A war of words has broken out after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab beat up Labor Diane Abbott this morning for defending Extinction Rebellion activists who blocked newspaper presses on Friday.
Ms. Abbott compared Extinction Rebellion to the suffragettes and criticized the government's plans to classify the activists as organized crime.
Their comments come after public outcry following Friday's XR action in which protesters targeted Newsprinters printing plants in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire and Knowsley near Liverpool and prevented daily newspapers from leaving the depots.
However, Mr. Raab has criticized Ms. Abbott and criticized the actions of XR.
He said to Sky's Sophy Ridge, “I am amazed at Diane Abbott's remarks. The idea that it is right to damage property or intervene with a free press in the name of ongoing protest is perverse in my opinion.
“Actually, I think it harms the cause of climate change.
“I respect the right to peaceful protest, but kidnapping with a militant agenda to upset the heart of the democratic debate that is being carried out through free media is just completely wrong and we are against it and I think law enforcement should be taken to preserve our wider freedoms, and they involve free media. & # 39;
Ms. Abbott previously defended the protest by saying direct action was a "legal tactic" and adding that it would be "ridiculous" for the government to reclassify the rebellion of the annihilation.
Ms Abbott told Sky News & # 39; Sophy Ridge on Sunday: & # 39; They are not criminals, they are demonstrators and activists in the tradition of the suffragettes and the hunger marches of the 1930s. & # 39;
After the stunt, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she wanted to take a "new look" at how XR is legally classified, while Boris Johnson considered the act to be "totally unacceptable".
A possible review could result in XR being treated as an organized crime group, sources said, as part of a curtailment of their activities, which include the deadlock of cities across the UK by creating human barriers along major roads and disrupting the public belonged to transport.
Dominic Raab beat Labor's Diane Abbott in defense of Extinction Rebellion activists who blocked newspaper presses
Labor's Diane Abbott defended the protest, saying direct action was a "legal tactic" and adding that it would be "ridiculous" for the government to reclassify the rebellion of annihilation
Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked the entrance to Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, which meant some national newspapers failed to reach stalls today
However, their words were not supported by Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats.
He said the Extinction Rebellion protesters "shot themselves in the foot" after they blocked the newspaper presses on Friday night.
When asked by Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday if he agreed with Ms. Abbott's assessment that the demonstrations were legitimate, he said, "No … I think we need to bring the country together to see that we are In addition to the one climate emergency, Covid has health and economic emergency.
“My concern with what we saw was that it actually separates people and can undermine the message about the climate emergency.
“I fear if you damage the free press in particular, you will shoot yourself in the foot.
& # 39; There was an interview with David Attenborough in one of those newspapers that wasn't distributed – David Attenborough is the environmentalist par excellence, he has a lot to say about climate change and how we protect our environment.
Why Extinction Rebellion blocked the presses
Extinction Rebellion (XR) claimed last night that it was using the disruption to expose newspapers that did not cover the climate and environmental emergency.
They claimed, "The coverage in many of the newspapers printed here pollutes the national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and dozens of other issues."
This morning the group apologized on Twitter for disturbing newsagents but said they did not apologize to Murdoch for disturbing his "agenda".
In response to the interior minister's criticism, they accused the press of causing "division and hatred".
In recent weeks, there have been fears that XR has been taken over by a cabal of radical left groups looking to advance their own agenda.
Politicians lined up this morning to criticize the group, saying this could damage support for the cause at a critical time.
Emily Thornberry, Labor Shadow international trade minister, said: “I really don't know what to expect.
"I know that for many older listeners having their newspaper delivered in the morning is an integral part of their daily life, and I just think it's wrong."
The group has been criticized for disrupting the circulation of newspapers during the global pandemic.
"I think it's bad news to keep people from reading David Attenborough."
Following additional proposals, parliament, courts and press could be given special status in relation to the key roles they play in democracy and the police could be given increased powers to prevent protesters from entering certain areas outside these premises.
"It would be illegal to prevent MPs from voting or bringing judges to justice, and it would also protect a free press," a government source said.
It comes after more than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo locks to block roads outside the Newsprinters factories on Friday evening. Both protests last until Saturday afternoon.
The blockade prevented vans from leaving the printing presses that published the titles of Rupert Murdoch's-owned News Corp, including The Sun, The Times, The Sun On Sunday and The Sunday Times.
Other publications, including The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, were also affected.
The Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) said the protests had hit home delivery, including for "the elderly and vulnerable", and its members had dealt with "disgruntled customers."
Merseyside police said they had arrested 30 people while Hertfordshire police said they had taken 50 people into custody.
XR apologized to the newsagents for interfering, but added that it would not apologize to Mr Murdoch and urged him to "stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and capitalize on the division your papers are creating." ".
To Ms. Patel's criticism that her actions were "an attack on our free press", XR replied: "Our free press, society and democracy are under attack – a failing government that consistently lies to us is becoming increasingly authoritarian and leading us to 4 degrees warming. & # 39;
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden condemned XR's actions as "idiotic" while cabinet colleagues including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick urged people to buy a paper to support the industry, which suffered from a decline in advertising revenue during the reporting period the pandemic was hit.
Jo Stevens, Labor's shadow culture secretary, said: “A free press is vital to our democracy. People have the right to read the newspapers they want.
More than 30 people were arrested after the blockades. A second was set up at Knowsley, near Liverpool
"It is wrong to prevent them from being distributed and printers from doing their job."
But in a now-deleted tweet, Labor MP Dawn Butler appeared to be praising XR, writing: & # 39; Bravo £ ExtinctionRebellion. Excellent job … & # 39;
Police said no arrests were made after XR protesters held a demonstration near Motherwell to disrupt the spread of the Scottish Sun newspaper on Saturday.
There was a large police presence in central London on Saturday as XR hosted further protests.
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