Extinction Rebellion protesters who attack our way of life should face jail, Priti Patel warns today.
The Home Secretary has ordered a review of the law aimed at toughening sentences for the environmental extremists after they blockaded newspaper print works in a bid to stifle free speech.
Options being considered include designating the group as an organised crime gang, which would leave militants open to the threat of up to five years in jail.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Miss Patel says the activists should ‘face the full force of the law’ for pursuing ‘guerrilla tactics... that seek to undermine and cause damage to our society’.
Around 100 protesters who targeted Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool, in a bid to stifle free speech have been warned they could face jail time after a change to the law is mooted
Home Secretary Priti Patel has ordered a review of the law aimed at toughening sentences for the environmental extremists
One of the protesters from the bamboo lock-ons is lead away by a police officer outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
She adds: ‘I am committed to ensuring that the police have powers required to tackle the disruption caused by groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
'We must defend ourselves against this attack on capitalism, our way of life and ultimately our freedoms.’
A Home Office source confirmed that Miss Patel wants to see harsher sentences against the ringleaders of a group whose actions seem designed to maximise economic damage and disruption.
‘We want to see some people banged up instead of escaping with a fine they can pay from their trust fund,’ the source said.
Extinction Rebellion protestors block access of a printing house in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, leaving some newsagents' shelves empty on Saturday morning
'Friday night’s blockade of print facilities in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, Merseyside, disrupted the distribution of 1.5million newspapers, including the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Times and the Telegraph.
Miss Patel’s intervention came as:Ministers ordered police to ensure there was no repeat, with Boris Johnson personally ringing the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. Sir Keir Starmer faced pressure to condemn Labour’s former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who likened the XR protesters to the suffragettes. Police chiefs faced criticism for their ‘softly-softly’ approach to the protests. Extinction Rebellion was forced to deny it has been infiltrated by far-Left militants such as the Socialist Workers Party.
Friday night’s blockades drew condemnation from across government, with the Prime Minister saying that it was ‘completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way’.
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
The blockades were the latest in a string of direct action protests that have seen the Metropolitan Police issue 20 fixed penalty notices of £10,000 each under the coronavirus regulations.
Last night Government sources said Miss Patel and the PM had asked officials to conduct a rapid review of the law.
Labour’s Diane Abbott sparked outrage yesterday as she defended the Extinction Rebellion activists who blockaded newspaper printing presses.
Miss Abbott criticised Government plans to reclassify them as an organised crime gang, describing the protests as a ‘legal tactic’.
She said: ‘They’re not criminals, they’re protesters and activists in the tradition of the suffragettes and the hunger marches of the 1930s.’
The former shadow home secretary told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘I think it’s important to remind ourselves that direct action – which is what those actions were – is actually legal.’ Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘I’m astounded at Diane Abbott’s remarks. The idea that it is right to damage property or intervene with a free press in the name of progressive protest is, I think, perverse.’
Options include using the 2015 Serious Crime Act to designate the group as an organised crime gang – potentially leaving activists open to jail terms of up to five years.
Ministers are also looking at new powers under the Public Order Act to protect ‘critical national infrastructure and tenets of democracy’.
This could make it illegal for protesters to blockade sites such as Parliament, the courts or newspaper printing plants.
Extinction Rebellion has caused widespread disruption to people and businesses in a string of direct action protests. A Government source said: ‘The fact is that they do organise to commit crimes.’
Richard Walton, former head of counter-terrorism at the Met, said the group was an extremist organisation whose methods needed to be ‘confronted and challenged’.
Mr Walton, now a senior fellow at the