Emergency warning issued for Leeds as Extinction Rebellion plans 'civil disobedience' and disruption

Police have issued an emergency warning to Leeds banks and businesses as Extinction Rebellion plan disruption on City Square.

By Abbey Maclure
Friday, 12th July 2019, 5:15 pm
Extinction Rebellion protesters in London earlier this year. (Credit: SWNS)
Extinction Rebellion protesters in London earlier this year. (Credit: SWNS)

The environmental campaigners plan to descend on Leeds from Monday, protesting against investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Protests will start at about 10am and are expected to last for five days.

Activists at a previous protest in Leeds.

1,000 protesters are 'willing to risk arrest' and 500 'willing to risk prison' for their actions across the country, the group claims.

In a statement sent out to businesses in Leeds, West Yorkshire Police warned that Extinction Rebellion protesters could cause significant disruption.

The police said that activists may target banks and other financial offices, using tactics including blocking roads, ‘lock-ons’, ‘glue-ons’, swarming, occupation of iconic sites.

Chief Inspector Richard Padwell said: "As you may be aware, environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion is planning five days of protest in Leeds from Monday, July 15 to Friday, July 19 as part of a national campaign that will see similar protests in Glasgow, Cardiff, Bristol and London."The protestors’ tactics can include blocking roads, ‘lock-ons’, ‘glue-ons’, swarming, occupation of iconic sites and other non-violent direct action and civil disobedience."Depending on the numbers attending and their level of capability, the protests could cause significant disruption in and around Leeds city centre. Some intelligence suggests the financial sector, such as bank branches and other offices, could be a potential focus."An appropriate policing operation will be in place with the overall intention of working with partners to effectively manage people’s right to lawful protest, balanced with the rights and freedoms of others, and to minimise the impact on the local communities, businesses and the general public."We will be doing everything we can to minimise disruption but we appreciate that it only requires a relatively small number of motivated protestors to cause issues in the city centre."Given the nature of previous protests by this group, we do not anticipate any disorder beyond non-violent action and civil disobedience, so there should be no cause for anyone to be concerned for their safety."The organisers are engaging with us and we will aim to maintain dialogue throughout the week."We have already met with local business representatives this week and will be working to keep people informed and updated around any protest activity, associated disruption and our policing approach."We will be holding regular briefings throughout the week, as necessary, and messages and updates will be circulated via the BACIL network and Leeds BID. The Leeds City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team Twitter account @WYP_LeedsCity will also carry updates."We hope that by working together with our partners and the community, continuously reviewing the policing response in line with the type and level of activity on the ground, and keeping people informed, we can effectively manage people’s right to lawful protest while minimising any negative impact on the city centre."

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said the group is targeting Leeds because it is the fastest growing financial district outside London.

The protests are part of the group's 'summer uprising' campaign which will also see action in Cardiff, London, Bristol and Glasgow next week.

Leeds City Council has also issued a warning ahead of the protests.

A spokesperson for the council's emergency planning team said: "The protest group Extinction Rebellion have announced plans to hold a protest in Leeds w/c Monday 15 July through to Friday 19 July.

"It is likely the city will face levels of disruption and that your business should be prepared for this eventuality."

Extinction Rebellion have hinted they will target HSBC, which is the parent company of Leeds-based First Direct Bank, and Barclays.

Activists claim that the two banks are the "worst in Europe" for financing the expansion of fossil fuels,

A spokesperson for HSBC UK said: “HSBC is committed to help our customers make the transition to a low-carbon economy in a responsible and sustainable way.

"HSBC has stopped financing new coal-fired power in all countries around the world apart from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam, where a targeted and time-limited exception applies until 2023, in order to appropriately balance local humanitarian needs with the need to transition to a low-carbon economy, but only if independent analysis confirms that there is no reasonable alternative to coal and any new plant complies with the highest efficiency standards.

"Since the release of the new energy policy in April 2018 until the end of 2018, HSBC financed no new coal-fired power plants.”