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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 1,642 with 133 charged, The Guardian reports..

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

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner denied the force had banned protests and said it had every right to order the demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and elsewhere to end on Monday evening, after nine days. Laurence Taylor said “significant disruption” had been caused to London with the Met being under such strain it had to draft in 500 officers from across the country.Advertisement

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 on Wednesday.

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 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. Dozens of mothers took part in a “nurse-in” outside the offices of Google in King’s Cross, central London, to protest against the tech firm’s funding of climate deniers. They blocked the main entrance of the building while singing and wearing sashes saying “Their future”.

The protest outside Google comes after a Guardian investigation revealed the company had made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington, despite its insistence that it supports political action on the crisis.

Among hundreds of groups Google has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

Hester Montgomery Campbell joined the protest with her 16-week-old child, Marlowe: “Everyday that we don’t act, we’re borrowing time from our children’s lives. If we do nothing, they don’t have a future. This is not scaremongering, these are the facts. My daughter is nine, by the time she’s 20, we will have gone into runaway climate change. Maybe it doesn’t really hit people that these kids aren’t going to grow up and become old.”

Shortly afterwards, members of XR Youth protested outside Google-owned YouTube at the other side of the building. Five XR Youth members climbed on top of the entrance holding a banner reading: “YouTube stop platforming climate denial.”

In a letter to YouTube, they said the platform, which has 1.9 billion users, has a responsibility to stop hosting “misleading and inherently dangerous” climate denial videos. They also cited a recent survey that showed more than half of teenagers in the US said they get their news from YouTube.

A number of other protesters lay down to block traffic on nearby Pancras Road.

Daniel Walsh, 17, from XR Youth London, said: “YouTube should be telling the truth and not exploiting climate denial for it’s own benefit. Young people don’t pay attention to newspapers and often don’t even watch TV news. They consume news through social media. It falls upon every media corporation to get their act together and tell the truth.”

Taylor said the criminal justice system would be under strain for months from the scale of arrests. Activists detained after protests in April were still being processed, he added.

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