set to face trial in the coming weeks, following April’s ‘uprising’ against the climate crisis.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) say more than 30 people have been summoned to City of London Magistrates Court this Friday, with over 50 set to be called each Friday through August, charged with breaching the Public Order Act
As of this Thursday, 180 people have been charged, the majority for breach of Section 14 of the Public Order Act and obstructing a highway, according to the Metropolitan Police. 1,151 arrests were made during the two weeks of protests.
In addition, one has person received a caution for outraging public decency and 32 people have been released with no further action.
The Met says it is ‘continuing to progress more than 900 cases’ with the Crown Prosecution Service – suggesting many more prosecutions are to come.
Met Commander Jane Connors said:
“The serious disruption caused to people in central London during the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in April was beyond unacceptable. As ever, our policing focus was to balance the right to protest while ensuring Londoners could continue to go about their daily business.
“However, protestors continually chose to ignore the conditions imposed by the MPS in order to keep London moving. As a result an exceptionally large number of arrests were made in order to contain the serious disruption that was being caused.
“This had a significant impact on local policing as thousands of officers were diverted away from core local duties and asked to work extended 12-hour shifts. We now have a dedicated team in place to follow up and thoroughly investigate all arrests that were made.
“We previously stated our intention to progress each and every case in relation to these protests, and we will continue to work closely with the CPS to bring those responsible for this disorder before the courts.”
A spokesperson for XR said:
“Extinction Rebellion welcomes this extraordinary opportunity to take our message into the courts. These prosecutions give our rebels a platform to speak the truth about the dire situation we’re in.
“Our legal team also hopes to use these cases to set a major precedent in British law, establishing a citizen’s right to act in the face of emergency.”
The group have set up a crowdfunding campaign to fight for the defendants – and are seeking to raise £250,000 to cover legal costs.
In a statement, XR questioned the ‘motivation’ of the Metropolitan Police:
“During the Rebellion, the police took a gentle approach and allowed our peaceful occupation of central London sites to continue for ten days. Only 70 people were charged at the time, most after being arrested more than once. But subsequent criticism that the Met Commissioner was unprepared appears to have stung.
“We call on our police to concentrate its efforts on serious problems such as knife crime and gang violence, not on petty face-saving. We are also disappointed at the Crown Prosecution Service’s failure to challenge these prosecutions. Where is the public interest?”
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.