Britain: Extinction Rebellion protesters convicted

August 30, 2019
An Extinction Rebellion protest on Waterloo Bridge in London.

Three activists from climate change direct action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been convicted after being arrested at protests earlier this year.

They are the first activists to stand trial as a group from charges related to April’s ten-day International Rebellion occupation.

Patrick Thelwell, Peter Scott and Samuel Elmore were charged with offences including obstructing a highway and obstructing police.

They were also charged with breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act, which was used to break up protests in parts of central London in April.

Thousands of people occupied five sites in central London during the International Rebellion earlier this year — and more than 1000 were arrested.

Thelwall and Scott were found guilty of one offence of breaching the Public Order Act.

Elmore was found guilty of one charge from April 19. He was acquitted of a second charge from April 16, where the judge ruled the Section 14 warning was not given in reasonable time.

All three defendants were given a 12 month conditional discharge. Scott and Thelwell were both ordered to pay £310 court costs plus a £20 victim surcharge. Elmore was ordered to pay £155 court costs plus £20 victim surcharge.

Many more now face similar charges.

Scott told the court he had joined the protests because he feared a future climate catastrophe could not be avoided unless ordinary people took action. He said he had become disillusioned with the failure of governments to resolve the climate crisis through international treaties.

“Without disruption I am afraid nobody listens,” he said.

“We can stand with our placards on the side of Waterloo Bridge and watch all the cars go by and watch everybody ignore us. But what was happening was that there was an awful lot of people shouting ‘emergency’. We are in danger here and you have to make yourself heard.”

Thelwell, a student from York, said governments including Britain’s were being “wilfully genocidal”.

“The reality is that people are dying today from the effects of climate change,” he said. “People in the global south are being murdered by the state on the frontline by the extractivist industries that feed our own economies, meat and minerals.”

The court was also read a statement from the Labour Party’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

McDonnell said he and others had been inspired by XR’s actions. “The activists successfully raised the profile of the climate threat and focused the minds of us all on the radical action that is needed,” the statement said.

Arrested XR activists need legal support and solidarity. But they also need a bigger, stronger climate movement.

XR groups and trade union activists are gearing up for a “climate strike” on September 20. Workers could take action — including holding strikes — to demand urgent action.

It is likely to be the biggest worldwide mobilisation for the climate ever. All workers should fight now to see what kind of strike, stoppage or protest they can organise in their workplace.

[Reprinted from British Socialist Worker.]

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