The British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police have new powers as of today to move static protests, a common tactic of campaigners such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
It came right after yesterday’s arrests of seven Just Stop Oil protestors at the Pride in London parade, five of which have now been charged, The Met stated.
Under the new Public Order Act which was introduced on 28 April to clearly set out what is meant by “serious disruption to the life of community”, protesters found guilty of “tunnelling” — digging underground tunnels to obstruct the building of new infrastructure works or “being present in a tunnel to cause serious disruption” — could face three years in prison.
Being found guilty of taking equipment to tunnel will carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison, while anyone guilty of obstructing a major transport works could face the same punishment.
The law also makes “locking on,” or protesters attaching themselves to other people, objects or buildings, a criminal offense.
The Home Office has said that tunnelling at locations such as HS2 construction sites was costing the taxpayer money and said that from Sunday obstructing the building or maintenance of future transport networks was now illegal.
“Hard-working people want to be able to go about their daily lives without disruption from a selfish minority,” Ms Braverman said.
“The Public Order Act is delivering on our commitment to allow people to get on with their daily business,” she added.
But critics have argued that the toughening up of laws are a threat to the right to protest.
The law came into force right after yesterday’s arrests of Just Stop Oil protestors at the Pride in London parade.
The Met Police said seven people have been arrested yesterday for public nuisance and the road was quickly cleared for the Parade to continue.
LGBTQ+ supporters of Just Stop Oil have disrupted the Pride in London parade, blocking Coca-Cola’s float and spraying black and pink paint over the road.
Of the seven protestors arrested, five were charged with behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress (contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986), a statement from Met said.