Boris Johnson blasts 'completely unacceptable' Extinction Rebellion print protest and says free press is vital

BORIS Johnson has blasted the "completely unacceptable" Extinction Rebellion print protest today, saying a free press is vital.

Brits were left furious this morning as XR protesters launched an attack on the free press by blockading printworks.

The PM tweeted his strong disapproval of the protest today.

"A free press is vital in holding the government and other powerful institutions to account on issues critical for the future of our country, including the fight against climate change," he wrote.

"It is completely unacceptable to seek to limit the public’s access to news in this way."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also harshly criticised XR for their actions.

"Totally outrageous that Extinction Rebellion are trying to suppress free speech by blockading newspapers," he tweeted.

"They must be dealt with by the full force of the law. Newspapers are already struggling – get out there & buy a paper to support the free press."

It comes as…

  • Protesters were arrested outside printworks after blockading the sites to stop papers from being delivered
  • Labour MP Dawn Butler sparked fury after praising the eco-warriors
  • Newsagents blasted the selfish protesters for slashing their sales with their "pointless" print blockade
  • The blockades were held in the middle of ten days of protests organists by the activists

Dozens blocked the roads near printworks in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, Knowsley near Liverpool and close to Glasgow today – halting deliveries of national newspapers.

Newsagents – already hit by the coronavirus pandemic – have been left fearing a downturn in trade as stands were left empty this morning.

Delivery rounds were forced to be scrapped at the 11th hour as newspapers were unable to be released from the printworks.

The protests were organised despite newspapers campaigning and highlighting climate change for years – with The Sun today running a comment piece from Sir David Attenborough urging the public to take the opportunity to tackle the climate crisis.

The eco-group said its aim was to "maintain the block and prevent these papers reaching newsstands" in a bid to “take on the titans of the media industry.”

But The Sun today blasted the demonstration, calling it an “attack on the free press”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted this morning, saying: "This morning people across the country will be prevented from reading their newspaper because of the actions of Extinction Rebellion.

"This attack on our free press, society and democracy is completely unacceptable."

And Piers Morgan tweeted about Sir David's comment piece for The Sun being prevented from hitting the stands due to the eco-warriors today, saying: "The irony of this is fabulous. Extinction Rebellion are such unutterable morons."

Today, Sir David Attenborough wrote in The Sun to say humanity is at a crossroads, saying: “The fewer demands we make on the planet’s resources, the better.

“We do that in terms of food, in terms of energy, in terms of being respectful to the environment. We can do lots of things.”

The national treasure said: "Humanity is at a crossroads. The natural world is under serious threat and the consequences could be apocalyptic."

Sir David also warned against committing criminal acts, even in the name of a just cause, arguing: “I don’t think it is sensible politics to break the law.

"If you are any good at all, some of your demands will be met and then you will be demanding people abide by those new laws. 

“You can’t have it both ways.”

Boris Johnson's partner Carrie Symonds today said: "Great piece by Sir David Attenborough in today’s Sun.

"I care about climate change and biodiversity a massive amount but preventing a free press to spread this message further is just wrong. Not to mention all those small businesses that rely on being able to sell newspapers."

And Labour MP Dawn Butler this morning sparked fury for tweeting the protesters had done “excellent work” by preventing the public from receiving their news.

The former shadow equalities minister's comments were slammed as "shameful".

Last night's protests, which have continued into this morning, is the fifth day of action across the UK planned by the extremist group.

A string of demonstrations across the country began this month, with police moving in to arrest a number of activists for public disorder offences.

The plants hit by last night's demos print The Sun, The Times, Sun on Sunday, The Scottish Sun, Sunday Times, The Daily Mail and London Evening Standard.

One newsagent, Nicky, told Times Radio that she had to lay off the paperboys and girls this morning.

She voiced fears that older customers and those shielding who relied on hard copies would not be able to get their news today.

And another Brit dad took to social media, saying: "Took my lad 4 his paper round this morning at 6.30 & felt sorry for the old folk he delivers 2 who couldn’t be delivered the Sun, Times & Telegraph they were looking forward to.

Another newsagent added on Twitter: "If you’re trying to gain support for your cause, you’re going the wrong way about it! I work nights in a supermarket and then come to run a newsagents, on no sleep, where we now face financial penalties and disruption due to your protests!"

Around 100 protesters – who used bamboo to lock themselves to vehicles in the roads – remain at the sites this morning, with some seen glued to the road and others seen waving “free the truth” signs.

One newsagent, who had to delay 400 deliveries today, told Times Radio it was affecting many elderly readers and those shielding.

Hertfordshire cops said at least 42 people have so far been arrested in connection with the demo.

Meanwhile Merseyside Police said at least 30 people had been arrested at the protest at the News International site on Knowsley Industrial Park.

Hertfordshire Police said in a statement this morning: “We remain in Great Eastern Road, Waltham Cross, after receiving a call at around 10pm last night reporting a protest.

“Our officers have attempted to engage with the group, which consists of around 100 people, in order to ensure the rights of both the protestors and those affected by their presence."

Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill said officers had been called to reports of a protest involved about 10pm.

He said: "This remains a fast-moving operation, involving assistance from neighbouring forces. The inconsiderate actions of a few people have prevented businesses from operating.

"Protestors ignored our requests to move location, so we have taken robust action to enable the roads to be reopened and to remove the protestors causing obstructions.

“Throughout the night, officers have worked relentlessly to ease disruption and their efforts have ensured that all main roads, including the nearby A10, have remained open throughout the incident.

"We remain at the scene and are doing all we can to ensure the situation is dealt with as quickly as possible, and we anticipate that further arrests will take place throughout the morning as we continue to clear the obstructions.”


NEWSAGENTS today revealed they faced queues of disappointed customers unable to get their morning paper after the eco-activist protests.

Deliveries were delayed this morning due to the demonstrations – leaving newsagents frustrated.

Barbara Etchells, who owns C&W Etchells newsagents in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, said The Sun was finally delivered at 10am.

The 46-year-old said: "The phone has been ringing off the hook with people trying to find out where their paper is."

"We've had a lot of disappointed people."

Serving behind the counter at the shop, Hezin Rasheedy, 40, said: "We've had a lot of people come in to buy The Sun but it's just no there.

"Some have been scratching their heads looking at the empty shelves."

Meanwhile Neelesh Parekh, 45, owner of Reed News in Portsmouth, said: “We haven’t received the Sun, Times and telegraph. I’m very angry. Our customers rely on the papers, especially on a Saturday when people come in very early in the morning and they expect to buy the paper. 

"The protests that Extinction Rebellion is carrying out are ridiculous. We don’t know how long the protests are going to continue. We’ve just got to hold our breath really."

Minister for Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman added: "Disgraceful behaviour – again! – from Extinction Rebellion."

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told Times Radio Extinction Rebellion had "lost sight of how to campaign".

He added: "The Government has done much itself but obviously could do more and we need to work with the people to get that message across so we all can be more aware of the carbon footprint that we create.

"But what they're doing here is to alienate more people. I fear the organisation itself has been hijacked."

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick branded the Extinction Rebellion protesters as an "intolerant minority", saying: "A free press matters to all of us who value a free society. They mustn't be silenced by an intolerant minority."

Industry partners are helping to ensure printing capacity is made available for all affected titles so readers have been urged to check back for their paper later today.


Fed-up Brits blasted the campaigners on social media overnight, accusing the protesters of "fascist" behaviour.

The protest attracted dozens of critical posts, with the eco-group accused of discrediting their cause.

One tweeted: “You do of course realise that these printing presses also produce the local newspapers for the surrounding areas don't you.”

Another wrote: “Why don’t you talk to the media in a rational and mature manner rather than giving them more reasons not to take you seriously.

“This demonstration makes no sense and just hinders the cause. I can’t support this.”

And another posted: “So that's nearly 80 people that are and the other 65,999,920 of the UK that aren't. 

“That tells us plenty”.

One social media user wrote that the activists’ blockade was "stopping the free press"

Another critic wrote: "Trying to silence the press?  That's not fascist behaviour at all."

The criticism was joined by one post which read: "Shows again it has nothing to do with Climate Change."

It comes after fury was sparked when the British co-founder of Extinction Rebellion was revealed to have suggested MPs and business owners "should have a bullet through their heads".

Ex-organic farmer Roger Hallam criticised the people "who run society" – saying they were "culpable" for the climate catastrophe.

A spokesperson for Newsprinters said: "Overnight printing at two Newsprinters plants was disrupted by activity by Extinction Rebellion.

"Thanks to other industry partners, printing was transferred to other sites. We apologise sincerely to any readers of The Sun, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times who may be unable to buy their usual newspaper this morning due to late deliveries.

"Our teams are working to get newspapers delivered to retailers as soon as possible this morning.

"This attack on all of the free press impacted many workers going about their jobs.

"Overnight print workers, delivery drivers, wholesale workers and retail newsagents have faced delays and financial penalty.

"This is a matter for the Police and the Home Office."

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