Demonstrations Blocking Roads and Why the Police Do Nothing

The demonstrations that blocked roads and caused gridlock in central London by Extinction Rebellion I covered in a previous blog post – see  https://tinyurl.com/yavgwvlk . Subsequently there have been similar demonstrations on Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge by “yellow-vest” Pro-Brexit supporters. Clearly the fact that the police took no action on the first event is causing others to copy.

Why did the police take no action? I wrote to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick querying why not as obstruction of the public highway is clearly an offence. I got a response from Chief Superintendent Elaine Van-Orden who is responsible for the “Public Order and Resources Command”. This is some of what she said:

“Whilst highway obstruction is an offence, when policing protest activity, we have an obligation to balance our policing response with those fundamental rights that exist under Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 2000 (HRA). These articles relate to the individuals having the right to Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly and Association. As such there is an expectation that individuals should be permitted to exercise these rights by way of peaceful protest. Police can however intervene if there is a likelihood of serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, resulting from protest activity.”

She goes on to say (summarised) that the Extinction Rebellion protests were peaceful and relatively brief. To arrest in such circumstances might be seen as unreasonable. Event organisers only have to inform the police in advance (under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986) if there is a march or procession. Static protests are OK it seems.

I also wrote to the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) who are responsible for the road network and have legal obligations under the Traffic Management Act to minimise disruption but their response was that all protests are managed by the police so it was nothing to do with them. They are in error I suggest on that point.

I shall be responding further to these communications as I do not believe the Human Rights Act supports the stance of the police. However much some of my readers might support the Pro-Brexit demonstration, London will soon be gridlocked if anyone with a bee in their bonnet on any subject can sit down in the road and block traffic.

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Political Protest Blocks Traffic

Traffic in central London was severely disrupted yesterday by a protest by a group named “Extinction Rebellion”. Traffic was blocked on Lambeth, Tower and Vauxhall bridges at on roads at Elephant & Castle and Earls Court. All of 100 people were reported as present to demand that the Government take action on climate change. The police appeared to do nothing to stop the obstruction of the highway. Why not?

This is the latest in a series of demonstrations by small groups of people who according to the BBC are intent on causing “gridlock across the capital”, and more are planned. They certainly achieved that due to lack of police action. Nobody objects to peaceful demonstrations but when they disrupt the life of people just trying to get around it is simply not acceptable. If Extinction Rebellion get away with this activity then all sorts of protest groups will learn they can cause trouble with immunity. London traffic is bad enough already without extremists disrupting it more.

Were these demonstrations approved by the police as would normally have been required? If so they should not have been. I will be writing to Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and to Mayor Sadiq Khan asking them to put a stop to these demonstrations forthwith. Readers of this article should do the same – we need a protest about a protest!

You can contact the Mayor here: https://www.london.gov.uk/contact-us-form

Comments for Cressida Dick can be sent to enquiries@mopac.london.gov.uk

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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