Extinction Rebellion activists arrested following Newsprinters blockades

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, September 7, 2020

Around 80 Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested after they blockaded Newsprinters plants in Hertfordshire, Merseyside and North Lanarkshire on Friday night (4 September), affecting the distribution of a number of major newspapers on Saturday.

The protest prevented the delivery of 1.5m Saturday papers, including The Times
The protest prevented the delivery of 1.5m Saturday papers, including The Times

Protestors blocked the group's sites in Broxbourne, Knowsley and near Motherwell, which print Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp publications The Sun, The Times, The Sun On Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as other titles including The Telegraph and Daily Mail.

The activists said they were using disruption “to expose the failure of these corporations to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas”.

They used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons throughout Friday night in order to prevent delivery vans from leaving the sites.

A statement posted on the Extinction Rebellion website on Friday said:We’re not moving forward at the speed we need to turn the climate and ecological emergency around. We’re trapped somewhere between acceptance and the reality of just how bad the situation is.

“The right wing media is a barrier to the truth, failing to reflect the scale and urgency of the crisis and hold governments to account. Coverage in many of the newspapers printed here is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and on dozens of other issues.

“They distract us with hate and maintain their own power and wealth, profiting from our division. We can’t move forward until this barrier falls. The truth is being held hostage and so are we. We need to free the truth.”

In a subsequent update posted on Saturday, Extinction Rebellion said: “At 11am, the time they planned to end their blockade, the small group of protesters left blocking Broxbourne printworks this morning have come down from the trucks and bamboo scaffolds and have been arrested.

Hertfordshire Constabulary said 51 protestors at the Broxbourne site were arrested while Merseyside Police said it had charged 26 protesters at the Knowsley site with aggravated trespass. Extinction Rebellion said the blockade at the site near Motherwell was cleared around midnight Friday, with no arrests.

While Extinction Rebellion apologised to newsagents for the disruption the activists caused, it did not apologise to Murdoch and called on him to “stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said “this attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable” and that the group should “face the full force of the law” for pursuing their “guerrilla tactics”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, said: “A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change. It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.”

Although not the primary target of the protests, The Telegraph was affected and responded by temporarily removing the paywall on its website, making all of its journalism free to read over the weekend.

Editor Chris Evans said: “I’m very concerned by the attack on free speech. Whatever your politics, you should be worried by this. There are also questions for the police who perhaps placed the right of these few people to protest above the right of the rest of the people to read a free press.”

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