London police have raided an Extinction Rebellion building and made arrests ahead of Monday’s environmental protests in the capital.
Retired senior police officers have joined the climate activist group and will also face arrest when demonstrators try to emulate April’s protests and bring parts of London to a halt.
Extinction Rebellion (XR) protestors said they plan to block sites around central London starting on Monday morning, with their action to last as long as it takes the government to meet their political demands.
Metropolitan police’s territorial support group made a pre-emptive strike against the group on Saturday, arresting ten activists and seizing vehicles and items during a raid in Kennington.
XR – a strain on police resources
Three men and seven women were arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance when they began moving equipment from the XR building in south London. Vehicles and equipment were impounded by police, who used a battering ram to enter the old Lambeth county court building being used by XR.
Portable toilets, cooking equipment, solar panels, food, and hot water bottles were among the items seized as police warned the group is putting a bigger strain on police resources than the 2017 terror attacks.
“Police don’t want us to move equipment out which is considered infrastructure because they think it’s going to be used to commit a crime, and the crime is blocking the highway,” said Caroline Vincent, an XR police liaison worker. “So pita and pans are considered to be equipment that will be used to commit a crime; cushions too, apparently. The only things we are allowed to move away are first aid kits, milk and fliers.”
Retried cops join activists
Many retired senior police officers have joined the protestors and are prepared to be arrested by their former colleagues, among them ex-Chief Superintendent of Devon and Cornwall police, Rob Cooper, who said: “We really do face a climate emergency.”
Cooper, 60, said the consequences of climate change will put even bigger pressures on the emergency services, which is why he joined Extinction Rebellion.
‘Trying to stop people killing each other’
“A lack of action now is going to cost us far more in the future,” said retired Inspector Richard Ecclestone, whose role with Devon and Cornwall police involved planning for emergencies.
He explained: “The security services, both police and the military as well, would be engaged in trying to stop people from basically killing each other for resources. Basic resources like food and water.”
Ex-cop criticises ‘very questionable tactics’
Commenting on the raid and arrests in Kennington, Ecclestone said: “These tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest, and indeed our efforts to preserve people’s right to life that is currently being jeopardised by the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency that they know exists.”
A statement by XR said: “This escalation of pre-emptive tactics by the government and police is a sign that we are being heard and acknowledged as a significant movement. We ask that the government focus their attention and resources on responding to the climate and ecological emergency which threatens us all.”