Learnings from my Self Repping Experience
Below is an in depth sharing of my experience of heading into trial for S14 using Conscientious Protector Defense (Stop Ecocide). This is just how I approached things, but maybe it will resonate and inspire. I’ve not come across process focused accounts such as this before so perhaps it will be useful.
The trial day
What I learnt summarised in bullet points
My approach to prep
Experience and reflections from the day
Structure and content I shared as evidence
Hi all, had my trial today. It went as well as I could have imagined.
I was listened to, welcomed by not only the XR welfare team (who took great care of my mum and gave me vegan chocolate) but by a relaxed courtroom energy. Although formal in speech the demeanour was relaxed in everyone. For the pros S14 is like shooting fish in a barrel and has been going on for a long time now so my guy was relaxed, and friendly in this complacency. The boxes they need to check for success are easy to fill in a court where precedents can’t be set.
Afterward I was shown the clerks baby photos and was complimented on my 'turn of phrase' by the prosecutor. He thought that I had kept the magistrate’s attention. From rehearsals I knew my evidence took about 25 minutes. I asked if I spoke for a long time, he paused ‘...longer than most.. Yes.’ he said politely.
I recognise things are not always this easy on the day, I was prepared for the possibility to be shut down completely or asked to keep things relevant. This is why I felt it important to let go of an outcome. The ease in the room and the amount of personal prep, time and energy I gave towards the process allowed me to feel confident arriving, both aspects contributed to me speaking as well as I wanted to.
It may be a very easy thing for lots of people to produce and present data and facts and speak clearly in this space but for me not. Although it was a rich and fulfilling prep process it absorbed energy in the background for months. At least until the last days leading up to the trial when things become clearer, when actually, I’ll admit that I came to look forward to it, having done the work and shed the fear. I even invited mum to come see me, kinda felt like a school play all over again.
My intention was just to keep things relevant enough for me to say what was important to me and give me enough time for them to see that I’m a nice guy, share my perspective on how things are and show that it is unjust to penalise me even if my actions were illegal! I was not trying to be found not guilty, which allowed me a sense of freedom.
Initially I read so many different statements but made the mistake of trying to fit everything in and do it like all the other examples of statements at the same time! And trying to tick all the legal boxes! And learn from everybody else’ experience! Trying too hard to get it right! So I scrapped the trying and decided not to fit my content into the limiting box’s of a legal defence. I decided not to prepare to cross examine anyone. And concentrated on discerning the messages that were truly important to me, even if I was only allowed to speak for a minute, I would be speaking my truth. In the end I found a way to have the legal frame serve me enough to be allowed to keep talking. This is when I chose to use the Conscientious Protector defence because it seemed to allow me more freedom within it. :)
Save you reading everything below, here is the distilled advice that I would have loved to have heard at the beginning...
Focus on what emergent benefits the trial prep itself is bringing you. Maybe learning new skills or discovering new capacities you didn’t know you had. This is the point I stopped avoiding preparing and became motivated to learn new and valuable life skills. Fun!
Plug into the Self rep Signal Group and email thread by contacting XR Arrestee support. The people here were an invaluable source of experience and knowledge and caring support.
Have a meditation practice. Practicing regularly will help feel more space in your life and in times when you feel more stressed or fearful you can call on it to come into a good relation with how you're feeling.
Start now. My evidence went through many incarnations as I clarified what was really important to me. I used it as an opportunity to continually refine my understanding and bring greater and greater coherence to my life purpose in these times! Make the process work for you!
It’s not essential but preparing some kind of bundle, in my case, seemed to show that I had put time and energy into preparing. I think this is part of why I was given time to speak. I spoke about different stuff on the day but the quotes were still relevant.
If you're nervous to rehearse speaking your evidence, do it in another person’s voice. If it’s not your voice then it can’t make a fool out of you! I tried a posh voice, a toddler and a lion and found times where my passion wanted to burst through in my own voice!
State the main points that you will make. I said I will make three points that speak about… and state when you change from point to point. This will help the magistrate know your intention and keep them focused.
Put your most important points first in case you get shut down.
Keep coming back to the fact that even if you go on trial and say nothing the outcome, regarding your penalisation, will be the same. Of course you will do your best for yourself and the movement, but as far as the law is concerned not guilty outcome is unlikely unless you're challenging on a technicality. You have nothing to lose :).
On the Day
Keep eye contact with the magistrate, engage them as much as possible - with your body language and through gesture.
If you're nervous, set yourself free by saying so and ask for a moment to breathe and compose yourself. Ask for what you need. Don’t feel rushed, find your centre.
If you don’t understand what the prosecution is asking you, ask them to repeat it or say it in a different way. This buys you time to digest and think even if you understand. You can also ask for a second to think.
My friend who runs communication workshops in corporate settings recommended ‘opening your eyes a little wider and look at the people as if they are your beloved’. She said this is her top tip for being listened to. I found changing my face changed my feelings and obviously people are much more likely to listen if your face says you're not a threat and that you love them!
Bring lightness and humour in where possible... now there’s a challenge! As much as grief and sadness are valid and welcome, if you're in a place to express and hold the heaviness more lightly it will serve as a welcome contrast/break for the magistrate.
Consider your optimum outcome
My approach was oriented mostly towards the journey to arriving in court and the energy that I wanted to be in the court space in, independent of how things went down. I wanted to be in the court space and not need anything from anyone present because it’s easier for people to listen openly. I wanted to be authentic and stay aware of myself in the epicentre of black and white linear thinking.
I had let go of being found not guilty already. That being said, my friend asked what would be an optimum outcome for me, in consideration of a nearly certain guilty outcome? Upon pondering...What I really wanted was the court people, that evening over dinner to say to their family or friend something like this, ‘there was this person at work today who made me think differently about my relationship with nature and how I’m interdependent and not separate from it. In considering this I can recognise that our whole society is built on systems that do not abide by this truth! That our dominance over the rest of nature will lead us to our own demise and the destruction of the rest of the natural world too, which I see now, all life forms have a value in their own right and deserve respect, outside of their usefulness to humans! I wonder how I am complicit in these systems and what I can do differently to change them so people can live in alignment with their conscience and do so legally?’ Dream big right!
Opportunities for Growth and Clearing Subconscious Fear and Subconscious Self Policing
In focusing on the journey I found value in the challenges which demanded new and emerging skills, my focus and determination found new depths. I wanted to take this safe, supported, risk free opportunity to learn how to relate to the energies of dominance and authority that we are conditioned to internalise from birth. From a meta perspective I wanted to see more clearly the energies of The System and how they affect me subconsciously on a daily basis. Having more time to engage with these uncomfortable feelings and intensify them a bit gave me chance to meditate on them and come into better relationship with them, to free myself from their background influence. I believe this process has released me somewhat from fear in my subconscious and ousted the self policing this system is designed to instill. Doing this weeding has not made me want to suddenly commit all the crimes, in fact I think I am now better able to serve society. Days before my trial I realised I had already done most of what I intended to by engaging in this process and that completing the trial just tied things off nicely.
Once I decided it was the energy I was bringing into the courtroom that would have effect rather than the facts and figures, I truly came to realise what I wanted to express and how to do so.
My advice is be yourself and invite people into your world, show them a willingness and care for the state of things even if they haven’t found it themselves yet!
Give the magistrates something new and interesting to be with through your words and ways. Imagine how it would feel to be in their position, perhaps hearing the same info over and over again.
Demonstrating a capacity to see things from multiple perspectives (empathy) and express a diversity of emotionality, I think are of service to our cause because it shows that it’s possible to learn to dance with the grief, we don’t need to be afraid to feel it. It shows the people in the court that there is joy in the people and movement too, and that these expressions go hand in hand. Give the magistrate a break and let them enjoy you.
However you're feeling on the day though is fine, show yourself and your care and that alone is enough. Respect.
I was sure to include a bit about XR’s Regen culture saying if we're going to be waking people up to this reality we better be generating a culture that can support people through their grief and realisation period.
I made clear how climate denial happens in two ways. Even when we accept that we’re in this tricky scene with our minds, I pointed out that it’s an entirely different thing to feel it on an emotional level, I said everyone will have their time to realise what climate breakdown and eco crisis will mean for them and their loved ones.
I’m soooo grateful to my friends, family and XR people that supported me by answering all my questions. It would have been a lot harder to do it without xr support team, folk in the chats who called me personally, including a lawyer who rang out of the blue with advice I asked for!
This is my notes that I was allowed to take with me. I typed them up but originally they were hand written because I was told I would just be allowed to take notes into the box. I took my whole bundle with me in the end to read the quotes!
Name, age, profession. I shared a relevant interest, a project, to show my engagement at the grassroots level. I shared the period of time that woke me up to the climate and ecological crisis. Mine was living in Peru for 11 months and seeing the deforestation and palm plantations first hand.
I said confidently. ‘I was there, I sat in between the peaceful protest and the police. I do not contest this. I will justify my actions in three points: 1.Government Neglect is Jeopardising it’s Right to Life 2. The State of Affairs 3. Non-Violent action and My affect.
Gov have breached contract and are not acting responsibly by not telling the truth, acting like this truth is real and not creating participatory democracy. This is endangering its people and is opening the floodgates to ecocide which risks our Right to Life an enshrined right.
XR is not against the gov, it is for a gov that is for life. Nobody wins if business as usual continues.
I am a Conscientious Protector because….I explained why. Art 9 of EUHR and 18 of Universal Bill of Rights say….I have a right to exercise my beliefs in private or public etc….My belief is in man made climate change.
Need for protesting in democratic society to keep gov accountable and laws just. Spoke about suffragettes and civil rights movements and the persecution of the first wave of folk involved ‘but today, I'm sure no one in this room would consider it wrong for a black person to sit at the front of a bus… I hope that we can have laws that see nature as equal.
Showed a photo of earth from space, made a joke about it being a cliche and used it to explain over view effect, no borders, used a metaphor to describe the planet as a body to demonstrate the interconnectedness of ecosystems and how resilience lost in any eco system affects the whole body. Spoke of amazon as the lungs of the planet and related it to my experience there.
I used another image of a food web from a children’s book. ‘At school we learnt about the food web and how delicately balanced and interconnected everything in this web is. Remove any element and the whole web is disrupted and loses resilience.’ Shared quote about losing 50% of all individual animals in the last few decades.
In school they also talk a lot about sharing and then you leave school and everything becomes competitive. This is by design, we employ an economic system based on continual debt and perpetual growth. Individuals and companies are doing what is neccesary to survive in our chosen economic system which values quantities of scale over qualities of scale and depends on continual and increasing consumption of products which are made from nature.
We need to recognise ourselves as nature and stop dominating it like we did with women and black people (acknowledged that this is still an on going process). Nature has a value and purpose outside of its usefulness to humans.
Calling nature a resource is a result of this understanding nature as dead whose only purpose is to serve humans. This objectification allows us to consume nature at 1.7x faster than it can regenerate. (shared quote on this)
Non-Violent action and My Effect
Disruption is inevitable for change to occur, disruption is necessary to interrupt patterns of behaviour that do not serve us, in this case, business as usual.
Empathised with those affected, said that I care a lot and am trying my best.
Glad to find XR as I was coming to realise as well as working at the grassroots level, top down influence is crucial. My influence as an individual becomes greater in a movement. (gave yougov figures of public opinion change on environmental importance in the weeks after the rebellion)
I want to live in a society where peoples jobs do not require them to ignore their conscience, a society where listening to my conscience does not make me a criminal.
Because of our governments ignorance we are on route to ecocide and a breach of our right to life.
By exercising my belief in man made climate breakdown, as a conscientious protector my actions have had an influence on the conversation around the topic .
I am doing my best, We are in this together.
Thank you for hearing me.
Hope you find this useful! There are many people around to support you in this, seek them out, good luck and make the most of this unusual opportunity!