Rush-hour trains disrupted with commuters physically targeting protesters ahead of High Court hearing against protest ban.
Commuters were filmed this morning, Thursday 17 October, physically attacking Extinction Rebellion protesters after they climbed on the roof of a London tube train.
Rush-hour Jubilee Line trains at Canning Town could not depart as protest action delayed the driver.
One man shouted: “I need to get to work!” as a protestor stood on the roof of the stopped train. A woman could also be heard yelling: “It’s a hoax! The world is not coming to an end!”
Video posted on Twitter clearly shows commuters arguing with the protestors, before one or two tried to physically drag protesters off the train.
Disruption was also experienced on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) heading west into the City, location of many corporate offices, including many firms in the financial services sector. More protestors have been arrested, according to British Transport Police — who also criticised the commuters who “took matters into their own hands”.
Extinction Rebellion has had a blanket Section 14 order imposed on the protests, and were ejected from Trafalgar Square overnight. At press-time the group was entering the courts for a hearing that they hope will rescind the ban in time for Friday, 18 October – the penultimate day of this month’s wave of action.
“We hope it will be more than that (a directional hearing). We think it’s absolutely urgent that it gets lifted as soon as possible,” a spokesperson told Left Foot Forward.
Baroness Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas MP, Clive Lewis MP, David Drew MP, Ellie Chowns MEP, George Monbiot, and Adam Allnut are bringing the action on behalf of Extinction Rebellion.
They are arguing that a ban is an unprecedented and disproportionate curtailment of the right to free speech and free assembly which risks criminalising protest about the climate and ecological emergency in the capital.
Meanwhile, Left Foot Forward understands that both Green co-leader Jon Bartley and environmental activist George Monbiot, arrested yesterday during London-wide actions, were released Wednesday night and so far have not been charged.
Monbiot, in a news clip of his arrest, said he believed the Section 14 approach had come from government. “I think it has probably come from Priti Patel, her department, because I know that she seems to regard any attempt to challenge the system as illegitimate,” he said.
He also said that “mass arrest” is a “highly effective” tactic, having proven effective for many movements throughout history.
“By showing that we’re prepared to jeopardise our liberty, that we’re prepared to make a sacrifice, other people may take us more seriously,” he said.
“By being arrested, in defence of the living planet, I hope that I can look my children and maybe one day my grandchildren in the eye.”
Priti Patel is Secretary of State at the Home Office. A Home Office spokesperson responded to Monbiot’s comments: “The right to protest peacefully is a long-standing tradition in this country and a vital foundation of our democracy. It is also essential that people can go about their daily business without disruption.”
Further, the spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “Operational decisions are a matter for the police.”
This was also true of Section 14, which was “a long-standing power available to the police”. However, the Home Office “continues to work closely with the Metropolitan Police and relevant national police leads to review current powers and to assess what further action needs to be taken to address the concerns raised”.
Monbiot did not respond to requests for further comment.
Hundreds of UK-based protesters have been arrested in Extinction Rebellion actions this year, with the official total passing 261 on 8 October. Protesters have come from all walks of life, including urban professionals, students, so-called “crusties” and clergy from rabbis to Catholic priests.
Father Martin Newell, a Catholic priest and member of Christian Climate Action, climbed on top of a train at Shadwell in London this morning.
“We are acting to raise the alarm in a spirit of repentance for our complicity in sins against God’s earth and God’s poor. Parliament has declared a climate emergency but environmental issues were virtually absent from the Queens speech. We need action not words,” he said in a pre-action statement issued by the group.
But London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “particularly angry at those targeting the London Underground – which would be extremely dangerous and counterproductive.”
Responding before today’s action to Khan’s comments, protester Nick Cooper, a shoe maker from Northampton, said: “For so many years we have been writing letters to our MPs, signing petitions and joining in marches to draw attention to this climate emergency at our doorsteps.
“We don’t know what else to do. We are so sorry to anyone whose day to day lives are affected but sadly economic disruption is the only thing which those in positions of power will listen to.”
Fleur Doidge is a freelance journalist for Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.
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