MEP Tells LBC About Her Arrest After Defending Extinction Rebellion's Right To Protest
15 October 2019, 17:15
MEP Ellie Chowns tells Eddie Mair about her arrest while defending Extinction Rebellion's right to protest peacefully after police ordered the London protests to stop.
The Green MEP for the West Midlands said: "I went along to Trafalgar Square in the evening when I heard that it was going to be cleared and I went along to ask what possible justification there could be for doing that because it seemed completely disproportionate action."
Chowns said she didn't receive a reasonable justification and she was arrested.
"I was bundled off into a police van and eventually driven around the corner to a police station - both myself and the police officers observed that we could have walked there. Less fossil fuel cost."
Eddie said: "It's so bad for the environment!"
"I know! Then I spent a few hours in custody, the police were professional and friendly and I was released at 3am."
She revealed she's been released under investigation, "which I think means they are going to look into it all a little bit more. There's plenty of stuff on social media, they've got body camera footage from the police officer, there's not a great deal to see to be honest.
"I was standing in Trafalgar Square asking the police for an explanation of what seems to be an overreach of police powers, the banning of peaceful public protest throughout the city. That seems to be disproportionate."
She said Extinction Rebellion protesters might be causing some disruption but they are peacefully protesting about the fact that we face a climate emergency - "they've done a great deal to bring this public and political attention, I think we owe them a debt of gratitude for doing that.
"I think that banning them from protesting for the remainder of this week is out of all proportion."
Eddie pointed out that there was an agreement that Trafalgar Square was the place to be so the police explanation is that some protests took place outside this area.
Chowns said that "if people were taking part in illegal acts outside Trafalgar Square then they should be liable for arrest in those locations. Simply clearing everybody out of the square for being there, like me, simply standing there asking questions, that shouldn't be an arrest-able offence."
Eddie read out a Metropolitan Police statement which said the protesters had repeatedly breached their protest area agreement.
Chowns responded: "The people protesting on the streets with Extinction Rebellion are absolutely right about the fact we face a climate emergency. We need much faster political action to address that. What they're doing is trying to bring it higher up the political agenda."
Eddie and Ellie Chowns agreed they have succeeded in doing that by causing "some limited disruption."
Chowns said: "100 years ago, public disruption helped win women the right to vote. There is a long and honourable tradition of peaceful public protest in our city. Outlawing any public protest about the climate for the remainder of this week seems to be completely disproportionate."
The MEP carried on that we should be listening to the protestors, paying attention to the message they're giving us and taking the action required.
She said: "While warm words are coming out of the government's mouth now, the requisite action isn't happening fast enough yet."