Since the period of protest began on September 1, police have arrested 680 people. The arrests were for a number of different offences, including obstructing the highway, criminal damage and breaching the conditions set under Section 14 of the Public Order Act (1986). Commander Jane Connors, the Gold Commander for London, said it was important to clampdown on protests during a “public health crisis”.
She warned the number of arrests was “likely to rise”.
She said: “Undoubtedly, Extinction Rebellion’s latest protests have been a significant challenge for officers, especially as we remain in a public health crisis. I would like to thank them for their outstanding professionalism in policing the events over the past two weeks.
“At the beginning of this period of protests we warned demonstrators that if they failed to comply with conditions in place that they may be liable to arrest.
“The public have a right to protest, but they do not have a right to cause disruption to the communities and businesses across London. That is why we took swift action to make a number of arrests.
“This has been a large policing operation and we will continue to investigate those who we suspect to have committed offences, so the number of arrests is likely to rise.”
Protests are due to finish today.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that she refused to allow the “guerrilla tactics” and “anarchy” of the climate protesters on the streets of the UK.
Addressing the conference on Tuesday, which was held digitally due to the COVIDd-19 pandemic, Ms Patel said “attacking people’s jobs and livelihoods” is not “peaceful protest”.
She said: “Now it is said that where there is no law there is no freedom, and that law and order is the cornerstone of our free society.
“And without it we have nothing. But events of the last week have exposed another emerging threat – the so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals.
“Attempting to thwart the media’s right to publish without fear nor favour. And a shameful attack on our way of life, our economy, and the livelihoods of the hardworking majority.
“I refuse point blank to allow that kind of anarchy on our streets.
“And I’m right behind you as you bring the full might of the law down upon that selfish minority.
“The very criminals who disrupt our free society must be stopped.
“And together we must all stand firm against the guerrilla tactics of Extinction Rebellion.
“And that means adapting to the threat that they pose and ensuring that justice is served.”
Last week, protesters blockaded printing presses which left some newsagents’ shelves empty and also blocked a number of roads and bridges in Westminster.
The Government has said powers to help police deal with disruptive protests are “under constant review”.
Home Office minister Kit Malthouse accused some XR activists of seeking to “impose an extremist world view” on others, claiming the “worthy cause” of environmental campaigning is “undermined by their tactics”.
On Monday, he said he and Ms Patel are committed to ensuring the police have the “powers required to deal with the disruption” caused by groups, such as XR, telling the Commons: “I will keep the tools available to tackle this behaviour under constant review.”
He also said the tactics used by XR protesters will be examined to ensure police have the tools needed to “deal with” problems swiftly.