‘Get stuck in’: Priti Patel orders police to protect print plants after Extinction Rebellion extremists sabotaged newspaper distribution
- Priti Patel ordered the police to guard newspaper printing plants last night
- Home Secretary called Extinction Rebellion’s actions an ‘attack on democracy’
- Climate change activists delayed distribution of national newspapers this week
Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered the police to guard newspaper printing plants last night to try to prevent a repeat of the disruption environmental activists caused on Friday night – and told officers to ‘get stuck in’.
Ms Patel, who described the climate change protests by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group as an ‘attack on democracy’, told forces to provide a police presence at all of the printing sites.
It came after XR delayed the distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies of national newspapers, including the Daily Mail, to shops yesterday by blocking access to printing presses at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Knowsley in Merseyside.
A Home Office source said: ‘Priti was furious. She told the police to ‘get stuck in’ to stop a second night of disruption.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered the police to guard newspaper printing plants last night to try to prevent a repeat of the disruption environmental activists caused on Friday night – and told officers to ‘get stuck in’ (pictured: Extinction Rebellion activists block the entrance to Newsprinters facility in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, September 4, 2020)
Ms Patel, who described the climate change protests by the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group as an ‘attack on democracy’, told forces to provide a police presence at all of the printing sites
It came after XR delayed the distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies of national newspapers, including the Daily Mail, to shops yesterday by blocking access to printing presses at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Knowsley in Merseyside
On Friday night, more than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo structures to block roads outside the works to highlight what they claimed was the media’s failure to ‘report on the climate and ecological emergency’. The presses print the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, the London Evening Standard, the Sun, Times, Sun on Sunday and Sunday Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
Yesterday, Hertfordshire Police said 50 were arrested at the demonstration in Broxbourne while another 30 were arrested in Merseyside.
The Metropolitan Police last night said it had handed out a total of £200,000 of fixed penalty fines to 20 Extinction Rebellion protesters for organising illegal gatherings of more than 30 people in breach of social distancing rules. Officers dished out the £10,000 fines at a number of protests to organisers wearing pink tabards, including those arranging the procession of a 20ft model boat named after activist Greta Thunberg which was halted on the edge of London.
Ms Patel said: ‘This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers going about their jobs. Overnight print workers, delivery drivers, wholesale workers and retail newsagents have faced delays and financial penalty. This is a matter for the police and the Home Office.’
Ms Patel said: ‘This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers’
The Federation of Independent Retailers said the protest left small businesses with ‘angry customers’ to deal with as well as affecting home delivery services.
Stuart Reddish, the body’s national president, said: ‘It means we are unable to get newspapers to our elderly and vulnerable customers.
‘Newsagents have played a critical role during Covid-19 in getting newspapers into the hands of readers and this is not helpful at a time when every sale counts.’
Industry sources told the Guardian that other newspaper publishers swiftly helped pick up capacity on their presses to limit the disruption to distribution. Local newspapers printed at the Broxbourne site were also affected, including East Anglian titles produced by the publisher Archant.
Under a banner reading ‘Free the truth’, XR tweeted that it was using the disruption to expose newspapers’ ‘failure to report on the climate and ecological emergency’ adding: ‘We’re going to filter out the lies and take the power back for a night.’
Alanna Byrne, from XR, said: ‘We will only tackle the climate and ecological emergency by breaking the traditional impasse of oppositional politics and coming together, despite our differences.’
The Society of Editors executive director, Ian Murray, called the protest ‘foolish and anti-democratic’, adding: ‘The irony of protesters who wish to have their voices heard and their message listened to attempting to silence others by preventing the distribution of newspapers would be laughable if it was not so serious.
‘You have to wonder whether those planning and taking part in these foolish actions understand anything from history; that controlling or shutting down free speech and an independent media is the first action of totalitarian regimes and dictators.’
A source at Sun and Times publisher News UK defended the company’s stance on climate, saying that Saturday’s Sun carried an article by David Attenborough on how to tackle the climate crisis.
The company was also moving to scrap all single-use plastic used to wrap its titles.
Although Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer failed to make a comment yesterday, Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said the protest was ‘very worrying’ amid concerns elderly people may miss out on newspaper deliveries.
Outside Buckingham Palace, other members of XR staged a two-hour ‘danceathon’ to encourage the Royal Family to intervene on climate issues.
Labour MP prompts outrage after praising ‘excellent work’ of Extinction Rebellion extremists who delayed distribution of national newspapers
By James Heale for the Mail on Sunday
Labour MP Dawn Butler prompted outrage yesterday after praising the eco-rebels who blockaded newspaper printworks.
The former frontbencher backed Extinction Rebellion on social media for its ‘excellent work’ after protesters blocked roads near the plants, halting deliveries of national newspapers.
She added: ‘Bravo #Extinction Rebellion’ and accompanied the message with several clapping-hands emojis. The post was deleted just hours later. Ms Butler, who was sacked as Shadow Equalities Minister after Sir Keir Starmer’s election as Labour leader in April, faced a furious backlash online for her comments.
Labour MP Dawn Butler prompted outrage yesterday after praising the eco-rebels who blockaded newspaper printworks
Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan branded Ms Butler’s message ‘shameful’ and criticised ‘a senior British politician [for] celebrating the stifling of free speech’. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel said the attack on a free press was ‘completely unacceptable’.
Yesterday, Labour frontbenchers were quick to distance themselves from Ms Butler.
Shadow Secretary of State for Digital Culture, Media and Sport, Jo Stephens, said: ‘People have the right to read the newspapers they want. Stopping them from being distributed and printers from doing their jobs is wrong.’