James O’Brien ‘scared’ for protest rights after Priti Patel defends Extinction Rebellion ‘extremist’ label

PUBLISHED: 17:47 14 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:57 14 January 2020

LBC's James O'Brien has reacted to Priti Patel's defence of the police decision to add Extinction Rebellion to an anti-terror watch list. Pictures: PA/Stefan Rousseau / LBC

LBC's James O'Brien has reacted to Priti Patel's defence of the police decision to add Extinction Rebellion to an anti-terror watch list. Pictures: PA/Stefan Rousseau / LBC

PA/Stefan Rousseau / LBC

James O’Brien has raised concerns for protesters’ rights after Priti Patel defended a police decision to add Extinction Rebellion to an anti-terror watch list.

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The LBC presenter said he was "scared" about the consequences of such an action on not only the environmental protest group whose supporters are "made up of an awful lot of children", but also those who might want to protest the effects of Brexit.

The home secretary endorsed the police move "based in terms of risk to the public" but was criticised by Labour leadership candidate Sir Keir Starmer, who called it "completely wrong and counterproductive".

Speaking on his LBC show, O'Brien said he was "deeply suspicious" of Priti Patel and said he feared for not only the environmental protesters but for people feeling the effects of Brexit "when reality begins to bite".

"As we continue this very odd and, for me at least, largely incomprehensible march towards becoming the first country in the history of the world to impose economic sanctions on ourself, I do begin to worry slightly about what they're going to do to keep a lid on it when reality begins to bite," he said.

"You know, if you lose your job, how much comfort will you derive from the fact that the chimes of Big Ben rang out at midnight on January 31?

"If you've already lost your job as a result of Brexit, then are you going to be comforted by those bongs?"

He then mimicked the prime minister's exhortations for people to "bung a bob" towards the costs of hearing Big Ben chime on Jauary 31.

MORE: Boris Johnson says public can 'bung a bob for a Big Ben bong'

But if Patel wants to put Extinction Rebellion protests "in the same light as" terror organisations, he asked: "Well, tell me why I shouldn't be scared?"

"And I am going to use the word 'scared' because you could be the toughest cookie in town, if the government targets you, I don't care how tough you are."

Responding to Patel's statements, Starmer told the Guardian: "It's completely wrong and counterproductive to describe Extinction Rebellion as an 'extreme ideology'.

"I have spent a lifetime defending the right to protest - and campaigning for action on the climate crisis is hugely important."

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