Nearly 500 people were arrested and 81 activists removed after clinging to structures during the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
The Metropolitan Police said there have been a total of 480 arrests in the capital since the environmental group began its Impossible Rebellion on August 23.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said nearly 2,000 officials were involved in monitoring activists every day, adding that they acted “quickly” when protesters “seriously disturbed” Londoners.
Mr Twist told Times Radio on Friday: “It is not the number of protesters but the extent of the serious disturbance they are trying to cause that is affecting other Londoners.
“We have said from the start that we know Extinction Rebellion has the right to protest and to assemble.
“But what we’ve also made clear is that these are qualified rights and they need to be weighed against the rights of the rest of London and the Londoners, the people, the businesses and the communities who legitimately want to go about their business.
“Where we’ve seen cases of very serious and totally inappropriate disturbances to be caused, we need to take action and intervene and make arrests.”
The protests have seen activists climb the seven-story Tower Place West building in the City of London, occupy both London Bridge and Tower Bridge and block roads through the capital.
Police were charged with clumsy tactics after officers were seen using batons and dragging protesters from the top of a bus near London Bridge on Tuesday.
Defending the tactic, Twist said, “There is an overall strategy in place to deal with the protest, facilitate peaceful protest, and work with organizers to minimize the level of disruption.
“What we saw at London Bridge and elsewhere on Sunday was an attempt outside the Science Museum to build complex structures with complex lock-on devices to seriously disrupt the London public.
“And then the officers step in and act faster to make arrests and try to legitimately remove the protesters.
“In the 10 days that we made 480 arrests, we removed 81 people stuck to structures, we removed 52 people imprisoned on structures, and 31 of them from above.
“The important point is that all of this takes a lot of time and resources, and those resources are the same officials who are hindered by what we are supposed to do in their local counties that affects the violence.”
He described the “very protracted” protests as “frustrating” as they diverted attention from the communities.
Twist added: “We also need to be alive for Londoners, who are likely to be fed up with this protracted disruption, especially as the capital continues economic and social recovery from the devastating pandemic.
“As the demonstrations are expected to continue this weekend, we urge the organizers to consider the wider implications of their protests and to engage with us.”
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