Today (6 November) the Extinction Rebellion protest ban lifted by the High Court created a landmark ruling on the right to peaceful protest
The ruling follows a judicial review – brought on behalf of Extinction Rebellion by Baroness Jenny Jones, Caroline Lucas, Clive Lewis, David Drew, Ellie Chowns MEP, Adam Allnut and George Monbiot – into the legality of the Met’s attempt to shut down all Extinction Rebellion protests during most of the second week of the Autumn Rebellion.
The ban, implemented under Section 14 of the Public Order Act and covering the whole of London, came into effect at 9pm on Monday 14th October and lasted until 6pm on Friday 18th October.
Finding in Extinction Rebellion’s favour, Lord Justice Dingemans and Justice Chamberlain said:
“We have held that the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because Superintendent McMillan had no power to impose it under section 14(1) of the 1986 Act…[the] decision to impose the condition on 14 October 2019 will be quashed”.
In their judgment, the Court agreed with Extinction Rebellion’s lawyers that: “the language of Section 14(1) itself makes clear that there is no power to prohibit rather than merely impose conditions on gatherings that have not yet begun”.
MEP Ellie Chownes, a complainant in the case who was arrested under the ban, said the judgement upheld the right to peaceful assembly and protest, a “fundamental cornerstone of our democracy”.
Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer in Extinction Rebellion’s Legal Strategy team, said of the ban lifted news:
“Extinction Rebellion is 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.
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. Where is its plan?”
Over 400 Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested during the four-day ban , the vast majority under Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Those not charged with other offences can now sue the Met for false imprisonment following their unlawful arrests and may be entitled to compensation.
Clive Lewis, from the Labour Party, said:
“Peaceful protest is an essential guarantor of a free and democratic society, so I welcome today’s judgment. Extinction Rebellion is sounding the alarm about the climate and ecological emergency.
“Rather than trying to block our ears by shutting down their protests, we should be reacting to the danger they’re alerting us to. Averting that danger requires urgent and radical change, not the criminalisation of peaceful protest.”
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