Protest and non-violent action

This guidance is to help United for Warm Homes groups understand whether they can take part in protests and direct action.

26 Sep 2023

United for Warm Homes groups, and members representing them, may organise and participate in peaceful protest and lawful non-violent direct action where they believe it’s the best way to achieve their objectives consistent with our rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and other relevant democratic rights.

Groups shouldn't organise, promote or participate in intentionally unlawful activity.

Non Friends of the Earth groups who take part in illegal non-violent direct action to fulfil their own objectives may be part of a United for Warm Homes campaign, but they can’t organise or partake in unlawful activity as part of their involvement in, or representation of, the United for Warm Homes campaign.

All groups should adhere to the following values about peaceful protest and non-violent direct actions.

  • We believe in achieving change through empowering people to influence the decisions that affect them.
  • We believe that, as we live in an active democracy, there’s a right and sometimes a moral imperative for organisations and individuals to take part in protest.
  • We'll support the democratic right of people to engage in non-violent protest as a necessary means to protect people and planet.
  • We'll never support any action that aims to cause physical harm to any individual.
  • We'll never support an action that aims to cause psychological harm or fear in any individual, whether that be a participant, witness or target. Any action should aim to assess the likelihood of this beforehand, and adopt strategies for minimising and defusing this as far as possible.
  • We don’t support indiscriminate and purposeless damage to property.
  • We may organise or take part in lawful peripheral activities in support of the unlawful activities of others (such as supporting the legal rights of activists at protests, known as "legal observing") if it’s consistent with our objectives.
  • We'll always take responsibility for any action that we carry out.

United for Warm Homes groups are powered by Friends of the Earth. Friends of the Earth staff aren’t equipped to advise on the legality of protests or activities that you may be planning. If you have specific questions around the legality of tactics or rights upon arrest, you should get in touch with Green and Black Cross.

Protest guidance: know your rights

In 2022 and 2023, new laws were introduced in the UK to stifle civil rights movements and suppress our rights to protest on issues like climate change and inequality.

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and Public Order Act 2023 are particularly aimed at movements and activists that use direct action and civil disobedience against government or corporate inaction on the climate emergency, however many of their provisions impact on protest more widely.

By doing so, the government aims to silence activists and communities, rather than meaningfully engage with and address their concerns. These new laws use vague language to expand police powers, and significantly broaden the definition of “serious disruption” in an apparent attempt to limit protest action as much as possible. But remember: protesting is legal and everyone has the right to protest and to express themselves. It may seem like protest is banned altogether, but this isn’t the case.

Read Friends of the Earth’s guidance on protest which equips you with information about protest law, police powers, and your rights and responsibilities when planning or attending a protest. If you have any questions or concerns about participating in any planned actions, email [email protected]