OUR Home Secretary Priti Patel likes to be thought of as having a tough approach to crime and disorder. If she wants to show she can live up to that image, she should be encouraging the police to be ready to stamp down on an imminent attack on the rights of Cambridge people to go about their lives as normal.
Extinction Rebellion, the Fascism-Lite of the green movement, are about to try to shut down parts of Cambridge for a whole week if their demands aren’t met. The protest will include blocking roads and various unspecified actions, all likely to cause chaos. XR claim this will be non-violent; but the intended disruption still has the potential to do real harm. This isn’t legitimate protest: it’s nasty interference in the rights of others.
The self-importance of Extinction Rebellion is staggering. They are clamouring for Cambridge city council to cede its authority and decision-making powers on issues affecting climate – that’s just about everything in modern life – to a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’. Never mind that Cambridge councillors were elected in a free and fair contest to fill that role. Never mind that the council derives its legitimacy from democratic processes. Apparently the council isn’t the right sort of Citizens’ Assembly. Extinction Rebellion want their own in charge, one that is compliant and will come to come to the right decisions. And they are happy to use blackmail to get it.
Of course Extinction Rebellion have already had chances to take part in Cambridge politics and to try to get its citizens on their side. They could have put up candidates in the local elections last May or in December’s general election. That’s a right they share with any other political grouping. They have exactly the same opportunities to participate in politics, local or national, as anyone else. They are free to campaign, organise or electioneer as they wish. But standing in elections means exposure to full and sustained scrutiny. You might lose! In true Leninist style, they seem to believe that the population should be allowed choices about them only when under the movement’s safe direction, in forums packed with the gullible and faithful.
Messy events like elections are for others. Extinction Rebellion are political cowards, frightened to have their ideas examined and tested in a full contest. They know that despite Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough and the BBC, they still haven’t convinced the public that we should drop our living standards to Victorian levels or power our economy on unicorn breath.
Though we must not hamper anyone’s rights to demonstrate lawfully, Extinction Rebellion’s petulant and aggressive behaviour must not be allowed to cross the line into illegality, as it has so often before. The freedom of the wider community to go peaceably about their business must not be interfered with.
Given how the movement likes to advertise its plans in advance, the authorities have no excuse to be unprepared. The first protesters to turn up should be met by the police and clearly told that obstructions to the public will not be tolerated. Anyone not complying should be dealt with quickly and firmly under the law. This should be the police’s starting position, not something their commanders are pressured into after a lengthy period with no proper control as we saw in last year’s London protests. The government and Ms Patel need to show that they will hold police management accountable for making it happen from day one.
Bullies, green-tinged or not, should be confronted and challenged.