Met police ‘stretched’ by Extinction Rebellion protests

The UK's most senior police chief has said her force is being "stretched" by continued Extinction Rebellion protests across the capital.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said many officers had been pulled away from other duties, working long hours, trying to police multiple protest sites.

At the end of a week of demonstrations that has seen more than 1,100 arrests, senior commanders told Sky News they had secured their main objective of clearing protesters from all of London's main arterial routes.

The vast majority of protesters have been moved to an area around Trafalgar Square.

However, smaller pop-up protests have occurred at some other locations, including BBC Broadcasting House.


Activists blocked the entrance to the BBC's central London headquarters on Friday, with some scaling the front of the building.

BBC staff members reported being unable to get in to the building, as dozens of protesters camped outside the main entrance with banners urging the corporation to end its "silence" on climate change.

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Sky News was given exclusive access to follow one of Scotland Yard's bronze commanders, who was in charge of co-ordinating police operations at multiple locations across central London.

Chief Inspector Billy Bowen-Long said his teams had succeeded in the main objective of clearing protesters from Westminster and Lambeth Bridges, Whitehall and outside the Houses of Parliament.

The UK's most senior police officer Cressida Dick has said the Metropolitan Police is being stretched by the Extinction Rebellion protests
Image: Cressida Dick says her officers are being pulled away from other areas to police the protests
Specialist police officers free a protester who chained himself to a wooden structure
Image: Specialist officers are dealing with people who are chaining and gluing themselves to objects

Sky News followed the commander as he met with other senior officers to check on their progress in pushing Extinction Rebellion activists up towards Trafalgar Square.

The chief inspector said: "We have done a lot of work over the last few days in clearing the main arterial routes and what we have now is an encampment in St James's Park, so we have conditions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

"We are looking to enforce those conditions, asking that group to move to Trafalgar Square. If they won't go then we'll be looking at enforcing those conditions, so breach of those conditions will be an offence for which they can be arrested."

Around 100 police officers moved into the park, notifying protesters that they had to move or face arrest.

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Within a couple of hours, many had already dismantled their tents and were moving out of the park towards an increasingly busy Trafalgar Square.

At the square, Chief Inspector Bowen-Long oversaw the beginning of a protracted operation to remove a small group of protesters from a wooden tower in the middle of the roadway.

A team of specialist officers from the Met's protester removal unit were called in to free the activists, who had glued and chained themselves to the structure.

A protester, who Extinction Rebellion says is former Paralympic athlete James Brown, lies on top of a British Airways plane at London City Airport
Image: A protester climbed on a plane at London City Airport on Thursday

The chief inspector said: "It's a real specialist asset, you need very specifically trained officers who can do the removal piece on that.

"It's getting them in place, making sure there is a safe space for them to do it. Plenty of negotiation going on and we'll just take it from there.

"When people say, why aren't you just clearing the roads, this is some of the challenges we face around how sophisticated the structures are.

"We've got to look at the safety of the people on there and make sure that they are safely taken down and are not harmed while we're doing it.

"Once they're down and unlocked, the structRead More – Source