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When Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder climbed to the top of the Department of Transportation in London Tuesday morning, she knew she’d get arrested. That’s because cops had just banned any protests connected to the environmental group — and promised to throw anyone who didn’t listen behind bars.
For the last nine days, members of Extinction Rebellion have led widespread protests around the world, calling for immediate action to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. On Tuesday, some protesters in London blocked traffic by sitting in the street, and others marched, clad in the deep-red robes and white face-paint that have become staples at Extinction Rebellion protests.
"I do this in the spirit of what Emmeline Pankhurst called ‘the noble art of window smashing,'" Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion who was arrested Tuesday, said in a statement.
All in all, 92 people were arrested for failing to comply with the new ban — and the London police published the names of the 13 people they charged, which they’ve been doing throughout the protests. Police said the protests were a serious disruption of daily life and cited a law that allows them to restrict protests. But it’s not clear their argument will hold up in court.
“They are using Section 14 of the Public Order Act, which is meant to be about controlling the nature of public assemblies rather than just banning them,” Helen Fenwick, a professor at Durham Law School, told VICE News. “Whether or not a ban, across the whole of London, is acceptable under the law, is, I think, debatable.”
The group’s protests have been disruptive — and they’ve become notorious for their frequent use of fake blood. Earlier this month, a group of Extinction Rebellion protesters tried to spray down the U.K. Treasury building with 1,800 liters of red liquid. It didn’t work out great. They lost control of the firehose and mostly hit passersby. Eight people were arrested.
And last week in New York, protesters doused the emblematic Wall Street bull with blood.
Over the last nine days of protests, nearly 1,500 Extinction Rebellion protesters have been arrested. But Extinction Rebellion activists say the cops’ new ban is unconstitutional and a violation of their right to peaceful protest. And civil liberties groups agree.
“Imposing a blanket ban on Extinction Rebellion protests is an unlawful restriction on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Allan Hogarth, the head of advocacy programs at Amnesty International, in a statement.
Some U.K. lawmakers showed their support for protesters Tuesday as well. Molly Scott Cato, a British member of the European Parliament and member of the Green Party, even joined the protests in Trafalgar Square.
“This ban is completely contrary to Britain’s long-held traditions of policing by consent, freedom of speech, and the right to protest,” Labour Member of Parliament Diane Abbott wrote on Twitter.
Cover image: Extinction Rebellion protesters travel up the River Thames in a boat in central London. Picture date: Tuesday October 15, 2019. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Protests. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire URN:47071884 (Press Association via AP Images)