Extinction Rebellion protests: 26 charged by police in connection with newspaper blockades
The charges follow protests by environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion who blocked the day’s papers from leaving the depots of Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourn, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, on Friday night.
Police confirmed the 26 people, aged between 19 and 60, will appear in court in Liverpool and St Helens on January 8 and 13 next year.
All have been granted bail under the condition they do not enter Merseyside or contact employees of News International.
The news comes after Labour MP Diane Abbott defended the protests, likening them to the suffragettes and stating the protest was a “legal tactic”.
She told Sky News: “They're not criminals, they're protesters and activists in the tradition of the Suffragettes and the hunger marches of the 1930s.”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab rejected her comments and said the protests were damaging to the cause of climate change.
He said on Ridge on Sunday: “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.
“Actually, I think it is damaging to the cause of climate change.
“I respect the right of peaceful protest but hijacking that with a militant agenda to disrupt the very heart of democratic debate, which is through a free media, is just totally wrong and we’re against it, and I think law enforcement action should be taken to preserve our wider freedoms, and they do include a free media.”
Mr Raab had earlier said that police had the powers needed to deal with protests amid the Home Office’s moves to review the legal status of Extinction Rebellion and potentially reclassify it as an organised crime group in order to deal with protests with more force.
He said: “We always keep all of our laws under review but I think actually the laws are in place to take relevant enforcement action against criminal behaviour.”
Pressed on the issue again later in the interview, Mr Raab added: “As I said, we keep all our laws under review but I think from everything I’ve seen today, we have the enforcement powers necessary to ensure that kind of behaviour we saw overnight is not repeated.”
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Extinction Rebellion protesters were “shooting themselves in the foot” following their blockade.
Asked whether he agreed with Labour MP Diane Abbott’s assessment that the demonstrations had been legitimate, he said: “No … I think we need to bring the country together to realise we have a climate emergency alongside the Covid health and economic emergency.
“My concern with what we saw was that it actually divides people, it can undermine the message about the climate emergency.
“I fear that when you damage the free press in particular, that is shooting yourself in the foot.
“There was an interview with David Attenborough in one of those newspapers that didn’t get distributed – David Attenborough is the environmentalist par excellence, he has a lot to say about climate change and how we protect our environment.
“I think stopping people reading David Attenborough is not a good message.”