LONDON: Extinction Rebellion climate-change activists won a legal challenge in London’s High Court on Wednesday against a police-imposed blanket ban on protests during its “Autumn Uprising” in the British capital in October.

The court said separate gatherings, even if coordinated by one organisation, could not be defined as a single “public assembly” and the officer who set the ban was not present at the scene.

Therefore barring any Extinction Rebellion protest in London other than at Trafalgar Square was unlawful and would be quashed, it said.

Extinction Rebellion blocked roads, targeted financial institutions, sprayed paint on the government’s Treasury and disrupted transport during two weeks of direct action.

It aimed to force the government to transform the current economic model so that radical action can be taken against climate breakdown, biodiversity loss and the risk of social and ecological collapse.

Police, however, said the protests were hugely disruptive to London and action planned on the London Underground posed a threat to the safety of customers and staff, according to the court ruling.

Ellie Chowns, a Green member of the European Parliament who was arrested while the ban was in place, said the ruling defended the right to peaceful assembly and public protest.

“The judgment in our favour shows that the police clearly overstepped the mark when they imposed a blanket ban on any XR (Extinction Rebellion) related protest,” she said.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service said it was disappointed by the judgment.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019