XR comes unstuck: Met reveals 81 protesters unglued by officers during demos

3 September 2021, 10:00

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

'We've removed 81 Extinction Rebellion protesters glued onto something, 52 locked onto something and 31 of those are at height,' a Metropolitan Police chief has told LBC.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations Matt Twist, the media spokesperson for the force's response to the last fortnight of XR protests, spoke to LBC's Nick Ferrari on Friday morning.

Asked how he would characterise the police's handling of the latest demonstrations, he said: "It's been hard work. Every day we've had over 2,000, or around 2,000 officers, deployed directly to manage some of the protests that we've seen.

"We know Extinction Rebellion have the right to protest and they have the right to assemble, but these are qualified rights, and our view is, at times, over this past period, they've overstepped that line and broken the law and taken very deliberate steps to cause very serious disruption to the people, businesses and communities of London.

"It's at that point that we're stepping in and making arrests."

Read more: XR protesters target WWF headquarters in latest demonstration

Watch: Sadiq Khan concerned XR is 'driving people away' from cause

Nick Ferrari then raised comments made by former police officer Paul Stephens, who criticised the Met for its handling of the protesters who tried to block London Bridge with an open-top bus.

"The retired detective sergeant said it's 'an appalling example of policing - clearly they've got order to use force on protesters who are trying to protest peacefully in the street'. Is he right on that?" Nick asked.

Mr Twist replied: "No, he's completely wrong. That's absolutely wrong.

"What we did see there, and I've seen the footage, I've seen what officers have done, and over a number of days we've seen Extinction Rebellion try and cause serious disruption, either by putting up a large bamboo structure outside the Science Museum on the A4 or by stopping a bus and trying to lock onto it.

Read more: XR blocks off part of London Bridge as climate protests continue

Watch: Police clear Extinction Rebellion protesters from London Bridge

"From what I've seen the officers were trying to prevent further people locking onto that device."

He said officers "can only react as quickly as we can" but people still managed to glue themselves to the road around the bus and to lock themselves underneath the bus.

"But the quick actions of the officers getting onto it stopped many more hours of disruption because, sadly, one person locked onto a structure, using very complex techniques, can take a while to remove," he added.

"The figures we're talking about here: in the last 10 days we've removed 81 people who have been glued onto something, we've removed 52 who have been locked onto something and 31 of those are at height, which makes it all the more complex and difficult."