Call to ban ‘static’ demos: Police should have the power to stop stationary protests, watchdog says

Police should be given powers to ban

Call to ban ‘static’ demos: Police should have the power to stop stationary protests by groups such as BLM and Extinction Rebellion, watchdog says

  • Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services said forces should be able to ban ‘static’ demos in the same way as protest marches
  • A report by the watchdog said these protests can cause disruption for nearby residents and businesses
  • The report also cautioned officers to ‘think very carefully’ before taking the knee at BLM protests because they should strive to remain neutral

Police should be given powers to ban ‘static protests’ by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, a watchdog says today.

Officers sometimes fail to take into account the disruption that stationary protests cause for nearby residents and businesses, a major report found.

Forces should therefore be able to ban such demonstrations in the same way that protest marches can be prohibited, said Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Officers should also ‘think very carefully’ before ‘taking the knee’ at BLM protests because they should strive to remain neutral, its report added.

Police should be given powers to ban 'static protests' by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, a watchdog says today. Officers sometimes fail to take into account the disruption that stationary protests cause for nearby residents and businesses, a major report found. Pictured: Extinction Rebellion protesters in London in January 2020 (File photo)

Police should be given powers to ban ‘static protests’ by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, a watchdog says today. Officers sometimes fail to take into account the disruption that stationary protests cause for nearby residents and businesses, a major report found. Pictured: Extinction Rebellion protesters in London in January 2020 (File photo)

Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr, who oversaw the report, said: ‘Police don’t always do enough to assess the impact that peaceful protests have on the lives of local residents or businesses.

‘So this has sometimes caused enormous disruption, and it’s tipped the balance in favour of the protesters.’

The report noted that the 2019 Extinction Rebellion climate protests cost £37million to police. 

The 157-page study, carried out by the HMICFRS at Home Secretary Priti Patel’s request, noted that the 2019 protests by environmental activists XR cost £37million to police in 2019 – double the annual budget of London’s violent crime taskforce.

Officers should also 'think very carefully' before 'taking the knee' at BLM protests because they should strive to remain neutral, its report added. Pictured: A Black Lives Matter protest in Brixton, London in June 2020 (File photo)

Officers should also ‘think very carefully’ before ‘taking the knee’ at BLM protests because they should strive to remain neutral, its report added. Pictured: A Black Lives Matter protest in Brixton, London in June 2020 (File photo)

Mr Parr said other examples of protests had been ‘out of kilter’ with the public’s right to carry on with normal business – such as BLM’s blockade of the M6 motorway at Coventry last June, and XR’s ‘swarming’ of Bristol city centre in June 2019.

‘It would be reasonable to say that the police didn’t take sufficient account of the significant disruption that both caused, and it was deliberate on the part of the protests,’ Mr Parr said.

‘There will remain a considerable public interest in ensuring that a fair balance is struck.

‘We have made recommendations and identified areas for improvement which are designed to help the police get the balance right.’ 

HMICFRS commissioned a YouGov poll of more than 2,000 adults in England and Wales which found two-thirds of those questioned said it was unacceptable for protesters to cause serious disruption to residents.

More than seven out of 10 said use of violence by protesters was unacceptable.

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