Extinction Rebellion protesters who attack our way of life should face jail, Priti Patel warns today.
The Home Secretary has ordered a review of the law aimed at toughening sentences for the environmental extremists after they blockaded newspaper print works in a bid to stifle free speech.
Options being considered include designating the group as an organised crime gang, which would leave militants open to the threat of up to five years in jail.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Miss Patel says the activists should ‘face the full force of the law’ for pursuing ‘guerrilla tactics… that seek to undermine and cause damage to our society’.
Around 100 protesters who targeted Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, in a bid to stifle free speech have been warned they could face jail time after a change to the law is mooted
Home Secretary Priti Patel has ordered a review of the law aimed at toughening sentences for the environmental extremists
One of the protesters from the bamboo lock-ons is lead away by a police officer outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
She adds: ‘I am committed to ensuring that the police have powers required to tackle the disruption caused by groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
‘We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life and ultimately our freedoms.’
A Home Office source confirmed that Miss Patel wants to see harsher sentences against the ringleaders of a group whose actions seem designed to maximise economic damage and disruption.
‘We want to see some people banged up instead of escaping with a fine they can pay from their trust fund,’ the source said.
Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents’ shelves empty on Saturday morning
‘Friday night’s blockade of print facilities in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, Merseyside, disrupted the distribution of 1.5million newspapers, including the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Times and the Telegraph.
Miss Patel’s intervention came as:
- Ministers ordered police to ensure there was no repeat, with Boris Johnson personally ringing the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
- Sir Keir Starmer faced pressure to condemn Labour’s former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who likened the XR protesters to the suffragettes.
- Police chiefs faced criticism for their ‘softly-softly’ approach to the protests.
- Extinction Rebellion was forced to deny it has been infiltrated by far-Left militants such as the Socialist Workers Party.
Friday night’s blockades drew condemnation from across government, with the Prime Minister saying that it was ‘completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way’.
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
The blockades were the latest in a string of direct action protests that have seen the Metropolitan Police issue 20 fixed penalty notices of £10,000 each under the coronavirus regulations.
Last night Government sources said Miss Patel and the PM had asked officials to conduct a rapid review of the law.
Labour’s Abbott compares them to suffragettes
Labour’s Diane Abbott sparked outrage yesterday as she defended the Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses.
Miss Abbott criticised Government plans to reclassify them as an organised crime gang, describing the protests as a ‘legal tactic’.
She said: ‘They’re not criminals, they’re protesters and activists in the tradition of the suffragettes and the hunger marches of the 1930s.’
The former shadow home secretary told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘I think it’s important to remind ourselves that direct action – which is what those actions were – is actually legal.’ Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘I’m astounded at Diane Abbott’s remarks. The idea that it is right to damage property or intervene with a free press in the name of progressive protest is, I think, perverse.’
Options include using the 2015 Serious Crime Act to designate the group as an organised crime gang – potentially leaving activists open to jail terms of up to five years.
Ministers are also looking at new powers under the Public Order Act to protect ‘critical national infrastructure and tenets of democracy’.
This could make it illegal for protesters to blockade sites such as Parliament, the courts or newspaper printing plants.
Extinction Rebellion has caused widespread disruption to people and businesses in a string of direct action protests. A Government source said: ‘The fact is that they do organise to commit crimes.’
Richard Walton, former head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said the group was an extremist organisation whose methods needed to be ‘confronted and challenged’.
Mr Walton, now a senior fellow at the Policy Exchange think-tank, said there was ‘ample justification’ for the police to use intrusive surveillance against the group.
Extinction Rebellion said it would be ridiculous to classify the group as an organised crime gang.
In a statement last night, the group said: ‘According to the Government’s own strategy “organised crime” is “characterised by violence or the threat of violence and by the use of bribery and corruption”.
That is hardly an accurate description of the thousands of ordinary people who take part in Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent protests.’
The group claimed its targeting of print works was designed to force newspapers to give more coverage to climate change.
But the action led to many Sun readers missing an interview with Sir David Attenborough on the subject. Academic studies suggest newspaper coverage of climate issues has been rising in recent years.
Extinction Rebellion protestors treat us all with contempt, writes Home Secretary PRITI PATEL
By PRITI PATEL FOR THE DAILY MAIL
A free press is the cornerstone of British society. The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital.
I was disgusted to see over the weekend that this institution, and the values we hold dear as a tolerant and free country, were threatened by Extinction Rebellion because it did not fit with their agenda.
While Extinction Rebellion claim to be an environmental rights campaign group, their actions speak louder than their words, and their continued guerrilla tactics show that they do not believe in peaceful protest – but instead seek to undermine and cause damage to our society, disrupting the hard working individuals who are trying to keep this country moving forwards.
Alongside a free press, peaceful protest is a right that is enjoyed by all in this great country, but it is unacceptable for groups to hide behind this while committing criminal acts that prevent the public from going about their day to day lives.
It is not tolerable for groups to attack democracy by claiming they are little more than peaceful protesters.
Last year hundreds of thousands of businesses and commuters were unable to work or travel as the group blocked major transit routes, and police forces had to divert resources to arrest and oversee protests designed, not to send a message, but to cause the most disruption possible.
Donnachadh McCarthy, a columnist for the Independent, has been revealed as of one of around 100 XR activists who took part in the protest
It’s even more disgraceful to see these tactics revived at a time when this country faces the grave threat of coronavirus.
Our brave officers have been on the streets every day doing their bit to keep us safe throughout this pandemic and stop the spread of this deadly disease.
The actions of these protesters have shown contempt for the police and the British public. Not only in thinking they are above the law but also putting additional pressure on our emergency services when we face a threat to public health.
As Home Secretary I am committed to tackling this head on.
Police forces across the country are manned by fearless individuals who put themselves in danger to keep us all safe.
Yet more and more of their time and valuable resources are spent policing the actions of protesters whose actions have become criminal.
My message to these individuals is clear – as you plot and scheme to curtail our freedoms you are committing criminal acts and be in no doubt you will face the full force of the law. You will be punished for your actions.
So far 80 protesters have been arrested while targeting printing presses for causing a public nuisance and aggravated trespass, while in recent weeks a further 655 arrests have been made by the Metropolitan Police for breaching the Public Order Act.
I am proud of the work the police are doing in enforcing the rule of law, but the figures show that Extinction Rebellion care more about disrupting society than protecting the environment.
Labour’s Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action is a ‘legal tactic’ and adding that it would be ‘ridiculous’ for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion
Dominic Raab slammed Labour’s Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses
The Met police have rightly issued 20 fixed penalty notices of £10,000 each, to those who have organised groups of over 30 people congregating and protesting in the capital.
While we are working to get our great country moving again after months of lockdown, as a Government we will not stand by and allow the livelihoods of hard working people to be undermined by a minority acting with contempt, seeking to grind the economic well-being of our nation into the ground under the pretence of tacking climate change.
In addition to providing the most generous funding settlement in a decade and recruiting an additional 20,000 officers, I am committed to ensuring that the police have powers required to tackle the disruption caused by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and I will be looking at every opportunity available, including primary legislation, to ensure that there is a full suite of tools available to tackle this behaviour.
We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life and ultimately our freedoms.