Home Secretary Suella Braverman has blasted protest group Just Stop Oil after police claimed climate protests have cost £4.5 million in just six weeks.
The Metropolitan Police says daily protests from activists have taken up “13,770 officer shifts”. It comes as MPs backed changes that make it easier for police to crack down on “disruptive” protests.
This is despite claims the Government is “slow walking” towards “fascism”. The House of Commons voted 277 to 217, a majority of 60, in favour of measures to lower the threshold for what is considered “serious disruption” to community life from “significant” and “prolonged” to “more than minor”.
Campaigners Just Stop Oil have been protesting by walking slowly in streets throughout London, holding up traffic. It has caused disruption at high profile sporting and cultural events.
Read more: Just Stop Oil zealots cost police £4.5m in six weeks
Ms Braverman told MPs: “People have a right to get to work on time free from obstruction, a right to enjoy sporting events without interruption and a right to get to hospital.
“The roads belong to the British people, not a selfish minority who treat them like their personal property. The impact of these disruptors is huge. Over the last six weeks alone Just Stop Oil carried out 156 slow marches around London.”
Labour’s Yvette Cooper said there are already laws to deal with protesting involving slow walking in the road. She said: “This is not about the seriously disruptive Just Stop Oil protests, which are rightly already against the law.
“Instead, what it is doing is giving the police the power to prevent any and every campaign group protesting outside a local library or swimming pool that is about to be closed because it may be a little more than minor.
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“This makes it harder for law-abiding, peaceful campaigners who want to work with the police to organise a limited protest – something we should all want people to do.”
The Home Secretary took to social media after the vote to criticise the opposition’s stance. On Twitter she wrote: “The cost to the taxpayer of policing selfish protesters is an outrage. More than 13,000 police shifts were wasted & could have been spent stopping robbery & serious violence.”
Labour’s Richard Burgon (Leeds East) branded the Government’s actions an “authoritarian clampdown” while Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) described the regulations as “oppressive, anti-democratic and downright wrong”.
But DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) said it was “exaggerated” to describe the changes as fascism.
He said: “This is not fascism. This is about the Government having to make a decision as to what do we do to allow in a democracy people to make their point – maybe you don’t like the point they’re making – and on the other hand stop those who are impacted by it being impacted, where the protesters have made it quite clear that’s what their main aim is anyway.”
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The Met Police said there have been 156 slow marches since the end of April. Just Stop Oil said one of these was stopped within five minutes under section 12 of the public order act, while the rest were halted by 8.46am.
A spokesperson for Just Stop Oil said: “This is what happens when a criminal government pursues ever more repressive laws to silence dissent. The Government has the power to stop this huge waste of police time and resources immediately, by ending new oil and gas. The money would be far better spent on protecting the British public by leading a rapid transition away from deadly fossil fuels.”
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