Oil blockades, such as Channel Boats, are a highly publicized example of loss of control

After all the misery it has been inflicted trying to get its hands on small boats in the English Channel, the government is surely aware of how a high-profile case of disorder and loss of control can remain in the public imagination. .

So as the nation braces for what could be the most painful cost of living contraction in decades, the site of Extinction Rebellion, once again shutting down critical infrastructure, must give ministers chills .

In addition to their usual stunts – blocking the main bridges in order to “bring London to a standstill– ‘Just Stop Oil’ activists have also blocked several oil depots, disrupting supplies and causing further misery for motorists already facing rising prices at the pump.

And with overwhelming familiarity, the images that emerge are of protesters sitting in the middle of the highways, mounting what is nothing less than a coordinated attack on critical infrastructure in a time of crisis, while the police just stand there. .

The government and the police are, in some ways, facing an uphill battle. There’s not much you can do to increase arrests if these individuals are released to go straight back to protests and then lenient juries let them go when they end up in court.

Yet voters will surely not feel too much sympathy for a government that has now been in power, with a very substantial overall majority, for two years. It is one thing to blame the failure to hand over new police powers to Labor in a hung parliament. Come 2024, it can’t fly.

It is also frustrating, frankly, to see Essex Police frame their operation in terms of officer and protester safety. Yes, it is important, but it also smacks of the attitude that has already seen officers seem to take a fairly lenient stance on breaking the law if stepping in and preventing it risked hurting the criminals responsible.

Finally, passage of the long-awaited Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill must be the beginning, not the end, of the Government’s efforts to adapt our legal and institutional response. to this type of challenge.

The “right to protest” is not a right to do whatever you want, as long as you have political reasons. It certainly should not encompass the planned and persistent attacks on this country’s fuel and transportation infrastructure.

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