Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil aren’t protesting – they’re causing criminal damage, says Dan Wootton

Don’t tell me allowing that disgraceful behaviour to continue is anything to do with protest

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As a free speech fundamentalist, I believe with every fibre of my being in the right to protest.

It’s a critical sign of a free society.

However, what we’ve seen from the likes of Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil over the past year is nothing to do with protest.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion walking from Exhibition Road and into Hyde Park, central London
Activists from Extinction Rebellion walking from Exhibition Road and into Hyde Park, central London

It’s unquestionably criminal damage and, at times, eco-terrorism.

Don’t tell me allowing that disgraceful behaviour to continue is anything to do with protest.

Those criminal cretins are putting lives at risk, especially with ‘locking on’ tactics and gluing themselves to major roads, all while costing police tens of millions of pounds, grinding important national infrastructure to a halt and causing nightmarish fuel shortages.

That’s why I am delighted that today’s Queen’s Speech – delivered, in a worrying development, by Prince Charles as Her Majesty missed the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in 59 years – introduced the Public Order Bill.

The specifics on this bill are so important.

Those obstructing major transport works like HS2 or key national infrastructure such as airports, railways and newspaper printing presses face six months behind bars or unlimited fines.

For those professional protesting losers there will be new orders – reportedly dubbed “Asbos for crusties” by Home Office insiders – that ban people conducting criminal activities constantly, with the threat of a year in prison.

I’d lock these eco-terrorists up and throw away the key so their rein of terror can finally come to an end.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel made clear that the new law was NOT about restricting the right to protest…