I lost count of the number of times I walked past endless rows of police vans, all full of police doing nothing.
Four weeks of Extinction Rebellion peaceful protest has cost London’s Metropolitan Police more than twice the annual budget of its violent crime task force and prevented some investigations, according to the force’s commissioner who is quoted in a Financial Times report today.
It has also been reported that Cressida Dick said the force was talking to the Home Office about potential changes to the law on protests to tackle some of the environmentalists’ most disruptive tactics. These include new offences banning both the fixing of temporary structures to roads and rolling protests that briefly shut short sections of road before moving elsewhere.
The commissioner was quoted following the end on Saturday of two weeks of action in London by the movement. It was the third wave of demonstrations in London by the group, following 11 days of protests in April during which it shut down several key areas, including Oxford Circus, Parliament Square and Waterloo Bridge, for prolonged periods.
Ms Dick admitted that the actions’ unprecedented duration was putting “horrendous strain” on both London and the police force. Business groups, including London First, the lobby group for companies in London, have called for the police to act more decisively to minimise the disruption caused by the demonstrations.
An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said "It's a conscious decision to exaggeratedly police peaceful protestors instead of policing criminals. Business as usual."
Former Chief Superintendent and spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK Rob Cooper, said: “Perhaps this government should look at how they spend money. According to a report by the European Commission in January our government spends £10.5billion a year subsidising fossil fuels."
George Monbiot's arrest after his Trafalgar Square talk
Extinction Rebellion's press release says :
“The Prime Minister recently reminded us that when Margaret Thatcher left office 29 years ago, she was aware of the dangers of global warming but the problem was filed in the ‘pending’ tray.
“Since then the problem has been filed in the ‘too difficult to handle’ tray.
“We all have jobs that we feel are too difficult to do. Perhaps now doing the job has become easier than continuing to delay. That is why we are asking the Prime Minister to display bravery, honesty and positive leadership in this decisive moment for humanity.”
Cressida Dick also said the force was talking to the Home Office about potential changes to the law on protests to tackle some of the environmentalists’ most disruptive tactics. These include new offences banning both the fixing of temporary structures to roads and rolling protests that briefly shut short sections of road before moving elsewhere.
The FT reports :
The October protests cost the force at least £21m but this figure is expected to rise by several million pounds, according to the force. The April protests cost £16m to police. The combined figure of at least £37m is more than twice the £15m annual budget of the task force overseeing the effort to bring down violent crime in the city. Officers arrested 1,828 people in the October protests and 1,148 in April. The protests also resulted in a “huge drain on our people’s resources and energy, causing their families to have to make massive changes in their personal arrangements and, frankly, I would have to say, a less good service to the rest of London”, Ms Dick said. She said that members of the public contacting the force about some minor crimes would have been told the offences would not be investigated immediately and possibly not at all."
"Ms Dick acknowledged that the force received central government funding for policing protests but said it had been insufficient to meet the high costs of the two big waves of protests and that the force intended to ask for more. “We would anticipate absolutely putting in a bill, for sure,” Ms Dick said. The potential new offences regarding temporary structures would address Extinction Rebellion’s tactic of fixing obstructions to the road surface, such as the boat taken to Oxford Circus in April. The law on rolling protests would address the fact that current laws envisage the prolonged obstruction of highways. Extinction Rebellion sometimes blocked roads for a few minutes then moved and blocked other locations. The Home Office has not yet announced any plans for new laws."