67 arrested as Extinction Rebellion 'blockade' UK newspaper printing presses

5 September 2020, 00:49 | Updated: 5 September 2020, 14:05

Extinction Rebellion protesters have blockaded a printworks in Liverpool
Extinction Rebellion protesters have blockaded a printworks in Liverpool. Picture: Extinction Rebellion
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

67 people have been arrested as protesters from Extinction Rebellion continue to stage a blockade at two of News Corporation's major printing presses to stop a range of papers reaching newsstands on Saturday.

More than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool.

Hertfordshire Police say officers were called to Great Eastern Road near the Broxbourne plant around 10pm, where they found around 100 protesters who had "secured themselves to structures and one another".

67 arrests had been made with police expecting more to follow, but delivery lorries had still been unable to leave the site to distribute papers.

Merseyside Police say their officers are also still in attendance at the Knowsley plant.

The demonstrators say they hope to prevent the publications from reaching newsstands on Saturday and to urge them to cover more climate issues.

Other papers that use the News UK printworks include Sun on Sunday, The Sunday Times and Evening Standard.

Around 80 protesters have vowed to continue the blockade of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp papers through the night at the Broxbourne and Knowsley sites in Hertfordshire and Liverpool.

They have set up banners around the area reading 'Free the Truth' and '5 Crooks Control the News'.

Read more: More than 300 arrests made during Thursday's XR protests in London

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Protesters blockading the site in Holytown near Motherwell
Protesters blockading the site in Holytown near Motherwell. Picture: Extinction Rebellion

Reacting on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.

"This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable."

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted: "A good day to #buyanewspaper. A free press matters to all of us who value a free society. They mustn't be silenced by an intolerant minority."

A spokesperson for Newsprinters said: "Overnight printing at two Newsprinters plants was disrupted by activity by Extinction Rebellion. Thanks to other industry partners, printing was transferred to other sites.

"We apologise sincerely to any readers of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times who may be unable to buy their usual newspaper this morning due to late deliveries.

"Our teams are working to get newspapers delivered to retailers as soon as possible this morning.

"This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers going about their jobs. Overnight print workers, delivery drivers, wholesale workers and retail newsagents have faced delays and financial penalty."

Other protesters are also blockading a site in Holytown, near Motherwell, to prevent the distribution of The Scottish Sun.

In a statement, the group said: "We are using disruption to expose their failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of truth to suit their own agendas.”

They have also set up bamboo lock-ons to stop the papers reaching shelves.

A Twitter post from the group read: "THE STORY IS WE'RE STUCK. Some of us with superglue. No, all of us, we’re not moving at the speed needed to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

"The right wing media is a barrier to the truth, failing to reflect the scale of the crisis and hold government to account."

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A separate social media post said: "WE WANT TO LIVE - It's all we're asking. Coverage in many of these newspapers is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and dozens of other issues.

"We can't move forward till this barrier falls."

Another banner spotted at the site read: "F*** Murdoch. F*** Rothermere. Refugees are welcome here."

Alanna Byrne, from Extinction Rebellion, said: We will only tackle the climate and ecological emergency by breaking the traditional impasse of oppositional politics and coming together, despite our differences.

“If we are to sort out this mess we’re in, the mainstream media must stop profiting from clickbait culture that is swimming in misinformation, that makes us hate our neighbours, suspect foreigners and vulnerable groups, and rally the nation into action.”

Gully Bujak, an XR activist, said: “The climate emergency is an existential threat to humanity. Instead of publishing this on the front page every day as it deserves, much of our media ignores the issue and some actively sow the seeds of climate denial.”

Hertfordshire Police said they are responding to the protest at the Broxbourne site.

A spokesman for the constabulary said: "We are currently in Great Eastern Road, #WalthamCross, following reports of a protest.

"Our officers are engaging with the group, which consists of around 100 people, and we are working to facilitate the rights of both the protestors and those affected by their presence."

Merseyside Police also confirmed there was an ongoing situation in Knowsley, near Liverpool, and said that officers are speaking with members of the group and are dealing with the situation.

The force added: "Penrin Road and Villias Road are currently closed."