Police are preparing for a ‘mass trespass’ protest by Extinction Rebellion next month – saying new methods of protesting in recent years have made it more challenging to manage demonstrations.
North Yorkshire Police reveal they also oversaw six separate protests in York city centre this weekend but that no one was arrested and there were no incidents.
There is “significant concern” that Kill the Bill protests in Bristol that turned violent could spark copycat activity, said North Yorkshire police, fire and crime commissioner Julia Mulligan.
A further organised protest, dubbed a ‘mass trespass’, planned for April 24 by Extinction Rebellion, is also causing concern to people living in rural areas.
Mrs Mulligan said: “Obviously that will be of great concern and it’s a different type of tactic, which has largely been urban-focused in the past.”
Assistant chief constable Mark Pannone said the force is monitoring the planned protests: “The really interesting thing about public order legislation and all of the guidance around how we deal with protests is that the documentation invariably was written before Extinction Rebellion and that method of protest came into being.
“This non-violent passive resistance type of protest, which is typically what Extinction Rebellion and some other groups use, is a challenge for the police.”
He said the force plans to oversee protests as appropriately as possible, but added: “Policing a protest in a rural environment is very different to policing a protest in an urban environment, with different challenges and different expectations from the community.”
ACC Pannone said that public feelings about protests at the moment mean there has “never been a time where it’s more important for the police to be absolutely understanding of community sentiment to make sure that we get the policing stance right”.
Chief constable Lisa Winward highlighted changes to the way groups protest and the challenges peaceful protests can cause to police and the public.
Speaking at a meeting of the police, fire and crime commissioner, she said: “We’ve seen very peaceful activities can lead to mass disruption in our communities of varying natures.
“The original legislation was about protest that was violent and disruptive and it was obvious to everybody that it was an activity that was disruptive.
“But now of course that activity isn’t necessarily in its own right a disruptive action but can cause mass disruption to our communities.
“This is the whole debate that is going on about the balancing of rights between having a voice in protest and disrupting the community.”