It is very easy in the light of the recent press reports such as this one on Sky News regarding the application of section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 to jump to all sorts of conclusions which may themselves be deeply flawed. However the Sky News piece explains “Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the ban was imposed due to “continued breaches” of the condition limiting the demonstration to Trafalgar Square” and as a result of my own involvement as a member of the Sussex Police Independent Advisory Group I happen to know Laurence very well from the days when he was a senior officer in Sussex and he is very familiar with the way in which IAG’s operate and if the Police were to make such a radical approach, one of the places they could have gone to get some opinions was to their IAG which would be a group that would understand why people are campaigning in their City, but they would also be very aware of the deeply challenging impact of such a difficult campaign in their city on the lives of the people who live and work there. The IAG is an entirely separate group from the two other places that the Police could or indeed should have gone to before implementing their application of section 14 to cover the whole of the city for the Extinction Rebellion protestors. One was to their Police and Crime Commissioner and it is clear from the Sky piece that he is claiming they did not do so which would appear to be deeply concerning as such a decision will have a huge impact on the city. The other is the Home Secretary who has certainly tweeted her support for their action, and as I wrote a couple of days ago, it was rumoured that they had gone to the Home Office to get consent for this action. I hope that in due course, the police will reflect on the steps they took and in the future would not make such a major decision without consulting with the PCC and their IAG as well as the Home Secretary who of course would also need to be informed, given how the rules were being adapted.
Of course one of the issues that should have been adopted by the Home Secretary and indeed by the Mayor of London and leaders of Councils across the nation is to say to Extinction Rebellion which is a widely supported campaign, that they want to improve their focus on reducing carbon footprints and to offering to make changes if XR would be willing to support them. Such a positive approach would set a way forward for all of our communities and indeed for our Nation at a time when the whole of the world is campaigning for reducing the environmental impact of our lives.