Extinction Rebellion “undermine their cause” through aggressive tactics, the Environment Secretary said today.
George Eustice said the climate change protest group were “disrupting” people’s lives after they blockaded newspaper presses on Friday including The Times, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times.
XR was accused of stifling free speech by targeting the printing plants at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, Knowsley in Merseyside, and near Motherwell in North Lanarkshire, and stopping some readers getting their newspapers.
Mr Eustice told Sky News that environmental concern was now a “mainstream” issue.
But he warned: “This hasn’t got to be a niche thing for a small number of people campaigning in a very aggressive way and disrupting other people’s lives.
“I think they actually undermine their cause because of the actions that they take.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the protests as “completely unacceptable” and is reportedly considering laws to stop newspaper presses and other “tenets of democracy” being targeted by activists.
Writing in today’s Telegraph, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the protests “caused chaos” for hardworking staff, adding: “The group said it was doing it to ‘free the truth’. But consider the ugly irony of silencing newspapers to protect freedom of expression.”
He also hit out at Sir Keir Starmer for being “slow” to condemn the actions while some of his MPs supported the protesters.
It comes after former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said direct action was a “legal tactic” and compared them to the Suffragettes.
Labour MP Dawn Butler also deleted a tweet which said: “Bravo Extinction Rebellion. Excellent work.”
The Federation of Independent Retailers condemned the demonstrations, saying members left without supplies of papers were having “to deal with angry customers who are unable to get their daily newspaper”.
Demonstrators have accused newspapers of failing to report on climate change.