Announcing their judgment in the challenge in London on Tuesday, Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Chamberlain said the Met had no power to impose the ban because the Act does not cover “separate assemblies”.
Lord Justice Dingemans said: “Separate gatherings, separated both in time and by many miles, even if co-ordinated under the umbrella of one body, are not a public assembly within the meaning of… the Act.
“The XR Autumn Uprising intended to be held from October 14 to 19 was not therefore a public assembly… therefore the decision to impose the condition was unlawful because there was no power to impose it under… the Act.”
Law firm Bindmans, which represented XR, said the Met now faces claims for false imprisonment from “potentially hundreds” of protesters who were arrested after the ban was imposed.
Jules Carey, a solicitor from Bindmans who represented XR, said: “The ban on the XR protest was hastily imposed, erratically applied and has now been unequivocally declared unlawful by the High Court.
“The police have powers to impose conditions to manage protests but not to ban them.
“This judgment is a timely reminder to those in authority facing a climate of dissent; the right to protest is a long standing fundamental right in a democratic society that should be guarded and not prohibited by overzealous policing.”
Ellie Chowns, a Green MEP arrested while the ban was in place, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we have won this very important case, defending the right to peaceful assembly and public protest. The judgment in our favour shows that the police clearly overstepped the mark when they imposed a blanket ban on any XR related protest. It was clearly ridiculous to arrest me for simply standing in Trafalgar Square, a pedestrianised public space. This judgment upholds the right to peaceful assembly and protest, a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.”
The Metropolitan Police said it will “carefully consider” the ruling.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: “The decision to apply the conditions on October 14 on the Extinction Rebellion Autumn Uprising protest was not taken lightly.
“After more than a week of serious disruption in London both to communities and across our partner agencies, and taking account of the enormous ongoing effort by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service and across the UK to police the protest, we firmly believed that the continuation of the situation was untenable.”
The police ban had stated that any assembly – classed as a gathering of two or more people – linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising’ in London was unlawful.
XR filed a challenge against the ban on the grounds that it was “disproportionate and unlawful.”
In 10 days of protests to call for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses, which started on October 7, XR activists shut down areas around Parliament and the Bank of England, and targeted London City Airport and Government departments.
Police said the protest ban was brought in after “continued breaches” of the condition limiting the demonstration to Trafalgar Square.
The force said 1,832 people were arrested during the protests, and more than 150 were charged with offences.
Those who brought the legal action included Green Party politicians Baroness Jenny Jones and Caroline Lucas MP, Labour MP Clive Lewis and campaigner and journalist George Monbiot – who was arrested after the ban came into force.
XR’s stated tactics are to cause “maximum disruption” and to overwhelm the capacity in police custody, including by refusing bail after being arrested.
The court heard the costs of policing the Autumn Uprising were in excess of £20 million.