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Revealed: How much Norfolk Constabulary has spent policing Extinction Rebellion protests

PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 October 2019

Since February, Norfolk Constabulary has regularly sent officers to police climate change protests in Norwich, including one protest at County Hall which cost the force an estimated £1,133 in overtime. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Since February, Norfolk Constabulary has regularly sent officers to police climate change protests in Norwich, including one protest at County Hall which cost the force an estimated £1,133 in overtime. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

The price tag of policing climate change protests in Norwich over the last year has topped £27,000, figures have revealed.

Extinction Rebellion activists setting off on a critical mass bike ride around Norwich in June. Picture: Staff.Extinction Rebellion activists setting off on a critical mass bike ride around Norwich in June. Picture: Staff.

Since February, Norfolk Constabulary has regularly sent officers to police climate change protests in Norwich, including one protest at County Hall which cost the force an estimated £1,133 in overtime.

Figures gained through a Freedom of Information request have revealed the force also spent £26,313 sending officers to London to support the Metropolitan police in its response to the XR protests which bought parts of the capital to a standstill in April this year.

But campaigners say the price of policing protests is nothing compared to what a "social collapse" would cost, and said it is not the group's fault people are over-stretched.

Since the start of 2019, Extinction Rebellion Norwich, has held a number of events in the city including 'die-ins', critical mass bike rides and protests on the steps of City Hall.

On February 11, a number of Extinction Rebellion protestors to held a protest in the Norfolk County Council chambers, at County Hall in Norwich the protest was attended by 23 police constables and two sergeants. Picture: Extinction RebellionOn February 11, a number of Extinction Rebellion protestors to held a protest in the Norfolk County Council chambers, at County Hall in Norwich the protest was attended by 23 police constables and two sergeants. Picture: Extinction Rebellion

While the majority of protests were attended by officers on usual duty and therefore did not create any extra cost for the force, on average police have sent 16 officers to each event and sometimes as many as 32.

When asked if the policing of XR protests was taking officers away from other duties, chief superintendent Dave Marshall, county policing commander, said the constabulary planned its response to protests based on the "individual circumstances" both in the force area and elsewhere.

He said: "We regularly engage with local authorities and protest organisers to ensure appropriate policing plans are in place to minimise the disruption caused to communities and frontline policing and ensure the safety of everyone involved.

"Everyone has the right to free speech and protest, however, officers will take necessary action against those select few who deliberately choose to act outside the law."

Members of the Norwich Extinction Rebellion group protesting in London. Picture: Hayley PintoMembers of the Norwich Extinction Rebellion group protesting in London. Picture: Hayley Pinto

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Amy Wilson, a spokesperson for XR Norwich, said: "The main point is that [the current policing] is not even a drop in the ocean compared to the police resources that will be needed if there's a social collapse.

"In terms of local issues if it gets to that point, police will be running after looters.

"I would say that the majority of the time the police have been over-generous in the number of officers they have sent to protests.

Extinction Rebellion Norwich activist Amy Wilson. Picture: Amy WilsonExtinction Rebellion Norwich activist Amy Wilson. Picture: Amy Wilson

"I do think they need to be there and we see the police as our friends because they are there for our safety.

"Usually if we are blocking a road, someone might try to drive through us and sometimes, someone on foot might say something to us [because they are annoyed] and I get that but the overall message is that we are making people aware and the government aware."

Ms Wilson said the cost of policing now was preventing further costs in the future, and the group's main goal was to make people "aware" of the threat climate change poses.

"It's like getting a repair done to your boiler so you don't have to replace it and [XR] are not responsible for the reasons that the police are over stretched nationally," she said. "It's not really our problem, our one goal, what we are thinking about is the next seven generations not just the now and I'm happy to pay my taxes."

Norfolk Constabulary declined to comment on how many officers it sent to London in April and whether it was on standby to assist the Metropolitan police again during planned protests which get underway from October 7.

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