Hertfordshire Police have come under fire for failing to stop the Extinction Rebellion blockade of newspaper printing presses on Friday.
The XR action saw protesters targeting Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, blocking the day's newspapers from leaving the depots.
The action began at around 10pm on Friday night with the protesters not being cleared until 10am the following day, leading to hundreds of Britons being unable to read their newspaper on Saturday morning.
Now, the police response has been condemned with accusations that Hertfordshire Police 'facilitated' the attack.
It comes after it emerged that XR's intention to target newspaper printworks was reported nine months ago, along with claims that police only sent six officers to the Broxbourne plant after the alarm was raised on Friday night.
Hertfordshire Constabulary said in a statement: 'The rights to protest are well established in this country and we remain committed to facilitating peaceful protest and ensuring compliance with the law.'
However, the stance was criticised by several high-profile figures.
David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, said: 'I think they're mixing up historic debate about [union] picketing with protests relating to political issues, which can be dealt with through the normal democratic process.'
Richard Walton, former head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command and now senior fellow at Policy Exchange, said Friday's protest showed how the group had shifted from mere protesters into organising 'planned criminality, and should be treated as such'.
'Their reticence to do so undermines our democracy and strengthens extremist groups like XR.'
XR action saw protesters targeting Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, blocking the day's newspapers from leaving the depots
David Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, has led criticism of the police's response to Extinction Rebellion action
Ian Austin, a Labour MP, told the Telegraph: 'The police should uphold the law, enable people to go to work and read the papers they choose.'
It comes after Donnachadh McCarthy, XR spokesman at the Broxbourne demonstration, said only six officers attended the protest at around 10.15pm, with reports that no warnings were given to police beforehand.
A Hertfordshire police spokesman refused to confirm how many officers attended.
Police also insisted that they had no warning of the protest before it went ahead, despite claims that it had been planned from last year.
XR plans to target the media began in October last year and it reportedly wanted maximum disruption to papers published by Rupert Murdoch, Telegraph Media Group and Daily Mail and General Trust.
A document obtained by a Sunday newspaper last December showed organisers spotted how 'vulnerable' Broxbourne was because it had only one exit leading to a busy road.
Merseyside Police announced this morning that it had charged 26 people, aged between 19 and 60, following the demonstration at the 'News International premises' in Knowsley on Friday night.
They are due to appear at Liverpool and Knowsley Magistrates' Court and St Helens Magistrates' Court on January 8 and 13 next year.
Police said all 26 have