Protest intolerance under UK’s new authoritarianism.

Climate activists call crown court judge ‘unprincipled bully’ during protest

On Monday morning[ Today], 24 activists from Extinction Rebellion sat outside Inner London Crown Court carrying placards with the same message borne by Ms Warner.

The activists said they also handed in a letter to the court stating their intentions.

Lawyer Tim Crosland, who was disbarred for leaking a draft judgment about the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, said the protesters had chosen to be outside the court during another Insulate Britain trial to test Judge Reid.

He said: “He’s backed off, he’s left us alone. He’s exposed himself as an unprincipled bully. Because if he really believed that those signs were interfering with the courts of justice, it was his duty to stop us. And he didn’t.

“Think about what it means for Trudi and others who’ve been arrested. Those prosecutions are completely unsustainable, assuming we don’t get arrested now.”

The protesters, made up of doctors, lawyers and Quakers as well as a rabbi and a former police officer, sat in a row along the pavement outside the court premises showing their placards to passers-by.

Climate activists call crown court judge ‘unprincipled bully’ during protest

Continue ReadingProtest intolerance under UK’s new authoritarianism.

Insulate Britain activists jailed after telling judge: ‘We won’t stop’

Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

The three protesters said a prison sentence would not stop them raising awareness of the climate crisis

Image of an Insulate Britain roadblock September 2021
Image of an Insulate Britain roadblock September 2021

Three Insulate Britain activists have been jailed for five weeks after telling a judge they plan to carry on protesting.

Alyson Lee, 64, David Nixon, 36 and Christian Murray-Leslie, 79, were handed prison sentences at Inner London Crown Court yesterday after being found guilty of causing public nuisance by blocking major roads during a campaign of civil resistance in 2021.

Before sentencing them, judge Silas Reid asked about their future plans and whether they intended to continue protesting, adding that their answers would determine whether they would be sent to prison.

Nixon told Reid: “I will start by making clear that I will be continuing on, I will continue to take action that may lead to my arrest and potential imprisonment. Prison is not a deterrent, merely a pause.

“I am justified in doing this as we are facing an existential threat to humanity, and our government is actively making things worse. It’s abhorrent, it needs resisting. I am right in my actions.”

Nixon had already spent four weeks in prison in February after being handed an eight-week sentence for defying Reid’s ban on citing the climate crisis and fuel poverty as his motivation for taking part in road-block protests. Two more Insulate Britain protesters were jailed in the weeks that followed after mentioning the climate crisis to a jury.

Lee also vowed to keep taking to the streets, telling the judge: “As soon as the opportunity arises I will be back out there doing what I can to raise the alarm and force the government to act appropriately in this existential crisis.”

The retired teaching assistant added: “This awful, surreal situation demands a lot more than usual protest – it demands civil resistance.”

I am at peace with my conscience and believe history will judge me to have done the right thing…

Murray-Leslie echoed this, and said the protesters had an “overwhelming moral justification” for their actions.

“I am at peace with my conscience and believe history will judge me to have done the right thing as I sought to prevent greater harm,” he said.

“Your honour, you will have heard that my wife does not enjoy the best of health. I believe I have a duty to support her, however I also have a duty to our grandchildren and others’ children and grandchildren to do absolutely everything that I can to try and prevent irreversible climate change, whilst there is still time.

He continued: “As you may suppose I have talked at length to my wife, who is a brave and moral person. She will not stand in my way as she realises that what I am doing is right. So I have to tell you that I cannot commit to stopping.”

Lee, Nixon and Murray-Lesley will serve half of their sentences before being released. A fourth activist was also sentenced. Kai Bartlett, 21, was given a community service order that includes 80 hours of unpaid work.

Delivering his sentence, Reid told the protesters the “net effect of all the protests was zero” and questioned why the group would wish to continue their campaign of civil disobedience.

Reid referred to all four as “people of good character, apart from protest” and added that “good people sometimes do bad things”.

Seven more Insulate Britain members are due to be sentenced at Inner London Crown Court tomorrow after being found guilty of causing a public nuisance by taking part in road-blocking protests.

Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Also at Open Democracy: Is Labour purging the left? Inside the party’s embattled selection process

Continue ReadingInsulate Britain activists jailed after telling judge: ‘We won’t stop’

Insulate Britain’s ‘show trials’ expose state efforts to silence activists

Insulate Britain M25 roadblock September 2021. Image: Insulate Britain.
Insulate Britain M25 roadblock September 2021. Image: Insulate Britain.

Original article by Rob Stuart republished from openDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

OPINION: An activist is in jail for mentioning the climate crisis in court. Our judicial system is enabling the state

This week we were delivered the strongest evidence yet that the court cases of Insulate Britain members are little more than show trials – in which the defendant’s guilt has already been determined.

David Nixon, a fellow Insulate Britain supporter, was handed an eight-week sentence for merely mentioning the climate crisis during his trial for participating in a roadblock in 2021.

Judge Silas Reid had ordered Nixon to avoid talking about the climate and ecological emergency. He said, “This is not a trial about climate change, fuel poverty, etc. Matters relating to that are not relevant.”

Nixon disagreed, and used his closing speech to tell jurors: “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. That is why we sat in the road, to tell the truth about the direction we are heading in and prompt action before it’s too late.”

That this was enough to warrant his imprisonment is absurd – and raises serious questions about this country’s judicial system.

A life-changing experience

In October 2021, I also took action with Insulate Britain. We brought large sections of the M25 and other major roads to a standstill in order to raise awareness of fuel poverty and the climate and ecological emergency.

I now have three separate charges relating to these actions. I am due to stand trial in May, June and one last time in November. By then, two full years will have passed since I sat down in the road in defence of people and planet.

As a first time defendant, this has been a life-changing experience. I had never been in trouble with the law before 2019, and I acknowledge now that I have lived a relatively privileged life in that regard. As a white, middle-class man, I regret not recognising sooner the suffering of others less fortunate than me at the hands of the state.

My faith in the legal and judicial system of this country has been severely shaken. I have felt harassed and persecuted by the state as both my reputation and my livelihood have been unduly threatened. My name and address has been published online by the authorities, endangering not only myself but my family as well. Of course, my mental health has suffered.

Those who advocate for change now face even greater challenges than ever before as they risk prosecution under the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. As if that were not enough, the regime is now trying to push through its equally notorious Public Order Bill, which will give police officers even more power to crack down on protests.

If jurors can’t hear why a ‘crime’ was committed, are they there just to rubber-stamp the state’s decision?

Though neither bill had come into law at the time of my arrest, I could have reasonably expected a statutory charge of wilful obstruction under the Highways Act or an injunction under the Anti-social Behaviour Act. But neither was invoked against me.

Instead, the prosecution chose to break with legal tradition by pursuing the archaic common law offence of causing a public nuisance. This is worrying – if a charge is not defined in statute, there are no prosecution guidelines to follow.

The decision had abhorrent consequences. According to the judiciary, public nuisance is interested only in the consequences of an action, i.e. whether we supporters of Insulate Britain had caused a nuisance to the public. There is no consideration at all of the circumstances of the action, i.e. our motivations for doing what we did.

Insulate Britain supporters are not arguing that we did not cause any inconvenience or disruption to the public – that would be completely disingenuous. We are arguing that we did what we believed was necessary to sound the alarm on fuel poverty and the climate and ecological emergency. We hoped the UK government would heed our demands.

Let us be clear, it is not a lack of popular demand or technological solutions that keeps rich nations such as the UK from addressing the climate and ecological emergency. We could solve this problem if there was the political will to do so.

By denying the circumstances of our actions, I believe Judge Reid and his associates knew that we defendants would not be able to defend ourselves. We cannot minimise our actions (and neither would we want to) and yet we cannot explain ourselves either, without risking contempt of court. The scales of justice seem distinctly one-sided.

If the diverse range of legal and moral arguments in an (alleged) crime of conscience cannot be presented in front of a jury, one must ask what purpose a jury serves. Are jurors there simply to rubber stamp a guilty verdict that has already been decided since before the defendant’s arrest?

A lack of transparency

Last week another Insulate Britain supporter, Stephanie Aylett, narrowly avoided a custodial sentence after also being charged with contempt. Afterwards, she said: “It horrified me that Judge Reid deliberately stripped away all our legal defences and told us that we would be in contempt of court if we spoke about our motivations, strategy or aims.”

Aylett continued: “He prevented us from mentioning climate change or talking about any scientific evidence. It is incredibly difficult to explain the actions we took without being allowed to mention why we did such a bizarre thing.”

I am concerned about a lack of transparency over who had the authority to determine that we would be charged with public nuisance and what process, if any, was followed in reaching this decision.

The government appears to be investing more energy into silencing climate activists than implementing climate solutions

I have learned that many important decisions are made behind closed doors in secretive ‘case management hearings’ up and down the country. The existence of these hearings is not common knowledge, I am aware of them because I have been required to attend several over the past year. In my opinion they are wide open to abuse.

If there was any justice, I would not be facing charges. It would not have been necessary for me to sit down in the road to raise awareness of the climate and ecological emergency. The individuals who place profit before people and the planet would already be behind bars.

Instead, the current regime appears to be investing more energy into silencing climate activists than implementing climate solutions, such as decent home insulation that would benefit millions of ordinary people during the cost of living crisis.

This government does not represent the people, but rather the CEOs and shareholders of big business. They rule by fear, intimidation and coercion.

A few years ago, it would have been completely unheard of for a defendant to be handed a prison sentence for simply mentioning the climate crisis in a court of law. And yet here we are. As children we were warned to remain vigilant to the threat of fascism. It is time to heed those warnings.

Original article by Rob Stuart republished from openDemocracy under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingInsulate Britain’s ‘show trials’ expose state efforts to silence activists

Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil vow to continue disruptive action

Commitment to ‘civil resistance’ comes after Extinction Rebellion said it would prioritise ‘relationships over roadblocks’

Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.

Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.

Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil have doubled down on their commitment to disruptive climate “civil resistance” after Extinction Rebellion announced new tactics prioritising “relationships over roadblocks”.

“It’s 2023 and XR has quit,” Just Stop Oil said in a statement. “But it’s 2023, and we are barrelling down the highway to the loss of ordered civil society, as extreme weather impacts tens of millions, as our country becomes unrecognisable … there is now a need to face reality.

“We must move from disobedience into civil resistance – this is what the nurses and paramedics are doing. They are on the frontline of the harm being wreaked on us and have said no more.”

Insulate Britain said its supporters remained prepared to go to prison. “Insulate Britain supporters remain committed to civil resistance as the only appropriate and effective response to the reality of our situation in 2023,” its statement said.

Continue ReadingInsulate Britain and Just Stop Oil vow to continue disruptive action

Open Letter to Liz Truss on ‘Anti Growth’ – XR co-founder, Gail Bradbrook

Dear Liz Truss,

In your recent speech at the Conservative party conference you mentioned growth 29 times; said “I will not allow the anti-growth coalition to hold us back” and named Extinction Rebellion as part of this coalition.

Thank you for opening up this critical conversation. We appreciate the opportunity to share our understanding and we hope many others will join us for a grown up conversation in these urgent times. 

We know that members of your party understand our concerns, and are also worried about your economic ideology. When we met Michael Gove in 2019 he said:

“We have had an economic model for generations which has been extractive and exploitative, and in the same way as we’ve created debt fuelled economic growth that creates a burden for the next generation, so our approach towards natural resources has had to change and we’re wrestling as a government with how to do that, how to move towards a more circular economy. And also how to re think different parts of our economy, and again we may disagree over the imperative or the importance placed on growth, but certainly how we can achieve a greater degree of human flourishing and at the same time be more respectful to the limited resources that the earth has and critically also recognise that its not simply about drawing down resources, the earth is a system, our environment is a system of which we are a part and if we do violence to it then we are doing violence to ourselves, we are hacking at the tree of life.”  

There are many forms of growth that are beneficial. Specific sectors of our economy badly need to grow, for example homegrown sources of renewable energy. A sector that would do so much better if this supposed free market was not distorted by the vast subsidies the UK gives to fossil fuels.

However, the data is clear, growth for growth’s sake, without limits, without purpose, is destroying life on earth. When unfettered growth happens in a human body we call it cancer. Economic growth is only beneficial up to a certain point, beyond which it is harmful to people and planet. Economic growth is lucrative to those who are already wealthy (who unsurprisingly then insist on keeping it as the focus). Trickle down economics has failed us for a long time, everyone knows it’s just an out of date idea, not a realistic method that improves the lives of the general public. When we are measuring GDP we would best consider it a measure of the Gross Destruction of the Planet by the Greedy Death Project! 

Do you not agree when Margaret Thatcher said “We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They would defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution than the well-being they achieve by the production of goods and services”

Extinction Rebellion are calling for a Well Being economy, which has a clear and measured purpose to maximise wellness and minimise harm; at home and across the world. There is no shortage of fantastic ideas about how to achieve that, including ideas to support circular uses of materials whilst staying within planetary and social boundaries. We love imaginative ideas, such as regenerative finance and mission based economics; where there could be a focus of our specific strengths on tackling major challenges together, making use of the innovation and delivery capabilities in business and markets, the organising capacities of our civil service, the intellect of our academics. We are a wealthy country, we could afford to pay for universal basic services and lead the world on tackling the climate and ecological crisis. And Extinction Rebellion champions assemblies of ordinary people, to think together with experts about how to make this vital transition.

Because it doesn’t matter how attached your Government is, Ms. Truss, to a specific form of free market ideology. Physics and ecology are ultimately in charge and the life support systems of the earth are starting to tip. Doubling down on the extraction of fossil fuels commits our children and grandchildren here and globally to lives where food production fails and civilisation  collapses. We charge that members of your Government, who are making decisions now, against the advice of scientists and international bodies, are committing crimes against humanity. 

We see truths shared from many quarters. King Charles has said “We need nothing short of a paradigm shift, one that inspires action at revolutionary levels and pace.” The Chief Executive of Shell Ben Van Beurden recently called for a windfall tax and  Philip Kotler, father of modern  marketing called for Degrowth (the academic term for an economy focussed on Wellbeing) In October 2018 the IPCC said that limiting global warming would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. 

People will become increasingly desperate in this country as the consequences of years of terrible choices come home and impact us all. Choices to sell off our assets, to poison our food, air and water; while at the same time we failed to invest in homegrown renewables and insulate homes. We are left with little security and a cost of living scandal. Over 20,000 people in the UK already died unnecessarily this year since April. Those with the least responsibility for these crises are suffering in the millions, battered and uprooted by climate disasters, from the Horn of Africa, to Bangladesh, to Mozambique, to Pakistan.

We see the callousness and the corruption and the refusal to face reality. Those of us who have the capacity and the conscience will do all we can to stop this death machine. There are a growing number of people who just can’t pay the bills that are mounting and others who won’t work for poverty wages, unable to make ends meet despite their hard work (though I understand you, Liz Truss, think British workers “need more graft”). We will strike bill payments in solidarity and strength, and we will not let you frack the British countryside, poison the water and the people.

Yes, we are uniting, because we believe in our shared humanity, we love our country, and this Earth, and we are willing to take responsibility, whether that comes at a cost to us, on behalf of our collective wellbeing. 

A key aspect of civil disobedience is a belief in the need to talk. I would welcome a dialogue with yourself or colleagues – please be in touch!


Gail Bradbrook

Dr. Gail Bradbrook, Co-Founder Extinction Rebellion

Notes for Editors

  2.  A systematic review of the evidence on decoupling of GDP, resource use and GHG emissions, part I: bibliometric and conceptual mapping; Tim Parrique Limits to Growth review 
  3.  When countries have low GDP, economic growth brings a high marginal benefit. But, for developed countries with high GDP, the marginal benefit of economic growth is lower. There is a diminishing marginal utility of extra income and at higher levels, the problems of growth may outweigh the benefits. 
  4.  The academic term is Degrowth – eg see Jason Hickel Less is More, etc
  5.  Circular Economy eg
  6.  Doughnut Economics
  7. Eg 
  8.  Mariana Mazzucato 
  9.  UBS eg; Calls for UK to not drop its commitments :
  12. Philip Kotler, father of modern marketing, supports degrowth:
Continue ReadingOpen Letter to Liz Truss on ‘Anti Growth’ – XR co-founder, Gail Bradbrook