A free press is the cornerstone of British society.
The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital.
I was disgusted to see over the weekend that this institution, and the values we hold dear as a tolerant and free country, were threatened by Extinction Rebellion because it did not fit with their agenda.
While Extinction Rebellion claim to be an environmental rights campaign group, their actions speak louder than their words, and their continued guerrilla tactics show that they do not believe in peaceful protest – but instead seek to undermine and cause damage to our society, disrupting the hard working individuals who are trying to keep this country moving forwards.
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, as protesters use bamboo lock-ons continue to block the road
Extinction Rebellion environmental activist group (in the picture) maintain the blockade in Broxbourne, Hertfrodshire, throughout Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent the Sun, Times, Telegraph and Mail newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday
‘The freedom to publish, without fear nor favour, and to inform debate on events that affect each and every one of us is absolutely vital,’ says Home Secretary Priti Patel
Alongside a free press, peaceful protest is a right that is enjoyed by all in this great country, but it is unacceptable for groups to hide behind this while committing criminal acts that prevent the public from going about their day to day lives.
It is not tolerable for groups to attack democracy by claiming they are little more than peaceful protesters.
Last year hundreds of thousands of businesses and commuters were unable to work or travel as the group blocked major transit routes, and police forces had to divert resources to arrest and oversee protests designed, not to send a message, but to cause the most disruption possible.
Donnachadh McCarthy, a columnist for the Independent, has been revealed as of one of around 100 XR activists who took part in the protest
It’s even more disgraceful to see these tactics revived at a time when this country faces the grave threat of coronavirus.
Our brave officers have been on the streets every day doing their bit to keep us safe throughout this pandemic and stop the spread of this deadly disease.
The actions of these protesters have shown contempt for the police and the British public.
Not only in thinking they are above the law but also putting additional pressure on our emergency services when we face a threat to public health.
As Home Secretary I am committed to tackling this head on.
Police forces across the country are manned by fearless individuals who put themselves in danger to keep us all safe.
Yet more and more of their time and valuable resources are spent policing the actions of protesters whose actions have become criminal.
My message to these individuals is clear – as you plot and scheme to curtail our freedoms you are committing criminal acts and be in no doubt you will face the full force of the law.
You will be punished for your actions.
So far 80 protesters have been arrested while targeting printing presses for causing a public nuisance and aggravated trespass, while in recent weeks a further 655 arrests have been made by the Metropolitan Police for breaching the Public Order Act.
I am proud of the work the police are doing in enforcing the rule of law, but the figures show that Extinction Rebellion care more about disrupting society than protecting the environment.
Labour’s Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action is a ‘legal tactic’ and adding that it would be ‘ridiculous’ for the Government to reclassify Extinction Rebellion
Dominic Raab slammed Labour’s Diane Abbott for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses
The Met police have rightly issued 20 fixed penalty notices of £10,000 each, to those who have organised groups of over 30 people congregating and protesting in the capital.
While we are working to get our great country moving again after months of lockdown, as a Government we will not stand by and allow the livelihoods of hard working people to be undermined by a minority acting with contempt, seeking to grind the economic well-being of our nation into the ground under the pretence of tacking climate change.
In addition to providing the most generous funding settlement in a decade and recruiting an additional 20,000 officers, I am committed to ensuring that the police have powers required to tackle the disruption caused by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and I will be looking at every opportunity available, including primary legislation, to ensure that there is a full suite of tools available to tackle this behaviour.
We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life and ultimately our freedoms.