A HEREFORDSHIRE councillor who was arrested for protesting in London says she’s delighted the High Court has ruled against the police and upheld the right to peaceful assembly.

West Midlands member of the European Parliament Ellie Chowns was arrested on October 14 after taking part in climate change protests in Trafalgar Square.

Ms Chowns, who represents the Bishops Frome & Cradley ward at Herefordshire Council, said she was with other Green Party MEPs trying to prevent the police from clearing a legitimate public protest.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement on the night saying demonstrators could be arrested but councillor Chowns said no justification was given.

“Three weeks ago, I was arrested for simply standing peacefully in Trafalgar Square, asking questions.  Today the High Court has ruled that the police acted unlawfully,” she said.

“I was arrested because I was defending the right to peaceful assembly and protest – a right that is a cornerstone of democracy.”

The Met imposed a condition under Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 that effectively banned any assembly linked to Extinction Rebellion, anywhere in the capital city.

Ms Chows said it seemed an extreme measure and went to Trafalgar Square to find out more.

“Together with other Green MEPs, I asked the police for justification of the decision,” she said.

“Unsatisfied with the lack of answers, I continued to stand in the square, calmly defending the right to protest and asking for an explanation of this police over-reach.

“As a result, I was arrested, handcuffed, taken to a police cell, photographed, fingerprinted, and released without being charged several hours later, at 3am.

“The next day I joined XR and others in challenging the police’s decision in the courts.  Today, we have been vindicated.

“The High Court has found that ‘the decision to impose the condition was unlawful’.

Dudley News: Ellie Chowns (second from left) celebrating after the High Court rulingEllie Chowns (second from left) celebrating after the High Court ruling

“This is a very significant victory.  The right to assembly and protest is an essential element of a functioning democracy.

“Section 14 powers are there to help the police manage protests, not shut them down altogether.

“The police’s use of Section 14 to ban any XR-related protest, anywhere in London, was both disproportionate and dangerous.

“It was disproportionate because the police already had powers to arrest anyone who was actually causing serious disruption.

“The fact that I was arrested for simply standing in a pedestrianised public square asking questions highlights just how disproportionate the condition was.

“And it was dangerous because a free society absolutely must protect the right to protest.

“Protest has been essential to win rights we take for granted today – think of the suffragettes, for example.

“If the police could simply shut down peaceful protest everywhere, that would be the start of a very slippery slope.”