Extinction Rebellion lawyers perform ‘theatrical and arrestable’ protest outside Law Society office

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By Aishah Hussain on

Follows demonstrations earlier this week

XR lawyers campaign outside The Law Society headquarters on Chancery Lane — credit @legalhackette (Twitter)

Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion (XR) today targeted The Law Society headquarters on Chancery Lane in London, Holborn, urging the professional body to declare a climate emergency.

The protest group, for legal professionals and law students interested in climate change activism, performed a “theatrical and arrestable” action outside the Law Society building on 113 Chancery Lane which it live-streamed online. The protest was initially planned to take place outside the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) central London office.

Today’s action follows Wednesday’s protests outside The Law Society, Bar Council and SRA demanding that they declare a climate emergency, adopt a green code of conduct, provide leadership and clarity that participating in peaceful protest will not result in repercussions. XR has made further demands to each legal representative body.

It challenges the SRA to “confirm or deny lawyer rights to engage in peaceful non-violent protest, without fear of losing their right to practise”. In an open letter to the SRA the group demands, among other things, the regulator revise its “inequitable” assessment of character and suitability for climate activist lawyers convicted of more than one public order offence. The rule considers more than one conviction indicative of ‘most serious’ criminal conduct leading to disqualification, they say, adding that they “must not lose their jobs” or “right to practise and livelihoods” by engaging in environmental protests.

“[M]any lawyers are fearful of even attending an Extinction Rebellion meeting, let alone engaging in a peaceful, non-violent direct act of civil disobedience,” the group says. “And no matter whether that fear is misplaced, XR suffers by losing a group of people whose skills can be so valuable to our cause. If that disobedience results in arrest and conviction, we risk the right to practise our profession.”

A Leigh Day associate has previously cautioned lawyers joining the protests that they could risk disciplinary action.

A spokesperson for the SRA said: “We always look at any concerns raised with us on a case-by-case basis.”

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Today marks the third day of demonstrations in the capital. XR paused demonstrations amid the coronavirus outbreak and restarted their efforts last Friday.

Earlier this year, the environmental group protested outside City firm Slaughter and May for its links with the oil industry. They demonstrated outside the Royal Courts of Justice in October 2019, and parked a blue boat with the message “Act Now!” outside the building’s main entrance in July last year.

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