Protesters from Extinction Rebellion (XR) have blockaded two of News Corporation’s major printing presses to stop a range of papers reaching newsstands on Saturday.
More than 100 protesters used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and Knowsley, near Liverpool on Friday.
Hertfordshire Police said delivery lorries had not left the Broxbourne site as of 6am on Saturday, and 13 arrests had been made.
The presses print the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including The Sun, The Times, The Sun on Sunday and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Home Secretary Priti Patel branded the Extinction Rebellion demonstration as an “attack on democracy”.
She wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Hertfordshire Police say officers were called to Great Eastern Road near the Broxbourne plant around 10pm, where they found around 100 protesters who had “secured themselves to structures and one another”.
Under a banner reading “Free the truth”, XR tweeted that it was using the disruption to expose the newspapers’ “failure to report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of truth to suit their own agendas”.
The group said it was planning to block routes out of the printing works throughout the night.
“Coverage in many of the newspapers printed here is polluting national debate on climate change, immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups, and on dozens of other issues,” the group said.
Hertfordshire Police assistant chief constable Owen Weatherill said officers were “working to facilitate the rights of both the protesters and those affected by their presence” but protesters were not cooperating.
“The rights to protest are well established in this country and we remain committed to facilitating peaceful protest and ensuring compliance,” he said in a statement.
“However, at this time, the group are not engaging with us and the protest is causing major disruption to local businesses.
“At this time, 13 people have been arrested in connection with the incident, and we anticipate more arrests will be made.
“I’d like to reassure you that we are doing all we can to bring the incident to a peaceful conclusion, ensuring minimum disruption to the affected businesses.”
XR protesters also held a smaller demonstration near Motherwell aimed at disrupting the distribution of Saturday’s Scottish Sun newspaper.
Meanwhile, climate change protesters have been warned they risk a large fine if they fail to comply with coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than 30 people.
The Met Police said risk assessments explaining how XR activists were minimising the possibility of Covid-19 transmission at a planned march in Westminster “did not meet the required standard”.
The force said XR’s latest round of demonstrations “pose a risk, not only to those involved, but to the wider public and communities of London”.
On Saturday a procession of activists that set of from Brighton on foot a week ago is due to march the final stretch to Parliament.
They have been banned from taking a 20ft model boat named after teenage activist Greta Thunberg to the streets of Westminster.
On Friday Met Police Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolf warned the group not to take The Lightship Greta into an area stretching from Green Park to Lambeth.