Police vs Public: London Commuters Who Stopped Tube Protesters Investigated

Police
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

British police are investigating the have-a-go-heroes who stopped Extinction Rebellion climate protesters on the London Underground, branding their actions “unacceptable”.

Viral footage of commuters at the Canning Town subway stop in London putting an end to a dangerous protest by Extinction Rebellion activists by dragging them off the trains they had climbed on top of receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from the general public and even some Members of Parliament, including former government minister Tobias Ellwood.

The British Transport Police (BTP) seems to have taken a different, view, decrying the commuters for taking matters “into their own hands” and “displaying violent behaviour” in an “unacceptable” way.

They have also announced that they will be launching an investigation — presumably with a view to punishing the commuters who intervened.

“Despite our countless warnings, we are frustrated that Extinction Rebellion put people at risk to obstruct services on London’s rail network,” began Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan in a British Transport Police statement on the incident.

“Those who obstructed services are in custody and will be dealt with robustly,” he claimed, before adding curiously that “This type of action is completely at odds with what Extinction Rebellion are campaigning for and we will continue to urge them to not target any rail network” — which some might see as a tacit endorsement of the climate alarmist group more broadly, and even of it targeting infrastructure other than rail networks.

“However, it was also concerning to see that a number of commuters took matters into their own hands, displaying violent behaviour to detain a protester at Canning Town,” complained ACC O’Callaghan.

“Understandably, the delay to passengers’ journeys would have been annoying, but this level of response was unacceptable. We are now investigating… events at Canning Town in [their] entirety,” he warned, adding that it was “important that commuters and other rail users allow the police, who are specially trained, to manage these incidents.”

Claims that the public have no right to take the law “into their own hands” often appear in debates on law and order, although they are somewhat at odds with Britain’s historic tradition of a common law which belongs to the people — perhaps best articulated in the seventh of the late prime minister Sir Robert Peel’s principles of policing, which asserts that “the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Members of the public do, in fact, still have a variety of common law and statutory rights to carry out citizen’s arrests and lawfully detain people committing indictable and public order offences in England, subject to certain restrictions.

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