Cost of policing Extinction Rebellion’s London protests revealed

Huge overtime bill stacks up and thousands of rest days cancelled

Jon Sharman
Thursday 18 November 2021 14:53
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Police tear down Extinction Rebellion roadblock in London, injuring activists

Eco protesters have been accused of wasting millions of pounds of police cash by blocking London streets earlier this year.

Extinction Rebellion activists held mass protests in the capital during August and September to demand the UK government stop investing in fossil fuels.

The demonstrations included a giant pink table symbolising the group’s vision for citizen assemblies to tackle the climate crisis.

Now data released under freedom of information rules suggests the protests cost the Metropolitan Police more than £4.5m in overtime payments between 23 August and 6 September.

As many as 1,700 PCs, 300 sergeants or acting sergeants, 70 inspectors or acting inspectors and five chief inspectors were assigned to police Extinction Rebellion events on any given day, plus up to three dozen back-office staffers. Some 4,000 rest days were cancelled overall.

The Conservative group in the Greater London Authority, which requested the data, called the protests “ridiculous and disruptive”.

“All these disgraceful protesters do is drag officers and police resources away from London’s fight against knife crime,” the Tory London Assembly members said in a statement.

“It’s totally unacceptable that these protesters can run amok in London and stop people from getting to work, hospital or school but face little to no consequences.”

Police figures show 508 people were arrested over the course of the demonstrations. The total value of the man-hours devoted to the operation – meaning the time put in by salaried workers – came to about £18m.

The Independent has contacted the Met, Extinction Rebellion and the mayor of London’s office for comment.

The new data comes amid a push by the government for a crackdown on protests which are noisy or cause disruption.

Priti Patel has been accused of undermining democracy and creating a “a grave threat to civil liberties” with her sweeping Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will limit the right to demonstrate.

The home secretary has branded Insulate Britain climate protesters, whose modus operandi is to block major roads, “criminals”, and called Black Lives Matter demonstrations “dreadful”.

MPs have backed the plan, which is now being scrutinised in the House of Lords.

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