Extinction Rebellion (XR) has announced plans to bring “millions of people on to the streets” after the Government launched a fresh bid to crack down on disruptive “guerrilla protests”.
The climate change protest group said it is “foolish” for ministers to think announcing new “curbs” will stop people “taking to the streets to demand their Government act to ensure a safe future for people in the UK and around the world”, as it set out its intention for action from September 10.
It comes after the Public Order Bill was unveiled as part of the Queen’s Speech, with harsher sentences and new criminal offences for those involved in some types of protest.
The Bill seeks to outlaw tactics in England and Wales such as protesters “locking on” to public transport infrastructure or gluing themselves to roads, which have been adopted by campaign groups such as Insulate Britain.
The move represents a bid to revive measures which were previously put forward under the now-passed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill but had to be scrapped after being knocked back by the House of Lords.
In a sign of the Government’s determination to drive through the measures, officials said the legislation is set to be introduced in Parliament on Wednesday.
Charlie Waterhouse, from XR, said: “It is foolish to think that announcing new curbs in the Queen’s Speech will stop people taking to the streets to demand their Government act to ensure a safe future for people in the UK and around the world.
“As we in Extinction Rebellion know full well: what we do works. It’s worked countless times before. It has worked to give us weekends and the vote, human rights and freedom. And it will work again.
“Faced with a Government incapable of anything other than a desperate attempt to shore-up its own power and cover-up its criminality, it is the only thing we can do.
“To be a bystander is not enough…
“So Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, we thank you. Our organisations were set up to break the law to drive positive change. Your actions show that we are winning.”
The Bill will create new criminal offences of “locking on” and going equipped to “lock on” to other people, objects or buildings in order to cause “serious disruption”, with a maximum penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.
A new offence of interfering with key national infrastructure – such as airports, railways and printing presses – will carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
It will also become illegal to obstruct major transport works, such as the HS2 high-speed rail link, again punishable by up to six months in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
The Bill will also extend stop-and-search powers so the police can seize articles related to the new offences, while new serious disruption prevention orders will be available for those who repeatedly cause criminal disruption.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said ministers are determined to prevent protesters bringing the country to “a grinding halt”, adding: “The law-abiding, responsible majority have had enough of anti-social, disruptive protests carried out by a self-indulgent minority who seem to revel in causing mayhem and misery for the rest of us.”
Ms Patel denied she is attempting to erode the right to protest, describing it as a “fundamental right… that we all cherish dearly” and dismissing such claims put forward by opponents as a “lazy excuse”.