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Transport Secretary pledges 'robust' policing of London Marathon amid protest fears
21 April 2023, 08:47 | Updated: 21 April 2023, 08:53
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it would be "terrible" for protesters to disrupt the Marathon
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it would be "terrible" for protesters to disrupt the London Marathon "to make a political point".
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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC he said the Government would take a "very robust" approach to people breaking the law during the event.
Asked about his view on the climate protests planned in London this weekend, he said: "First of all, we do live in a free country and it's right that people can protest. But it's also important that people don't disrupt other people going about their normal lives.
"I think it would be terrible for anybody to disrupt the marathon. Thousands of people will have trained for a whole year or more for this, many of them raising money for charity, and I think it would be terrible for people to try and use this as an excuse to make a political point."
He added: "We'll be very robust about dealing with people who break the law."
The conversation comes as spectators have been urged to avoid a famous part of the London Marathon route on Sunday amid a planned protest by Extinction Rebellion (XR).
The climate group's scheduled four-day protest in central London from Friday to Monday could see some 30,000 of its supporters in the Westminster area for the "final stretch" of the marathon on Sunday.
Hugh Brasher, event director for the TCS London Marathon, advised people to "watch the marathon from other locations and avoid the Parliament Square area on the day", as the square and "immediate surrounding area" will be "very busy".
XR co-founder Clare Farrell said the group has "no intention to disrupt their event".
In a statement, she said: "We have been in dialogue with the marathon organisers since November to make sure we can hold both events at the same time and support one another.
"We have reassured them that we have no intention to disrupt their event.
"We both acknowledged that the charities and campaigns groups that runners are supporting are unequivocally in favour of acting against climate collapse.
"In an emergency, as we are, we must find a way to share the London streets as we all want to support charity but we also need to hold government to account.
"Unlike our Government, the marathon organisers are happy to have an adult conversation about the situation and how to work together."
On Tuesday, her fellow XR activist, Marijn van de Geer, said: "Having 30,000 people in the Westminster area may cause some logistical disruption, and there is of course also the London Marathon happening as well, so it is going to be nice and busy in central London over the weekend."
XR's programme for the protests states that "the final stretch of the London Marathon will intersect with" its rally, "providing an opportunity to connect with and support those running in the marathon for causes amplified by the climate crisis".
XR's planned four-day protest is supported by more than 200 organisations, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the PCS union.