Dorset Council voted to condemn the behaviour of environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion, ‘for their continued disregard of the law’ at what was considered a distasteful protest by many councillors.
The motion brought by Cllr Louis O’Leary was prompted by XR’s action at London’s Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. It resulted in an emotive debate during last night’s Full Council meeting.
Some councillors argued the protest wasn’t a local matter and should not have been debated under Dorset Council’s rules. But most members accepted that the action offended, particularly in a county with the second-highest number of former servicemen and women in Britain. One of the protestors was an army veteran, members were told.
Cllr Nick Ireland said that the war heroes we commemorate fought for our rights to make a peaceful protest. His attempt to amend the motion removing direct reference to XR was unsuccessful.
Cllr Ireland wanted the motion’s wording changed to deplore Remembrance Day events being ‘hijacked’ for political purposes or ‘anyone wishing to cause divisions in society’. His amendment failed because 41 councillors were against it and only 33 in favour, with five abstentions.
Council leader Spencer Flower didn’t want that 11th November event to create a ‘distraction from the great work this council has done preparing the climate and ecological emergency strategy’. But he supported the motion condemning the activists.
It was passed with 49 councillors in favour, 8 against and another 20 members abstaining, including Shaftesbury’s Dorset councillor Derek Beer.