In London yet again the eco-pests have been out and about, making lives hell for ordinary people trying to go about their business. For most people one set of eco-protestors are just as much of a nuisance as any other, but for the record, this time it was Just Stop Oil who were at it. Once more they were standing on the highway, making it impossible for motorists to pass. The police turned up, but so far as can be seen, they did nothing.
That is, until a frustrated van driver, trying to get to work, snatched away their plastic oil-based banner and swore at them. The moment was caught on film here, and instantly two policemen descended on him and started remonstrating with him, physically (though admittedly in a gentle way) moving him away from the protestors. Seconds later a third policeman joined in. Meanwhile the traffic chaos continued and the protestors seemingly remained in situ with impunity.
It should be noted that section 137(1) of the Highways Act 1980 provides that “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine or both.” Of course, the potential loophole is the plea that the “climate crisis” provides the protestors with a lawful excuse.
One might have thought that in these cases the claim of the protestors would be a weak one, but seemingly not. In the case of DPP -v- Ziegler the Supreme Court carried out a comprehensive review of the relevant case law, including decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights, such as Primov -v- Russia, and concluded:
It is clear from those authorities that intentional action by protesters to disrupt by obstructing others enjoys the guarantees of articles 10 and 11, but both disruption and whether it is intentional are relevant factors in relation to an evaluation of proportionality. Accordingly, intentional action even with an effect that is more than de minimis does not automatically lead to the conclusion that any interference with the protesters’ articles 10 and 11 rights is proportionate. Rather, there must be an assessment of the facts in each individual case to determine whether the interference with article 10 or article 11 rights was “necessary in a democratic society”.
Kuznetzov -v- Russia was also cited with approval, including this paragraph:
Finally, as a general principle, the court reiterates that any demonstration in a public place inevitably causes a certain level of disruption to ordinary life, including disruption of traffic, and that it is important for the public authorities to show a certain degree of tolerance towards peaceful gatherings if the freedom of assembly guaranteed by article 11 of the Convention is not to be deprived of all substance.
Thus it can be seen that – probably contrary to the beliefs and wishes of many people – the law gives considerable latitude to the protestors, and consequently the police have to take that into account when dealing with them. Many people wonder why the police delay for rather a long time before taking action against protestors obstructing the highway. The simple answer is that the case law provides that the length of time the obstruction takes is a relevant factor in deciding whether or not it is lawful. Pity, then, the police, who have to strike a balance between allowing lawful protests (whatever those affected by the protests might think of them) and keeping the traffic flowing, while preventing the situation from potentially spinning out of control and turning violent. Having analysed the law on the subject, my sympathies are with both the police and ordinary citizens whose lives are being made hell by the eco-protestors. I have no sympathy with protestors who must know that their demands to “just stop oil” can’t be met within their required timescales, and who also show contempt both for the democratic process and for their fellow citizens.
Given the nature of recent events in London, it is therefore more than a little galling to read about what’s going on at the other end of the country – in Shetland, where the Viking Energy project is now causing chaos on the roads while the huge turbine parts are delivered. With police assistance, naturally. We learn from an article in the Shetland Times that “aggressive” police are scaring people while accompanying the Viking Energy convoys:
Police officers travelling with the convoys to the Viking windfarm site are scaring people by ordering them off the road aggressively, a meeting heard on Tuesday night.
Viking Community Liaison Group chairman Andrew Archer said he was “surprised” to hear from one person who asked if the police could be less aggressive when dealing with the public.
The person said they had been left so “gluffed” they almost had an accident.
Another person had actually had an accident, the person alleged, after being “frightened by the police escort”.
Mr Archer said he had spoken to a few people who felt similarly – and that the police were acting like “something out of The Sweeney“.
“They’re being quite aggressive in pushing people off the road,” he said.
Viking project manager Aaron Priest said it was not for them to tell the police how to do their job.
The length and breadth of the country, from London and the M25 in the south to Shetland in the north, it seems that “greens” will always take priority, whether in the form of eco-protestors or massive renewable energy companies. Apparently Joe Public should get used to the idea that the roads aren’t for the likes of him (or her). My only consolation is that the contempt of all those in authority and all those associated with the net zero project, for ordinary people, must lead to a backlash. Soon. Please.
What form do you expect a backlash to take?
Do you object to the police being rather heavy handed in the case of normal traffic being removed from highways to enable wind turbine parts to be transported? Is it because you have little sympathy with wind turbines. What if the heavy goods were giant sewer pipes (as happened recently in an English village)? Would that that been more legitimate and acceptable?
I fear it may take the form of violence against the protesters; I fervently hope not. I hope it takes the form of electoral disaster at the next election for all of the politicians who support net zero, especially for those who advocate most feverishly for it.
It may also take the form of non-compliance, such as a stubborn refusal to buy an EV or install a heat pump. The net zero targets are already lagging behind what the zealots demand; soon they will be unachievable.
I object to the police being heavy-handed with law-abiding citizens, whatever the context. Sadly I have witnessed a fair bit of their heavy-handedness myself, mostly when I was younger. Especially when they are soft with people making life hell for law-abiding citizens, though as I explained in the article, I understand the latter rather better now.
There is a danger that the police will soon be regarded as not being there for ordinary, decent people.
It looks like some of them are about to be arrested:
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JSO – Just Sod Off
There is no justice. Just us.
I personally do not think that the behaviour of the police towards these protestors is guided by their knowledge of relevant case law, particularly as they are so quick to intervene when frustrated members of the public lose their rag, particularly when they have so aggressively policed other lawful protests (lockdown protests, for instance) which have not been at all intentionally obstructive, unlike JSO’s arrogant and infantile posturings.
I have long suspected that JSO and XR are instruments of the state, or at least tolerated by the state in order to further the state’s Green agenda. Why else would a ‘Conservative’ government and Parliament itself have so readily entertained the demands of XR activists, welcoming them to Westminster? Why else would they have acceded to XR’s demand for farcical People’s Assemblies, which have served only to rubber stamp regressive Green policies under the guise of ‘grassroots democracy’?
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On the other hand, the XR-clones haven’t been back to the East-end of London since their stunt at Canning Town tun=be station.
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My mistake. I think that video was taken at about 10am this morning and there haven’t been any reported arrests since then.
If there are any arrests today and the Ziegler ruling isn’t much help (it isn’t always), the babyish doomwankers could perhaps base their defence on Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child instead. That says that children have a right to be heard.
German police seem to have a different attitude to climate protestors:
“German police call for crackdown on growing climate protests
Union leader wants more preventive detention of activists across country to stop disruption”
By the way, regarding criticism of traffic police in Shetland recently, may I also put in a word for them (and for the other emergency services) in England based on today’s experience. Travelling down the M6 in Lancashire to go to a funeral (which ultimately I didn’t get to) my wife and I were stuck for 90 minutes in a jam caused by what looked like a dreadful RTA just ahead (we were lucky to be travelling when we were – two minutes earlier and we might have been in it).
It was all obviously very serious – numerous police, fire engines and ambulances, including the air ambulance. When the traffic was moving again we drove past the scene of the accident, to see a car with its top cut off – presumably to extract its unfortunate occupant(s), but the other vehicles were gone, there was no debris and the road was absolutely clear. I would estimate that by 100 minutes after the accident occurred, the emergency services had safely stopped the traffic, dealt with the accident, extracted the injured parties and taken them to hospital (by air ambulance in the most extreme case(s)), cleared the debris and the other vehicles, and got the traffic moving again. The M6 is a nightmare. They must do this on an awfully regular basis, and it must be traumatic. I thank them and I take my hat off to them.
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“Braverman to make it easier for police to arrest Just Stop Oil protesters
Home Secretary to introduce new definition of ‘serious disruption’ aiming to lower threshold at which officers can take action”
It should do the trick, if it gets through Parliament, and I hope it strikes a reasonable balance between the absolutely necessary allowing of protests while banning behaviour which damages the lives of other people. Assuming it gets on the statute book unscathed (a big assumption) it will be interesting to see how the Courts interpret it so long as the Human Rights Act remains on the statute book in its current form (thus allowing the judiciary to import interpretative concepts from the ECHR).
I don’t know about this new law. I suspect most of these protesters know someone who knows the chief constable or a judge.
I can’t help feeling that in days past, the Home Office would have called these luminaries in to have a chat about their future employment without ever mentioning their relationship to the said protesters.
This new law could easily devolve over time into something ageist, impinging upon minimum frontline speed required of old dodery codgers (and codgesses). Otherwise these will be mistaken for hard-ass zero types and so clutter up overworked courts. Where will it end? Will the venerable have to display sticks or rollators to legally proceed below certain speeds? As a person who is only just renewing his leg abilities this law fills me with dread.
Old codgers and codgesses often ride mobility scooters down the middle of roads in a sleepy town near here. I think they are Class 2 (max speed 4 mph), so shouldn’t be on roads but nobody seems to mind. But then the becodged aren’t carrying banners and shouting about the end of the world.
Speaking of which…
Here’s the message on a banner carried by a Just Stop Oil road-blocker in Putney this morning:
(If you search Google with that message’s last ten words, you are told that help is available and you should speak with someone today and here’s how you can contact Samaritans.)
It’s starting to look a little as though your chances of being arrested while protesting depend on whose day you’re trying to spoil:
“Anti-monarchy group Republic’s chief arrested at Coronation protest”
“We need to fight for our right to protest
The arrests of those republican demonstrators should alarm anyone who believes in freedom.”
“German police raid climate activists who blocked traffic”
IMO it’s worth reading the whole article to see how this is playing out in Germany.