Open Letter to the Met

Thursday, 8 September 2022 — NetPol

Extinction Rebellion protests: we need clarity about what to expect from the Metropolitan Police

Sign the Open Letter

Actions planned in London in the coming months on the unprecedented global climate emergency, by Extinction Rebellion and other environmental campaigners, will represent the first real test of new police powers to impose aggressive protest restrictions that came into effect in June.

Senior officers lobbied hard for these powers after the High Court ruled the Metropolitan Police had acted unlawfully in 2019 in trying to impose London-wide restrictions on Extinction Rebellion. The Met specifically presented the need for changes to the law as essential to limit non-violent civil disobedience. The then Home Secretary sought to demonise environmental protesters and question their legitimacy. Even more draconian powers are on the way.

In such circumstances, vague promises to “facilitate” protests and statements about “finding the right balance” between the rights of protesters and the rights of businesses and the public are insufficient. There is no balance when one side of the scale is always loaded against demonstrators.

The debacle of the Metropolitan Police’s failed attempts to prosecute protesters arrested during the crackdown on the Sarah Everard protests means participants in demonstrations need even greater clarity about what they can expect, or they may become reluctant to exercise their rights at all. The wider public needs a way to test whether promises are complied with and genuine. Other campaigners need to know, too, how the police intend to use new powers that may severely impact their rights in the future.

We believe police commanders owe a duty to explain precisely how they intend to conduct their operation and what advice will be given to frontline officers. We need the Metropolitan Police to make a public statement providing this information.

Netpol’s Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights, supported by over fifty campaigning organisations, is based on the minimal and proportionate approach recommended by existing international human rights guidance. We are also calling on the Metropolitan Police to adopt this as its benchmark for September and October.

All too often, protests are treated as an inconvenience to crack down on. It is time they were seen as a necessary and essential element of a free and democratic society.

Kevin Blowe, Netpol

Asad Rehman, War on Want

Kate Hudson, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now

Ryvka Barnard, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Kirsten Bayes, Campaign Against Arms Trade

Rowan Constantinou-Stygal, Article 11 Trust

Sam Walton, Free Tibet

Tom Brake, Unlock Democracy

Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Chris Jones, Statewatch

Donal O’Driscoll, Undercover Research Group

Rachel Harvey, Justice for Bristol Protesters

Sarah Lasenby, Trident Ploughshares

Peter Gloyns, Salisbury CND

Police Spies Out Of Lives

Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB)

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[Problem: What if you’re not an organisation? Who designed this?]

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