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XR accuses police of using 'increasing violence' against climate activists

Officers alleged to have drawn batons and thrown punches at peaceful protesters

by Bethany Rielly and Will Stone

EXTINCTION REBELLION (XR) have accused police today of using “increasing violence” against activists after officers allegedly drew batons and threw punches at peaceful protesters. 

Footage from a Tuesday protest on London Bridge appears to show officers manhandling activists on top of a bus that was blockading the road. 

The group also accused police of violence in a number of separate incidents, including pulling apart two women whose hands were glued together, causing “acute” pain. 

One of the women, Zoe Cohen, said: “Some women had formed a circle. People were shouting that we were glued together, but the police barged through in seconds and ripped my hand from the woman I was glued to … The pain was acute. 

“I received first aid from an XR first aider.”

The climate change campaign group, which is staging a two-week campaign of protests dubbed the Impossible Rebellion, alleged that police have used aggressive tactics throughout the action. 

They accused officers of putting lives at risk on Sunday by “violently” pushing over a bamboo structure while protesters were still on it.

The complaints of aggressive policing come amid a public outcry against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which seeks to boost police powers to suppress protests.

Delia Mattis of the Kill The Bill campaign told the Morning Star: “The idea that the police can physically assault people for holding a peaceful protest is horrific.

“Police use excessive force against peaceful protests and nothing happens to them, they’re not held to account.

“We’ve been using protest as a way of getting our voices heard for years.

“Police already have more powers than they need. Increasing their power is definitely going to embolden them and protesters are going to suffer.”

The Metropolitan Police have claimed that officers’ use of force was “reasonable and proportionate.”

XR staged a “mass bail break” today in the City of London, which previously arrested activists are banning from entering under their bail conditions.

More than 50 activists “arrested for caring” joined thousands of supporters in a sit-in outside the Bank of England. 

Participants in this act of mass civil disobedience demanded that bank governor Andrew Bailey and Prime Minister Boris Johnson declare an end to all new fossil fuel funding, which is XR’s immediate demand.

Those breaking police bail carried placards reading: “Arrested on suspicion of acting on the climate emergency” and “Arrested for wanting a future for our children.”

The Bank of England has been told by the government to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and take environmental sustainability into account in all its activities.

However, the International Energy Agency has said that the target can only be achieved by ceasing all new investment in fossil fuels by the end of this year.

The world’s 60 largest banks have funded the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $3.8 trillion (£2.7tn) since 2016, according to XR.

The campaign group’s latest action as part of the Impossible Rebellion highlights the Bank of England’s failure to regulate these banks.

Etienne Stott, an Olympic gold medalist and XR member, said: “I am breaking my police bail today because I am fed up of being criminalised for my peaceful protests. 

“The real criminals are those in power and in control of carbon-intensive companies who know the consequences of continuing business as usual yet continue regardless, emptying the till and taking our future with them. 

“I will be held to account for my actions, but I must also be accountable for inaction in the face of this planetary emergency. 

“I cannot just stand by in these times and watch as we destroy everything we hold dear.”

The slalom canoer won gold at the 2012 London Games.

Today’s action also saw demonstrators from HS2 Rebellion, an offshoot of XR, scale the seven-storey offices of Marsh, which insures subcontractors for the high-speed rail project, in the City of London.

The two men locked themselves onto the first and second storeys of the building and displayed a banner reading: “Marsh insurance ditch HS2.”

In a statement posted yesterday evening, XR said: “We recognise that police violence features in the lived experiences of marginalised communities in the UK and worldwide. This post is not intended to provoke sympathy but to hold the police accountable.⁣

“If you have experienced police aggression this week, you may have grounds for legal recourse. Get in touch with footage and info to XR-legal@riseup.net

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