07:04, October 16 258 0 theguardian.com

2019-10-16 07:04:04
Extinction Rebellion lawyers apply for judicial review over protest ban

Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion have filed an urgent application for a judicial review hearing at the high court in London, as the number of arrests in 10 days of demonstrations rose to more than 1,600.

The request was filed at the royal courts of justice on the Strand just after 10am on Wednesday morning. It comes after the Metropolitan police imposed a section 14 order on Monday night, in effect banning all protest by XR in the capital.

Outside the court, Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer working with XR’s legal strategy team, said it was claiming that the order was an infringement of the right to protest, disproportionate, and beyond the powers given to police by the Public Order Act.

“There’s a general consensus that this is unlawful overreach and that it risks criminalising anyone who seeks to protest about the climate and ecological emergency,” he said.

“As we saw from Sadiq Khan even, the mayor, yesterday, there is a suggestion that a lot of people think the police have overstepped the mark here, and we hope the court will agree.”

Garnett said judges had been asked for an expedited hearing scheduled for 2pm.

Since imposing the order, police have moved in to clear protesters who were camping in Trafalgar Square, then a much larger camp in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, to which many activists had moved after being removed from locations in Westminster they occupied last week.

As of 8am on Wednesday, there had been 1,642 arrests made over XR protests, according to the Met.

The Green party MEP Ellie Chowns was among those arrested in Trafalgar Square on Monday night. She is now one of several claimants in the judicial review. She said she had not been part of XR’s protests but was arrested after asking questions of police about the legality of their actions.

But she added: “I do plan to go to Trafalgar Square at lunchtime today to stand in solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion protesters because I believe that the right to protest peacefully in a public place is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.

“If that right is removed completely, if people can be cleared from the entire city when they are not doing anything except peacefully assembling to draw attention to the climate crisis – which is such an existential crisis that has got such a strong wave of public support behind it – if people can be banned from from peaceful assembly then that’s really quite worrying.”

Police were continuing their crackdown on Monday, demanding to see identification papers for anybody crossing Lambeth Bridge, and reportedly refusing to allow activists who had stayed in a church to leave unless they agreed to go home.

XR has vowed to continue to protest despite the Met’s order, with demonstrations planned for outside the offices of Google and YouTube, and a citizens assembly they hope will be attended by prominent figures at Trafalgar Square at 1.30pm.