Specialist ‘protest removal’ squads to target eco-mobs at Cop26

Specialist “protest removal” squads will target eco-mobs who attempt to illegally disrupt the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, police chiefs warned on Thursday, amid fears that demonstrators will combine with rail and binman strikes to wreak havoc.

Senior officers vowed to quickly abandon a “friendly and relaxed” approach to policing the UN conference in cases where protestors engage in unlawful acts of civil disobedience, saying behaviour that posed a major risk to public safety or conference proceedings would not be tolerated.

Environmental activists from all over the world are expected to arrive in Scotland over the coming weeks, alongside around 30,000 delegates, including 140 world leaders.

It was confirmed on Thursday that Joe Biden, the US President, would arrive on November 1.

But the RMT union announced on Thursday that rail workers will go on strike during the conference, shutting down services across Scotland in a move that will cause huge disruption and increase pollution.

In a further move that prompted concerns Scotland will be an international laughing stock, Glasgow’s refuse workers also voted to strike during the summit, raising the prospect of the host city having filthy streets and overflowing bins.

Police are also braced for an influx of anarchist groups, who they fear will use the climate emergency as a pretext for causing violence and disorder on the streets of the city.

While police chiefs emphasised that lawful protest would be facilitated and encouraged, they vowed to take a hardline approach to those who seek to emulate protests in England in which major motorways have been blocked.

Around 10,000 officers will be deployed every day during Cop26, in what Will Kerr, the deputy chief constable of Police Scotland, described as “one of the biggest mobilisation of police assets the UK has ever seen”.

Describing the planned approach to activists, he said: “We will facilitate the lawful right to come and protest in Glasgow in a safe environment.

“But we won’t accept or tolerate major disruption by protest activity, for example blocking emergency vehicles, blocking main arterial or critical routes that are necessary for the normal functioning of the city.”

He insisted police were prepared for a range of tactics, including orchestrated protests at several locations at once and activists seeking to glue or chain themselves to roads or buildings. 

Police have held meetings with some protest groups, including Extinction Rebellion, although Insulate Britain, responsible for blocking roads such as the M1 and M25 over recent weeks, have so far snubbed direct approaches from Police Scotland. 

The group said on Thursday that it would suspend its “campaign of civil resistance” until October 25, ahead of Cop26, which runs from Oct 31 to Nov 12.

DCC Kerr said: “As you would expect we have a range of capabilities, including protest removal teams that carry a range of specialist tools and capabilities, to be able to remove people who have done ‘lock ons’ very quickly. 

“We’re not going to declare our hand too early in this, but we’re ready to deal with multiple points of protest in multiple different ways.”

Up to 100,000 people are expected to march through Glasgow on November 6, as part of a Global Day of Action, in which planned protests will be held across the world.

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