Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

London mayor angered by police crackdown on climate protests

Sadiq Khan said he had ‘received assurances that Extinction Rebellion are not banned from protesting’ in London

The controversial moves comes as the surprise entry of Rory Stewart into the mayoral race threatens Sadiq Khan, who won comfortably in 2016. Reuters  
The controversial moves comes as the surprise entry of Rory Stewart into the mayoral race threatens Sadiq Khan, who won comfortably in 2016. Reuters  

The mayor of London has met with police over a controversial order banning activists from attending environmental protests in the UK capital.

Sadiq Khan said he has asked police “to find a way for those who want to protest the climate emergency to be able to do so legally and peacefully in London”.

He said he was not made aware of the ban on Extinction Rebellion protests as the surprise entry into the mayoral race of former Conservative party leadership hopeful Rory Stewart posed a new threat to the Labour mayor.

“Neither I nor the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime was informed before the Metropolitan Police took the operation decision to impose a Section 14 order on Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising last night,” Mr Khan said in a statement.

The latest wave of protests has seen more than 1,600 protesters arrested including one man dressed as broccoli.

Dubbed Brocolli Man on social media, the protester made further headlines after appearing on UK chat show Good Morning Britain. Branded an “idiot” by the hosts, the interview was cut short.

Protests continued across London in spite of the ban on Monday and on Tuesday, lawyers for the climate activist group submitted an urgent application for a judicial review, saying the police order “risks criminalising anyone who seeks to protest about the climate and ecological emergency”.

The mayor said he condemned the actions of protesters who had broken the law in the recent spate of environmental activism in the UK capital.

Mr Khan added that he was “particularly angry at those who are threatening to target the London Underground,” which, he said “would be extremely dangerous and counterproductive”.

The mayor’s intervention on behalf of the protest group has already drawn criticism from his political opponents.

Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, in a Tweet, asked why the mayor couldn’t back the police.

“Our police have expertly shut down the protests in Trafalgar Square, allowing them to get back to protecting our city from violent crime,” he said.

Responses to Mr Khan’s move were split along party lines however. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, said “The Metropolitan Police’s decision to ban Extinction Rebellion protests across London is outrageous”.

“These protests were drawing attention to one of the most important issues facing us internationally,” the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington added.

But home secretary Priti Patel commended the police in a post on her Twitter feed: “Officers from around the country have done a fantastic job policing XR protests,” she said, adding that “Supporting our police is vital.”

The mayor’s unusual clash with officers from the capital’s police force came after Rory Stewart, who less than four months ago was running to become prime minister and leader of Britain’s governing Conservative party, announced he would be standing as an independent in the contest next year.

Mr Stewart, who came fifth in the contest to succeed Theresa May, had taken one of the most moderate stances on Brexit among the candidates but quit the party to enter the race to run Britain's capital city.

Though Mr Khan won the 2016 mayoral contest by a comfortable margin, he has faced criticism from his opponents over crime rates and transport issues.

The contest, due to be held in May, could be overshadowed by Brexit if Britain's departure from the EU, set to take place on October 31, is again delayed.

Updated: October 16, 2019 08:50 PM

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