Former Herts county councillor arrested in Extinction Rebellion protest

Amanda King (in red) marching with Extinction Rebellion in October 2018. Picture: XR North Herts

Amanda King (in red) marching with Extinction Rebellion in October 2018. Picture: XR North Herts - Credit: Archant

A former Herts county councillor was arrested on Monday while protesting for climate activist group Extinction Rebellion.

Amanda King, who represented the Old Stevenage division on the county council from May 2013 to May 2017, was arrested after obstructing Lombard Street in London.

Ms King was arrested at about 12.30pm with a group of activists - including a chef from Welwyn - who had refused to move after lying down on the highway, obstructing the movement of traffic.

The 61-year-old was handcuffed and taken into custody at Brixton station, where she was detained in a cell for seven hours.

The former councillor has been released on bail, but remains under investigation.

Ms King joined Extinction Rebellion in October 2018, but the City of London protest on Monday was the first time she has taken physical action for the organisation.

Speaking to this paper, Ms King said: "I was in a state of shock, and the police could tell I was shaken. I must admit I was close to tears once I realised the magnitude of what had happened.

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"For all of us this was the first time we had been arrested in our lives. We are law-abiding, peaceful citizens. We are not violent, or drunk, or dangerous.

"Facing arrest is the risk you take, but I felt it was the principled, necessary thing to do."

The Stevenage resident has defended the tactics of Extinction Rebellion after the group has come under criticism for its use of alarmist rhetoric and disruptive methods.

"We are a peaceful organisation interested only in direct, non-violent action," she said.

"Our purpose is to disrupt in a peaceful way - to bring to light the emergency we are facing," she said.

"I commend the police. I appreciate that they were only doing their jobs, but it has reached a point where ordinary people feel like they need to take this sort of action.

"Normal politics isn't working - what is a person of conscience supposed to do?"

Police arrested 76 protestors on Monday, and more than 1,400 have been detained since the current phase of protests began last week.

Extinction Rebellion, founded in 2018, are famous for their drastic activism as they aim to force government action on what they regard as an escalating climate emergency.

Ms King - who lives in the Bedwell area of Stevenage - is in the process of setting up an Extinction Rebellion group in Stevenage, and spoke at Stevenage Borough Council's Climate Emergency Debate earlier this year, calling on the council to commit to a carbon-zero target by 2030.