Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds accuse Suffolk Police of 'wasting resources' after armed officers called to lone protester sitting in town centre road
Police have been accused of over-reacting to a protest involving a lone woman sitting in a Bury St Edmunds town centre road after six officers including two who were armed attended.
Extinction Rebellion protester Mandy Leathers stopped traffic for about 20 minutes on Saturday after sitting in the road, on Angel Hill, wearing a sign which read ‘I’m terrified for my grandson’s future because of the climate crisis’.
She was among more than 200 people across the country who blocked roads to speak out about what they see as Government 'inaction' on climate two years on from Parliament’s declaration of an environment and climate emergency.
Police arrived within five minutes of her protest to block the road in both directions with three vehicles, with at least six officers at the scene including two who were armed - and a spokesman said this was because they were among the closest units to the scene.
After about 20 minutes, the 54-year-old protester stood up and moved out of the road.
She wasn't arrested and she continued to stand with her sign visible to traffic and pedestrians until noon before walking into the Abbey Gardens.
The climate change action group has questioned the amount of resources sent to deal with a lone protester.
Lark Oakwood, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Bury St Edmunds, said: “This might be considered over-policing or a waste of resources for a single person blocking a road in a sleepy market town in Suffolk.
"The Committee on Climate Change and the National Audit Office who are tasked with monitoring the Government are warning the public that their climate plans are failing to materialise.
"Our leaders are still not taking this seriously. It’s time for ordinary people to step up and demand action.”
Mandy, a support worker and yoga teacher from Bury St Edmunds, added that she had 'no choice' but to take to the streets to 'show people government’s lack of commitment to stick to any promise of action'.
A Suffolk Police spokesman said it was 'always challenging' to confidently establish how many people will be present for a protest.
“Crucially, we always need to ensure the safety of all those present is the priority, be it protestors, police and other members of the public so such events can pass off peacefully and safely," he said.
"Once we were confident the numbers of protestors involved on Saturday would remain very small, some officers returned to routine patrols around the town.
"It is also worth pointing out we often send the nearest unit to attend an incident such as obstruction of the highway, and this includes roads policing officers who are armed– this wasn’t an armed incident as such."