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Seventy two arrested as Extinction Rebellion protesters blockade newspaper printers

The action was condemned by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne.
Police and fire services outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne.
Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Sep 5th 2020, 3:28 PM

SEVENTY TWO PEOPLE have been arrested in the UK amid protests which have stopped delivery trucks leaving two News Corporation printing presses.

More than 100 Extinction Rebellion protesters used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool yesterday. 

Today, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said such action was “completely unacceptable”. 

Writing on Twitter, Johnson said: “A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change.

“It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way.”

This morning, police said some 72 people had been arrested during the action, which delayed deliveries of papers to newsagents on Saturday morning. The demonstrations ended shortly after 11am and the lock-ons were dismantled.

The Newsprinters presses publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.

Newsprinters condemned the protests as an “attack on all of the free press” which had affected workers going about their jobs and others such as newsagents who face “financial penalty”.

Under a banner reading “Free the truth”, Extinction Rebellion tweeted that it was using the disruption to expose the newspapers’ “failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of truth to suit their own agendas”.

“Coverage in many of the newspapers printed here is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and on dozens of other issues,” the group said.

Extinction Rebellion apologised to newsagents and customers for the disruption but added it would “not apologise to Mr Murdoch for disrupting his agenda” and claimed the free press was “under attack from a failing authoritarian government”.

On Twitter, Extinction Rebellion said: “Let’s not get distracted. Our free press, society & democracy IS under attack – from a failing authoritarian govt leading us to a catastrophic 4 degrees of warming.”

The group added: “If you can’t get your paper this morning, it’s because we are in rebellion against Government inaction on the climate and ecological emergency. People are dying, and soon we won’t be able to feed our children.”

Also reacting on Twitter, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.

“This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable.”

Hertfordshire Police assistant chief constable Owen Weatherill said officers, including from neighbouring forces, had worked throughout the night to ease disruption.

He said: “Protesters ignored our requests to move location, so we have taken robust action to enable the roads to be reopened and to remove the protesters causing obstructions.”

Merseyside Police tweeted this morning that officers were still in attendance at the Knowsley plant.

A spokesman for Newsprinters said in a statement:

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.

“Thanks to other industry partners, printing was transferred to other sites.”

“We apologise sincerely to any readers of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times who may be unable to buy their usual newspaper this morning due to late deliveries.”

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extinction-rebellion-protests Protesters outside the printing works. Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

The protesters also held a smaller demonstration near Motherwell aimed at disrupting the distribution of Saturday’s Scottish Sun newspaper.

‘A risk’

Meanwhile, climate change protesters have been warned they risk a large fine if they fail to comply with coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than 30 people.

The Met Police said risk assessments explaining how Extinction Rebellion activists were minimising the possibility of Covid-19 transmission at a planned march in Westminster “did not meet the required standard”.

The force said group’s latest round of demonstrations “pose a risk, not only to those involved, but to the wider public and communities of London”.

Today a procession of activists that set of from Brighton on foot a week ago is due to march the final stretch to parliament.

They have been banned from taking a 20ft model boat named after teenage activist Greta Thunberg to the streets of Westminster.

Yesterday, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe warned the group not to take The Lightship Greta into an area stretching from Green Park to Lambeth

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