Court Statements Selection 5
These statements were written by XR rebels who took part in non-violent civil disobedience during 2019 and 2020 and were charged with a criminal offence. They were read aloud at their court hearings, almost always by the defendants themselves although during the Covid-19 pandemic some were read by a solicitor or by the court clerk. In legal terms they are statements of mitigation but the writers’ objective was primarily to explain to the court, in their own words, why they did what they did. They are individual expressions of the desperate urgency of the climate crisis.
The statements included below are anonymised and not in chronological order. They represent a small proportion of the total: if anyone whose statement is not included would be willing to share it, please send it to email@example.com.
I’d like to thank you all for this opportunity to explain my actions on the 20th April 2019.
I’m a digital artist, small business owner and currently a PhD researcher.
My work centres around finding new ways to help people understand each other better through interactive and embodied Stories.
I’ve been alive roughly the same amount of time
the impending human made climate catastrophe has been known about.
In these years, rather than taking mitigating action to slow and reverse our impact we’ve been accelerating the process instead.
We’ve come to a point today where the scientific community uses language like ‘Untold Suffering’ when describing their predictions for our future.
(I refer here to the recent statement signed by 11,000 scientists that states that the “climate crisis…is threatening the fate of humanity”)
I keep asking myself: why are we all going on as if everything is fine?
I see an answer in my own story.
When i was 3 and my mother was 39, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
In the years since she’s been repeatedly hospitalised battling first the disease, then the terrible consequences of the experimental treatments she received.
Growing up the only way to cope in the times between these crises was not to look.
To go on as if everything was fine.
Because facing the worst kind of catastrophe, losing that person who gave you life, is simply unbearable.
So instead I grew up stood by her bedside trying to look away, stunned into silence and incapable of doing anything.
Those of us alive today now face a similar terrible scenario.
The chance to watch a slow destruction of that which gave us life
- the stuff we are made of -
the wild places, the trees and animals who we belong to,
who are part of the fibre of what we are;
As we stand by, feeling impotent.
How can we face this catastrophe?
The only option seems to be to look away.
But sometimes life calls on us to face the unbearable.
3 months ago I found myself again at my mothers hospital bedside,
in intensive care.
This time, for the first time, it was necessary for me
to break the spell of not seeing
to step forward
to actively advocate for her amongst multiple consultants,
over multiple weeks, to ensure nothing was missed.
It’s been exhausting and empowering.
But she’s home now.
she’s been through so much,
She’s frail, but she’s also the strongest person I know
And it's been my life’s honour to step forward and take action for her.
In April I found myself facing a similar call to act and so I stepped forward.
I take no pleasure in causing disruption to normal people.
I’ve tried more acceptable paths -
10 years working in an environmental charity
Decades attending enormous climate marches -
None of this has created meaningful change.
Instead over these years successive governments prioritised short term politics and profit over the deep systemic change needed so that those yet to be born,
my niece Elsie and nephew George,
those young folks we the adults being to,
can live in a world that can support and nurture them, just as it’s nurtured us.
This is why I sat on Waterloo bridge and didn’t move when instructed by the police officer.
It was an act of necessity,
grown from a love for life, a love for people and a love for this extraordinary world
A love that requires me to step forward and act.
The impact of extinction rebellion’s action in April has been to provoke a new level of public consciousness about climate emergency
It was done consciously to prevent a harm so much greater, that it’s actually devastating for any one of us to face it alone.
I’ll end by saying this.
We don’t need to face it alone.
This is an unbearable grief made bearable by sharing.
In April as I sat with new friends on Waterloo bridge, waiting to be arrested,
Our hearts were wide open.
we remembered old friends lost young,
to suicide: to it being too hard for some to stay in this world the way it is,
in a culture so disconnected from itself.
We talked about Leo, my friends newborn baby, strong,
growing bigger every day.
We talked about Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese,
the world offering itself to our imaginations
And our place in the family of things.
The time is come for all of us to break the spell of not seeing and to step forward.
Whether that be through talking with friends, family, work colleagues
About what’s to come
About those things that we love,
Or sitting on a bridge and deciding not to move.
Thank you Your Honour.
When I was arrested in Parliament Square PC Morris read me my rights. The English version varies slightly from the US Miranda Warning, but the sentiment is the same. The English version states: You do not have to say anything …the US version states: You have the right to remain silent. The aim is to protect the individual against self-incrimination.
At the time of my arrest I had only heard those words in films. It was indeed, ‘Like the Movies’. Except it wasn’t. Movies are not real life.
In the movies the usual options are 1. A happy ending or 2. An unhappy ending. This government’s reactions to the climate and ecological emergencies are leading to 1. An unhappy ending or 2. The unhappiest ending ever = Extinction
Here’s movie Pitch 1 …the planet is in climate and ecological crisis, the people and governments speak up, tell the truth and act as though the truth is real. It’s ten years of incredibly rough ride, but the planet just about survives and maybe begins to thrive. The film is classic victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
And movie Pitch 2 …the planet is in climate and ecological crisis, the people and governments ignore it and remain silent. Ten years on there’s total extinction. All death and destruction. It’ll make Game of Thrones look like the Magic Roundabout. This is the script the government is choosing to follow.
This is not a movie theatre we can walk out of. This is not a movie with a happy ending. In the face of the script the planet has delivered and the scientists have written, I do not have the right to remain silent. The threat is imminent. I do not have to say anything, but I do have to act now. I have to do something even if it incriminates me in a court of law. I defend my actions on the basis of necessity.
The science is clear. On 8th October the IPCC released a vital report on the state of climate science. There is an imminent threat to the survival of our planet. “Without transformation in society and rapid implementation of ambitious emissions cuts, limiting warming to 1.5˚C while achieving sustainable development will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, all countries and non-state actors will need to strengthen their contributions without delay.”
The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies published in Sept 2017 provides an updated government assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different civil emergency risks (including naturally and accidentally occurring hazards and malicious threats) that may directly affect the UK over the next 5 years
(1)In this Part “emergency” means—
(a)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom,
(b)an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of a place in the United Kingdom, or
(c)war, or terrorism, which threatens serious damage to the security of the United Kingdom. When assessing the risk of an emergency occurring as outlined in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 ‘duty to assess plan and advise’ the guidelines are as follows: (I shall draw your attention to 1d and g)
(d)maintain plans for the purpose of ensuring that if an emergency occurs or is likely to occur the person or body is able to perform his or its functions so far as necessary or desirable for the purpose of—
• (i)preventing the emergency,
• (ii)reducing, controlling or mitigating its effects, or
• (iii)taking other action in connection with it, (g)maintain arrangements to warn the public, and to provide information and advice to the public, if an emergency is likely to occur or has occurred.
On the 1st of May the UK Parliament’s MPs approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. By its own guidelines it has failed to meet its responsibilities to the public.
Scientists tell us the threat to the planet is imminent. The people in this courtroom did what they did because of moral necessity. In these cases, a greater wrong is being done by people not breaking the law. In this instance, dramatic disobedience to the law by a minority may be the only effective way of catching the attention or winning the support of the majority. Most classic cases of civil disobedience, from the early Christians to Gandhi and his supporters, exemplify this truth. Civil disobedience, like almost no other technique, can challenge a majority and make it ask itself just how far it is willing to go, just how seriously it really is committed to defending the status quo to maintaining this deadly business as usual.
Friday, 20th September 2019 will remain a memorable day for me. It will remain memorable not because it is a beautiful autumn day nor because I am standing here alongside other individuals charged with breaking the law. This is a memorable day because the people of this country and around the world are stopping business as usual to strike for the climate in hopes of writing a different script with a less unhappy ending.
Let me finish with a scene from a police station in April 2019. Picture the prisoner looking into the beautiful eyes of the young PC.
Full view of PC’s face.
Prisoner: ‘I apologise for what’s happening. The government is responsible for both of us being here. I am horrified to think about the terrible events you will be dealing with when the devastation and social collapse happen. I am sorry for the truly terrible things those eyes will see. The threat is imminent. The government needs to act now.’
PC: remains silent
Thank you your honor.
I am guilty in the sense that I did what it says in the charge sheet.
But I would like to ask you to treat me with as much leniency as possible because of the circumstances and because of the arguments in mitigation that I am going to present now.
I know that you are very busy and so I will do everything I can to be brief.
First of all, I apologise for any inconvenience that I have caused anyone. Public. Businesses. Police. Courts. I’m really sorry for any inconvenience caused. My action was not aimed at you. It was aimed at the government because it is only the government that can save us.
So why did I sit in the road and refuse to move when the police officer asked me to move?
I want to answer this in three ways.
- By trying to explain what motivated me. What I am concerned about.
- By trying to explain a little bit about myself. My background and character.
- By saying something about what I think this means for this trial.
What motivated me.
The government have been ignoring the warnings about climate change for too long. It was in 1990 when the Union of Concerned Scientists published their appeal to prevent global warming. 1990!!! That is nearly 30 years ago!
In the last 30 years the warnings have kept coming and the predictions for what is going to happen are getting worse and worse and the government does not act.
In fact, it’s worse than that. The government allows things to get worse, for example by building even more runways or issuing licenses for the extraction of shale gas.
I think we can all agree that global warming is happening.
We can all agree that it is man-made.
I think we can all agree that it is having a catastrophic effect on our chances of survival.
I think we can all agree that we will face this catastrophe if we do not act swiftly and robustly.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988. That is the year that my daughter – Holly – was born. It has been producing regular reports ever since. Their 2018 report said that governments have just 12 years to avert complete climate breakdown.
Does anyone in this court really think that that our government has treated the matter with anything like enough urgency? They have had 30 years! It has not acted swiftly or robustly.
It is like the analogy of the house on fire. I know it is used a lot, but it is really helpful. The house (our house) is on fire but the people in charge of the house, who control the house, are pretending that it isn’t happening, or – at best – are saying that they can see there is a fire, but are not doing anything to put it out. We live in the house. We can see that everything and everyone we care about will be burned. But they won’t do anything about it.
So yes - I’m sorry for the inconvenience - but if I don’t take action to force the people in charge of the house to put out the fire, we’re all going to die. I’m terrified.
So, I did what I did in self-defence and in defence of my family. My children. In defence of everything that I hold dear.
2. Something about me
I sat down in the road because I could do no other. It felt like my civic duty.
I was brought up as a Quaker. I was raised by my parents in a strong tradition of social action, peace and service to the community. Quakers have always been at the forefront of struggles for justice. The reason that I am allowed to affirm that I am telling the truth today, as opposed to swearing on the Bible, is because of Quakers in the 17th century who refused to swear an oath, believed that it cheapened their Christian faith and insisted that they told the truth all the time. Some of those Quakers were sent to gaol and suffered terribly because of their conscientious refusal to swear on the Bible, and now, 300 years later, we take it for granted as a human right that we Have the option to affirm.
Also, in the 17th century, and more significantly maybe, Quakers were at the forefront of the campaign to abolish slavery. They were persecuted and suffered terribly. We now look back and see those anti-slavery campaigners as having been on the right side of morality and the right side of history.
So, this upbringing has turned me into the person I am today.
I have worked for most of my life in primary schools, firstly as a teacher and then – for 20 years – as a Head Teacher. I have always worked in Nottingham: a city with the some of the highest levels of child poverty in England. It has been rewarding work but it has been challenging, as I’m sure you can imagine.
In every school I worked in, I and the staff I was privileged to work alongside, always worked tirelessly to educate the children not just in the basics of reading, writing and mathematics; not just in the academic subjects of the national curriculum. But we also educated them to be good citizens. To grow up to become active citizens. With rights and responsibilities. I remember talking to children a lot about not being a “by-stander”. About doing the right thing. About speaking out against injustice if they ever witnessed it.
I spent 27 years teaching children to be good citizens.
So, for me, sitting down in the road that day was absolutely consistent with the values and the moral purpose that underpinned my work as a school teacher.
One last thing about me before I finish with how this is relevant for the deliberations of the court. The last time I had dealings with a magistrate was in 2006 when I chased and helped to apprehend a thief.
The magistrate awarded me with a special certificate in recognition of having been a good citizen. At the time, when it happened, I didn’t think about for a second. I saw the thief running with someone else’s laptop under his arm, and I chased him. It felt – instinctively – like the right thing to do. My civic duty. Like when I sat in the road in April actually. The same impulse. This is the right thing to do.
I don’t mention this because I am in any way claiming that one good deed gives me permission to commit a crime. That they somehow balance out. On the contrary. I mention it because I think they are the same kinds of action. Trying to be a good citizen.
3.How does this relate to the court today?
You have a choice. I know that you have guidelines to work with, but you are not robots. You are human beings. It is not just a matter of determining the facts. If it was, then robots and algorithms could do your job. But they can’t. Only you can do it, because you have a choice.
It is not just a matter of what I did, but of why I did it. And if you want to, you can issue me with an absolute discharge. Because I was acting in good faith. Because I was trying to be a good citizen. Because I was acting in my own defence and in defence of our world.
I am a father. One of my children is in court here today. My own father – her grandfather - is 90 years old and as he approaches the end of his life, I know that he is turning his thoughts to whether he has been a good father. He is looking back over his life and considering whether he has lived the life we wanted to live.
I am not at that point yet, but I will be one day. I have to be able to look daughter and my sons in the eye and feel that I have been the best father that I can be.
We all have to do that don’t we, if not to our children, then to our families and those who are close and dear to us. I have to do it and you have to do it.
I refuse to bequeath a dying planet to my children and to future generations by failing to act now.
We all have to make choices.
Please choose to give me an absolute discharge.
Thank you for listening.
On 15 October 2019 I found myself declining a request to move out of the road from a police officer, and eventually being arrested for obstruction. I was blocking Londoners from going about their daily lives for over an hour, but felt that it was a necessary act in order to get a message over that I have failed to get taken up in any other way. How did it come to this? That a 58-year old project manager with a young family and no previous criminal record chose to do this?
It goes back to 1986 when I bought a book “Turning the Tide – exploring the options for life on earth” which contains the following –
“It is clear to us that we cannot carry on as we have done. To do that would be to embrace our own extinction. We have to take further the alternatives, old and new, which do exist”
Since my childhood, I have watched as our environment has changed dramatically – the temperature has changed such that the past five years have been the hottest five on record for the second year running, and once-in-a-hundred-year floods now happen twice a year. That’s alongside a horrific deterioration in our fauna - since 1970 insects have reduced by 75%, wild mammals by 60%, and house sparrows by up to 95%.
Over the years, I altered my lifestyle, and hoped that others would do the same. I joined Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth in the mid-1990s, at the same time I stopped flying (apart from a handful of occasions), switched to wind-powered electricity in 1997, invested in Good Energy wind power, bought a Toyota Prius in 2003, installed solar-powered water heating in 2006, switched to a zero-emission electric scooter in 2008, bought a petrol hybrid chargeable electric car in 2015 and a zero-emission electric Nissan Leaf in 2019, reduced meat consumption to zero and consumer goods overall.
Throughout that period I also visited my local MP, wrote to politicians and the Prime Minister, who all gave me the same answer – trust us, we have it in hand.
I became aware of Extinction Rebellion in February 2019, and went through the transition from writing letters and taking my own individual action to reduce CO2 emissions, to taking part in the XR direct actions. I was in London in April 2019 for a week’s worth of demonstration without incident. In October 2019 I decided that I needed to do more.
On 15th October I joined several other protesters in standing in Horseferry Road. I regret the inconvenience that we caused to those caught in the traffic on that day. However I do not regret being arrested for my action. I do appreciate that I have the benefit of trusting the police and court system to treat me fairly in this.
I plead not guilty to this on the basis of necessity.
My rationale for this is as follows – as Lord Craighead said in “It is the first responsibility of government in a democratic society to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens” 
Our current government has failed, and continues to fail, in this duty. The science of climate change has become ever clearer with every passing year to such an extent that anyone denying now it is wilfully ignoring the most learned scientists across the planet. Yet our government has paid lip-service to dealing with the implications of it, and has only listened to the loudest voices, or the deepest pockets, when creating their policies. All too often, the policies they should have implemented have been introduced only to be dropped when they become too difficult to implement. They have time after time spent all their energies on the urgent day-to-day jobs, whilst ignoring the most important one of all.
In December 2019, following the fires in Australia, I wrote again to the Prime Minister. The Direct Communications Unit replied on 2 March 2020 “We should be proud of the UK’s leadership” whilst setting out the ways in which they intend to grow the economy through green technology. I have to say – I do not believe continued growth is a viable future.
I wrote back in March 2020 to request details of how our UK government plans to reduce our CO2 to zero. I have had no reply.
The Covid-19 outbreak has vividly illustrated the story of the frog in hot water.
The frog who is dropped into a pot of boiling water will quickly react to the problem and hop out to save itself. That’s what is happening now with the Covid19 lock-downs and quarantines etc. However a frog who is put in cool water, which is then imperceptibly warmed until it boils will stay there. That is what has been happening with climate change now.
Against all this background, I have seen Extinction Rebellion as the best way to retrieve the situation. They are not perfect by any means but they are still the best option available. It is clear that we have now left things too late to avoid significant damage to our environment, so we are now left with making the best of the bad situation our government has allowed us to get to.
As a law-abiding citizen, who has worked for 36 years, with a family who depend on me, I was totally outside of my comfort zone when joining the rebellion – but was totally comfortable that I was doing the right thing. I am still comfortable, because I honestly believe that XR made a huge impact on speeding up many of the elements of the progress that has been announced recently.
It’s on that basis that I am prepared to go to court – so that I can look my children, family and friends in the eye and say that I did this as the best shock–tactic way I could find to demonstrate my concern over the climate change that is about to hit us.
The idea behind XR has been to generate enough momentum that we reach a tipping point – where government eventually takes robust action, or where the police decline to continue with arresting peaceful demonstrators, or a judge decides that wanting to take a stance against ecocide is sufficiently sensible as to justify breaking a low-key law.
I have to say now that in the year since my arrest, there has been a significant change in the government’s, and the public, position on climate change and the environment generally – in no small part due to the publicity that was generated in 2019 by XR. The government has announced a climate strategy that takes us to net zero emissions by 2050. However this is way too late to prevent huge problems. And just today 29 December when writing this, the UK Government has once again been criticised by the Green Alliance Think Tank, as the plan only delivers a quarter of the cuts in emissions that would be needed to meet the target set. The government has responded by saying that they will have a plan in place by November – another year goes by…..
No-one knows where that tipping point I mentioned will be – so we need to continue to hold the government to account for its continuing failures.
This case might be that tipping point. If I am found not guilty, that will give a loud message to the powers that be that enough is enough. However, if I am found guilty, I will share the details with all friends and relations with the message that I no longer want to be part of the Emperor’s New Clothes fallacy that we can continue to enjoy infinite economic growth and ignore all the scientific evidence, without leaving horrific consequences for all those who follow us.
Thank you for your time. I am pleading guilty but I wish to explain why I took the action.
I do not feel guilty. I believe that I was doing this because of a circumstance that is beyond my control, that is: the climate and ecological emergency.
I lay down in the road in Parliament Square in April because I had reached a point of complete despair. Despair, because even as a professional ecologist I felt unable to make a difference. It is clear from the scientific articles I’ve read that all of us in this part of the world need to make very significant changes in all aspects of the way we live. I could see, that the only way to get this to happen was to take action, and for a very large number of people to close down central London in order to persuade government to tell the truth to the public.
I respect the rule of law and I have never been arrested in my life before.
The Extinction Rebellion protests were highly successful in causing much greater awareness of the catastrophe which is happening to our planet. On 1st May the UK Government declared a climate and environment emergency, XR’s first ‘demand’. People are beginning to understand that it is an emergency.
What is an emergency? It is an ‘extremely dangerous situation requiring immediate strong action’ such as a world war. Scientists have said we have just 11 years to turn things around. Actions have to be made at the government level. Where is that action now?
We need to stop global temperatures rising at this unprecedented rate. But we should also be preparing for the expected collapse in civilisation. Work is needed in all areas: in education, mental healthcare, agriculture, construction, transport, tourism and manufacturing … the way we spend the earth’s resources. The whole system needs to change -- away from the mad concept of continuous economic growth. We live on a planet with limited resources so it is clear, by the laws of physics, that consumption has to be limited or we will all die. As a whole culture we must stop being greedy.
People in the poorest countries of the world are now experiencing drought, flood and destruction caused by the effects of increased global temperatures and sea levels rising. These are countries which have already been on the sharp end of a colonial, and then globalised economic system imposed by us. It is clear that millions will be affected when crops fail, homes and livelihoods are lost and mass displacement of whole populations is triggered. It is vital that we work together on ‘climate justice’.
I lay down in the road in Parliament Square because I wanted to give my whole being towards the demands of Extinction Rebellion.*
I will just briefly say something about myself:
I am a quiet and shy person with an academic background and a PhD. I did a degree in Ecology in the 70s and embarked on a career in environmental archaeology. I learnt, and then later taught, about the evolution of the natural landscape and the impact of human activity over the past 10,000 years. I am also a botanist and enjoy studying plants in wild, unspoilt places.
I had a career change about 15 years ago because I wanted to do more in the area of conservation and ecology and I am now a biological records manager (for my sins!). I look after a huge database of wild plant and animal records for the Isle of Man. I felt this work was important. I was using my skills to understand populations of species and provide data for planning, and conservation work on the island.
But I became increasingly depressed. I gradually became disillusioned. How was this work going to help to stop biodiversity loss and species extinctions? What was the point when whatever I did could not possibly stop the loss of natural habitats and reduction in wildlife? I kept thinking we should somehow change the system, everywhere I looked I was seeing destruction, but I felt powerless to actually do anything about it. In counselling for my depression I acknowledged at last that it was my worry about the environment that was affecting me.
I started reading about Extinction Rebellion. It made sense to me. It was asking me to act, to get out there and do something. I realised it provided a route to maybe make a difference. It is also about support, co-operation and regenerative culture.
Joining the XR movement was in fact very therapeutic because once you confront the facts about the climate and ecological emergency there is a lot of emotion. Working through that emotion and finding the strength and courage to get out there and do something is very powerful. Taking part in the rebellion in London last April was a life-changing experience for me.
What is this emotion? To be honest it is mainly grief, but also guilt.
We are all responsible for what is happening to the planet.
We, in the global north, are the consumers, who are the drivers of this catastrophe. At the same time we are entrenched in an economic system which is causing destruction around the world.
We can only see this if we take the trouble, not only to read about what is happening around the world, but also, to piece all these scientific and news reports together and face the conclusions: of rapid mean global temperature rise (heating until it becomes too hot for humans to survive), ocean warming and acidification (marine life will die), species extinctions/crashes in numbers of key species (soils are dying and food supplies will dry up); desertification, drought (people and crops cannot survive without water) and sea level rise (towns will be inundated).
These are all happening now and will affect all of us dramatically in the next decades.
Put all this evidence together along with the unknown effects of environmental tipping points and we have reason to be terrified.
*(I handed the Judge two photos of myself lying in the road in Parliament Square in April, so he could read my two placards and see how peaceful I was).
[I also gave the judge some fresh acorns, collected from a road verge in Norfolk, after we were given our conditional discharge, and suggested he might like to plant them or give them to any children in his family to grow. I had a message later on from the court usher saying ‘thank you’]
“Climate change” is not on trial here. If it was, the verdict would be unanimous. The facts are beyond reasonable doubt; the scientific evidence is clear and irrefutable: we are in a climate and ecological emergency of likely catastrophic proportions.
- The IPCC Report in autumn 2019 warned that we have just 12 – now 11 – years to bring global temperatures down to a safe level.
- Just this week, the IPCC published a special report on the Ocean and Cryosphere – drawn from over 7,000 papers by more than 100 leading climate scientists – which highlighted the need for governments to urgently scale up and accelerate efforts to address the climate emergency and protect the world’s oceans.
- Last week, the Red Cross warned that the climate crisis is already leaving two million people a week needing humanitarian aid. The number of people in need of interventions will double in the next three decades – from 108 million a year today to 200 million – if governments fail to act, the global charity said.
- Two days ago, Italian authorities closed roads and evacuated homes after experts warned that a 250,000 cubic metre chunk of a glacier on Mont Blanc is in danger of collapse.
We KNOW this is an emergency. Yet look around you: where is the commensurate response from our leaders and our governments? If your house is on fire – and our home, our planet is on fire, from the Arctic to the Amazon – do you carry on business as usual?
One of the reasons I chose to plead guilty at this stage of the legal proceedings against me, is that the defence of necessity is being consistently ruled out in XR activist cases like mine. The prosecutors of the law are insisting that ‘business as usual’ overrides the emergency.
One of the keystones of the justification for imposing the section 14 order on the entirely peaceful protests in April, was to enable business to carry on as usual.
During the April rebellion, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – whose own authority, the GLA, had declared a climate emergency in December 2018 – said that the protests must stop so that London could return to “business as usual”.
But in the face of unprecedented emergency: when does ‘business as usual’ become complicit? When does ‘business as usual’ become criminal?
An emergency calls for extra-ordinary action.
I’m not denying that I was at Oxford Circus on 17 April as part of the XR rebellion.
I’m not denying that I failed to comply with the condition imposed under Section 14 of the 1986 Public Order Act.
I am an ordinary citizen – who has never been arrested before – who felt compelled to act to wake people up to the terrible danger that we are in, and the necessity to act now.
I invite every single person in this courtroom to ask themselves, as I have:
- If not me, then who?
- If not now, then when?
As a final note, I would like to acknowledge the conduct of the police, including my arresting officer, which was almost without exception respectful, helpful and non-violent. Despite the fact that I believe my prosecution is without justification, we’re lucky to be able still to exercise our right to peaceful protest and freedom of conscience in this country. I pay tribute to the many activists in other parts of the world who have been imprisoned, hurt or murdered in the cause of climate justice.
I admit that I sat down on the ground to join a crowd of members of Extinction Rebellion that I came across as I was exiting the DLR City Airport station towards the airport. It was a last minute decision to join this protest, as I set out to go back to Sheffield. Before sitting down with my suitcase, a police officer said if I wanted the airport, I could access it down the stairs. So I knew passengers were not being prevented from accessing the airport, but wanted to join this demonstration against the City Airport which is planning a £2bn expansion, doubling flights in the next 15 years (and therefore carbon emissions). This expansion is extremely serious and incompatible with the government’s declaration of a climate emergency, taking the UK in completely the wrong direction as we head rapidly towards irreversible climate and societal breakdown.
I believe the scientific facts concerning climate change have been widely referred to in this court, and that the fact of (largely manmade) climate change has been taken as given by the court. So I will not repeat the scientific evidence of manmade climate change and other ecological crises, although further evidence appears daily.
Since growing up in rural countryside and doing a science degree including some study of ecology, I have always appreciated how we are interdependent with other life forms and the planet. I have been distressed how society has treated the planet and the wonderful variety of life on it, and have campaigned to increase people’s awareness of the harm we are doing, campaigning to stop the perpetuation of such damaging action. In my thirties I put my heart and soul into Green politics, and started up a recycling and re-use project. In my own life I have attempted to live lightly on the Earth in various ways, have signed numerous petitions, written letters, been on demonstrations, become an Earth Protector.
However it has been very depressing to see how little effect any campaigning has had on “Business as Usual,” with our government continuing to subsidise fossil fuel industries more than any other EU country, expanding airports, seeking constant economic growth that is utterly unsustainable, contributing to creating an unliveable planet for future generations, as well as affecting many people now, especially in the global south.
I was therefore glad to hear from XR of the peaceful rebellion against the government for its criminal lack of action on climate change and other ecological emergencies (we pay them our taxes and expect them to look after our welfare, not pursue policies which head us towards irreversible climate breakdown). Surely there is something really wrong with the law, which is criminalising us activists for peaceful protest to help save the planet, whereas those mainly (and knowingly) responsible for destroying it, can continue with immunity. Ecocide law is urgently needed, which is why I am signed up as an Earth Protector.
I have been very distressed about the climate emergency, and my consequent arrests and court hearings have stressed me a lot and affected my health. Consequently I realise I need to discontinue in activism in this way at least for the time being, but feel at least I can look my grandchild in the eye and say I have done what I could.
I admit that I was sitting on the road in a fold-up camping chair (because a medical condition makes it difficult for me to stand long), near the Houses of Parliament, on October 8th, 2019. I admit that I was peacefully trying to disrupt traffic by this action, for the sole purpose of trying to wake the government up to the extreme urgency of doing everything possible to mitigate against climate change and other ecological crises. I consider myself a considerate person who hates to disrupt other people’s lives, but it is my sincere understanding that using non-violent direct action where I take responsibility for my actions and consequences, is the best action I can take for life on earth now and in the future.
I believe the scientific facts concerning climate change have been widely referred to in this court, and that the fact of (largely manmade) climate change has been taken as given by the court. So I will not repeat the scientific evidence of manmade climate change and other ecological crises, although further evidence appears daily. The UK government itself has declared that there is an emergency, BUT HAS FAILED TO ACT.
Since growing up in rural countryside and doing a science degree including some study of ecology, I have always appreciated how we are interdependent with other life forms and the planet. I have been distressed how society has treated the planet and the wonderful variety of life on it, and have campaigned to increase people’s awareness of the harm we are doing, campaigning to stop the perpetuation of such damaging action. In my thirties I put my heart and soul into Green politics, and started up a recycling and re-use project. In my own life I have attempted to live lightly on the Earth in various ways, have signed numerous petitions, written letters, been on demonstrations, become an Earth Protector..
However it has been very depressing to see how little effect any activism has had on “Business as Usual,” with our government continuing to subsidise fossil fuel industries more than any other EU country, expanding airports, seeking constant economic growth that is utterly unsustainable, contributing to creating an unlivable planet for future generations.
I was therefore glad to hear from XR of the peaceful kind of actions their research found to have the greatest chance of bringing about change, and therefore feel undertaking such actions is the best that I can do for future generations, as well as for those suffering now from Climate change and other ecological crises. It seems to me that proof of the effectiveness of XR comes in the sharp increase of awareness in the population after the April action, and the declaring of a climate emergency by the government.
Surely there is something really wrong with the law, which is criminalising us activists for peaceful protest to help save the planet, whereas those mainly (and knowingly) responsible for destroying it, can continue with immunity. Ecocide law is urgently needed, which is why I am signed up as an Earth Protector. I have acted knowing our house is on fire, disrupting the system to try to save lives now (mainly in the global South), and in the future.
I want to be able to look my grandchild in the eye and say I did what I could.