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Not a single arrest made during Extinction Rebellion’s four-day ‘The Big One’ protest

The Met has praised Extinction Rebellion for being ‘fully engaged’ with the police

No protesters were arrested across the whole of Extinction Rebellion’s four-day ‘The Big One’ action in central London this weekend, in a reflection of the group’s decision to ‘quit’ disruptive action.

In a weekend which included the London Marathon passing through several parts of the city occupied by Extinction Rebellion, the climate activists focused on “attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks”, hoping to attract new faces to their movement.

Extinction Rebellion estimates over 60,000 peopleturned out for the protests, which were the first mass mobilisation by the group since the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act came into force in June 2022, giving the police wider powers to crack down on disruptive protests.

“The Big One was always designed as an event which prioritised attendance over arrest so that we could build alliances with other organisations, knowing that we are united by the multiple crises we face and that we are stronger together,” a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion told The Big Issue.

“The 200 organisations that supported The Big One were operating collectively for the whole weekend under a Unity Agreement which explicitly ruled out any escalation. Thankfully to everyone involved, everyone abided by this agreement, policing never became genuinely hostile and no arrests were made.”

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The Met even praised Extinction Rebellion, saying it had “showed the benefit of effective discussion between police and protest organisers to mitigate serious disruption”.

However, civil resistance is back on the cards for the group after the government did not meet its demands.

Extinction Rebellion had been asking for an end to new oil, gas and coal projects, and for emergency citizens’ assemblies to figure out how to achieve that.

After polling its supporters on the options, the group said 79 per cent had opted for civil disobedience and direct action.

“Effectively tens of thousands from different organisations have signalled that they are ready to move into a far more challenging and disruptive posture against a government that is gambling with our lives and futures,” said Rob Callender of Extinction Rebellion.

“Over the next three months, we will be translating the appetite for action amongst people at The Big One into a whole new range of campaigns and action across the country.”

“The Big One” marked a contrast with the previous year, when Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2022 led to 214 arrests.

Rather than encouraging supporters to block roads and get themselves arrested, the weekend focused on talks and ‘people’s pickets’ of government departments.

DAC Laurence Taylor of the Met Police said: “As well as a busy weekend of events, a significant Extinction Rebellion protest took place. Organisers were fully engaged with us and worked with us throughout their event as they had agreed to do. 

“This level of engagement meant that we were able to put a proportionate policing plan in place and not abstract huge numbers of officers from their communities to police Central London. It showed the benefit of effective discussion between police and protest organisers to mitigate serious disruption and delays to London’s communities and we welcome other protest groups to do the same.”

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