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Activists facing charges after Extinction Rebellion blockage of UK printing plants

Extinction Rebellion activists create a structure to blockade Newsprinters plant, UK. Septemeber 5, 2020.
Extinction Rebellion activists create a structure to blockade Newsprinters plant, UK. Septemeber 5, 2020.   -   Copyright  Extinction Rebellion handout
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Twenty-six people have been charged after environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion blockaded two British printing plants on Saturday, disrupting the distribution of several national newspapers.

The group said it targeted printworks at Broxbourne, north of London, and Knowsley in northwest England that are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded the demonstration "completely unacceptable" on Twitter, adding a free press is "vital", hitting out at the activists for trying to "limit the public’s access to news".

Dozens of protesters locked themselves to vehicles and bamboo scaffolding to block the road outside the plants.

According to a local police statement, 26 people were charged with "aggravated trespassing" and conditionally released after the blockade of the Knowsley print shop near Liverpool.

Fifty people were taken into custody after another printing works in Broxbourne, north London, was blocked.

The facilities print Murdoch-owned papers The Sun and The Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times.

Extinction Rebellion handout
Extinction Rebellion activists hold up signs at blockade outside Newsprinters' Broxbourne plant. Waltham Cross, UK. Septemeber 5, 2020.Extinction Rebellion handout

Extinction Rebellion said all remaining protesters ended their demonstration at 11 am.

The group said it was disrupting the newspapers “to expose the failure of these corporations to accurately report on the climate and ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas.”

But some UK news editors lashed out at the group for its action on social media.

"If you can’t get your copy of a newspaper today it’s because Extinction Rebellion blocked the printing presses last night. It seems a free press isn’t important to XR or @metpoliceuk - worrying times," tweeted Sarah Knapton, science editor at The Daily Telegraph.

Meanwhile, the i newspaper's policy editor, Jane Merrick, tweeted: "Stopping the printing of newspapers that belong to a free press is Not a Good Look."

Newsprinters, which operates the printing plants, said the protest was an “attack on all of the free press.”

Extinction Rebellion has blocked roads and bridges in several British cities since Monday as part of two weeks of civil disobedience to press for stronger action against climate change. Hundreds of people have been arrested, including more than 600 in the capital alone.

Last year, more than 1,700 arrests were made during Extinction Rebellion’s 10-day “Autumn Uprising,” which disrupted traffic and business activity in several parts of the U.K.