UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman has unveiled plans for a major crackdown on disruptive protests by climate activists, whom she described as “thugs and vandals” trying to hold the public “to ransom.”
Climate activists from groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and Insulate Britain have staged various protests and demonstrations in recent months, causing widespread disruption.
Braverman said: “I will not bend to protestors attempting to hold the British public to ransom. Preventing our emergency services from reaching those who desperately need them is indefensible, hideously selfish, and in no way in the public interest.
“This serious and dangerous disruption, let alone the vandalism, is not a freedom of expression, nor a human right. It must stop.”
In an op-ed for The Mail on Sunday, she wrote: “Enough is enough. Getting in the way of ambulances, fire engines, and cars carrying babies to hospital isn’t just illegal, it’s monstrously selfish.”
She said the public expects the police to “do a better job of cracking down on these thugs and vandals.”
More Police PowersThe home secretary said she will give the police new powers to take a more “proactive” approach to some protests.
Accusing protesters of draining police resources, Braverman will use the government’s Public Order Bill to allow secretaries of state to apply for injunctions in the public interest where protests are causing or threatening “serious disruption or a serious adverse impact on public safety.”
The Home Office said the proposed public order legislation would create a new criminal offence of interfering with infrastructure such as oil refineries, airports, railways, and printing presses.
Such an offence would carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
“Locking on” or “going equipped to lock-on” to other people, objects, or buildings to cause “serious disruption” could see people imprisoned for six months or hit with an unlimited fine.
A new criminal offence of tunnelling to cause serious disruption is also being created, which will carry a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment as well as the potential for an unlimited fine.
More than 350 Just Stop Oil protesters have been arrested in London since the start of October, according to Home Office figures.
Over the past fortnight, the group has caused disruptions in central London by blocking key roads, including The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.