Met has spent £50 million on policing Extinction Rebellion protests since 2019

20 August 2021, 14:47 | Updated: 20 August 2021, 16:12

This will mark Extinction Rebellion's fourth wave of large-scale protests.
This will mark Extinction Rebellion's fourth wave of large-scale protests. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

The Met police has spent £50 million since 2019 policing Extinction Rebellion protests, as the group prepares for two further weeks of 'civil disobedience' in London.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) have said that they will carry out demonstrations throughout the capital between 22 August and 5 September. This includes the August bank holiday weekend, which is traditionally the Met’s busiest weekend.

This is the fourth time that the group will have carried out large-scale demonstrations, which have previously caused massive disruption across the capital and resulted in over 3,600 arrests.

In a press release on their website, Extinction Rebellion said that they are planning “2 weeks of civil disobedience”.

The group has indicated they are particularly planning action within the City of London in order to disrupt major financial targets.

The demonstrations come weeks after the UN released a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned that human-driven climate change could be irreversible for centuries.

According to a Met press release, officers are coming up with a comprehensive plan alongside the City of London Police, which Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist described as “agile” and “flexible”.

Officers expect that the scale and complexity of resources needed to respond will stretch across all areas of the Met.

Read more: UN climate change report: What does it say? And why are there concerns?

DAC Twist added: “It is clear to us, from reading and listening to their public announcements that Extinction Rebellion’s intention is to once again cause significant disruption to London and to London’s communities through acts of civil disobedience.

“Like everyone else, Extinction Rebellion have the right to assemble and the right to protest. However these rights are qualified and are to be balanced against the rights of others. They do not have the right to cause serious disruption to London’s communities and prevent them going about their lawful business.”

The Met say that they are planning on engaging with organisers from Extinction Rebellion throughout their protest period, with the aim of minimising disruption to Londoners. Specialist policing teams will be available to respond safely to protestors who have built, or locked themselves to, complicated structures. 

Read more: Climate crisis: Human-caused damage could be irreversible for centuries - UN report

In September 2020, over 500 people were arrested in just a few days when the group carried out 10 days of action. The previous year the group carried out two weeks of action and expected 30,000 participants.

Previous XR action has involved protests, die-ins and disrupting public transport.
Previous XR action has involved protests, die-ins and disrupting public transport. Picture: Alamy

This year Extinction Rebellion's website details their plans to take to the streets and target “the root cause of the climate and ecological crisis – the political economy – until the UK Government agrees to implement our new, immediate demand: that the UK Government ‘stop all new fossil fuel investment immediately’.”

The protests will be called the “Impossible Rebellion”, and will involve occupying spaces across the city such as buildings and roads. They also plan to hold their own “crisis talks” to discuss solutions to the climate crisis: “Because power doesn’t want us to talk to each other, so we’ll make coming together in an emergency a revolutionary act!”

"We'll be targeting the City of London because it's time that people understand the real contribution of the UK to this crisis," lawyer and XR activist Tim Crosland told reporters.

"The City of London is the arch financier of the carbon economy. It supports 15% of global carbon emissions. It hosts BP, Shell, Glencore, Anglo American, and Russian oil and gas companies such as Gazprom and Rosneft."

The cost of policing Extinction Rebellion protests has already run up to £50 million.

Read more: 'Code red for humanity': Landmark UN climate report 'sobering', PM says

DAC Twist said: “The reality is, the officers that are going to be needed to police this will be drawn from local boroughs. So these will be officers that would otherwise be out and about keeping the public safe.” He said that the officers could instead be dealing with knife crime, domestic abuse, and violence.

According to DAC Twist, the Met understands that Extinction Rebellion are drawing attention to an “important cause” but it is “disappointing” that the group seem unwilling to engage with police. He said that activists’ activities are “designed to frustrate us.”

Meanwhile, Comedian Stephen Fry today expressed his support for the group’s upcoming action.

“I know Extinction Rebellion, XR, are mucky and they make a fuss, they’re loud, they’re disruptive,” he said. “But what else is going to make politicians really recalibrate, realign, revolutionise politics so that it faces the horrors of climate change and all the damage we’re doing to our planet?”

He said that Extinction Rebellion are the “only group” trying to move society in the right direction in a "sensible" way. “Here’s to you, XR, and here’s to everybody out there who’s thinking about ways they can help.”

Among events planned by Extinction Rebellion are occupations, an animal rights march, a nature march and a “Carnival for Climate”.