Nine Plane Stupid protesters who shut down Aberdeen airport on the morning of March 3rd 2009 appeared in court today to finally receive their sentences. The judge and court took the protesters' urgent message on climate change seriously and gave out very modest fines ranging from £300 to £700 each.
During the two week trial in June, expert witnesses explained how aviation emissions are fuelling climate change and detailed some of the local, national and international effects, such as the impact of flooding on Scottish communities.
In anticipation of the sentencing one of the trial's expert witnesses Dr Geoff Meaden said: "Society’s problem is that, other than through civil disobedience, there are often no legitimate means of getting governments (at any level) to ‘act correctly’ or to act in the best long term interests of people, environments or indeed the planet. In the absence of such a ‘jury’ or ‘commission’, then we have to be glad that there are groups such as Climate9 who are bold enough to bring to the public’s attention existing injustices."
Since the trial the Climate9 has also received support from communities around the world, suffering from climate change effects. The nine defendants have vowed to continue their campaign highlighting the danger of aviation carbon emissions.
Dan Glass, one of the Climate9 members said: "Against the backdrop of the Copenhagen Summit failures and new waves of climate chaos, all over the world people demanding climate justice have complained to the politicians and to the judges. It’s time we did something for ourselves. The Climate9 will not uphold increasing state and police repression and camouflage the struggle that is climate injustice.
"The Climate9 provide an opportunity to spread the need for urgent action, to halt airport growth and to challenge the authorities with pride and confidence. Whatever we received today, this climate court trial won't be the last time. Our future and the health of every species is too important to leave it in the hands of the few."
One such group is The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who passed this in the AGM in response to the Climate9 movement: "Affirm that there are times when non violent direct action involving potential and actual civil disobedience in the form of deliberate lawbreaking, may be regarded as a legitimate approach to expressing the Gospel."
Two days before sentencing one of Britain's best-known defence barristers also threw his weight behind the Climate9. Michael Mansfield QC said, "As I write one fifth of Pakistan, already blighted by earthquakes, is covered with flood waters threatening the health and safety of over six million people. Without conscientious and principled protest which focuses on the undoubted factors which contribute to this decimation of the environment, the urgency of the problem will not be addressed. I trust these entirely legitimate and selfless objectives will be reflected in the way the Climate 9 are judged by the court."
Jimmy Kerr, one of the Climate9 members said: "The trial generated public support from many corners keeping up the pressure on the legal system to one day recognise the importance of environmental action. Indeed we need to keep that momentum up. There is so much knowledge to be shared as a result of this case, from and legal issues, to public health to popular education and much much more. We can offer talks, workshops or advice and you can help by arranging an event and inviting us to take part."
Last Wednesday night, I was one of 100 people who swooped (swept?) onto the site of this year's Camp for Climate Action. It's a stone throw away from the Royal Bank of Scotland's Headquarters at their Gogarburn site, just outside Edinburgh.
Initially I was doubtful of the over-ambitious plans to camp so close to this year's target but 24 hours later I was proven wrong. By camping on the grounds of the headquarters the camp has become a piece of direct action in itself. Everyday the big bosses who are responsible for the massive climate wrecking plans that RBS have funded can see out of their shiny windows camp life in process.
So far the policing has been very relaxed with them even allowing 150 activists to take a tour round the building on Friday lunchtime. Speeches, music and lots of dancing was the theme of the day however one activist did manage to get through and super glue herself to the front desk.
This is just the beginning as today at least 500 climate campers have vowed to shut the place down. And they deserve it!
We, the people, own 83% of RBS and they are using our money to fund dirty coal, oil and gas projects all over the world including some of the most dirtiest projects such as the tar sands in Canada.
Last year 9 brave people broke into Aberdeen airport, closing the runway for several hours and preventing hundreds of tonnes of CO2 emissions. Unsurprisingly, the state decided to arrest them and take them to court. They have been hounded by undercover police, harrassed and needlessly stopped in the street, and are being called domestic terrorists. This summer, they'll be arguing in court that their duty to stop climate change is a valid defence... and they're looking for help.
The Climate9 will be launching their campaign on Thursday 20th May, between 6.30-8pm at WordPower Bookshop, 43-45 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. The evening features speakers from the Climate9 Defence Committee, details of the case and a chance to meet other activists and play mystery games. If you plan to come, please drop the Committee a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 075351 47478. Don't forget to check out the shiny new website: www.climate9.com.
Plane Stupid believes that the Climate9 should be rewarded for their actions, not punished. If you agree that climate change is an urgent threat which is already costing lives and destroying ecosystems, and that those in power need a radical wake up call, please join us to stand up for those who are doing just that. We need as many statements of support as possible. Write one for yourself or your organisation now.
And don't stop there. Organise events and actions relevant to you and your community on climate change and in support of the Climate9. If you want a supporter of the Climate9 or one fo the defendants to come email us and use the attention of the trial to highlight the need for necessary action to stop irriversable climate change in your community.
"Civilisation has never progressed by squatting in its comfort zone. The great human breakthroughs have always been led by small clusters of brave individuals taking costly stands. History will be the ultimate court of opinion that will judge the climate protesters. In so doing, may its hand not be forced to judge our wider British society too harshly"
Professor Alastair McIntosh, Centre for Human Ecology
"Whatever the price we have to pay for speaking the truth, the Climate9 are publically prepared to do so, to try and bring justice for those detrimentally affected by climate change. This is supposed to be a democratic country, and we can participate in political activity. The Climate9 will not uphold increasing state and police repression and camouflage the war that is climate injustice. All over the world people demanding climate justice have complained to the magistrates about magistrates, complained to the judges about judges and complained to the politicians about politicians. It's time we did something for ourselves. Whatever happens to us, the Climate9 trial is an opportunity to spread the need for urgent action and to challenge the authorities with pride and confidence."
Each morning this week activists have been visiting Grimshaws, the firm of architects who accepted the contract to design a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The firm designed the Eden Project and is ultra keen to be seen as green, but saw red when a handful of Workers Climate Action activists started giving out leaflets to their workers. Cue an amusing run-in with the old Bill.
Since it became public they had been awarded the contract, Grimshaws has become a target for those opposing the third runway. WCA has focused on explaining to Grimshaws workers why people oppose the company's involvement. Their message couldn’t be more reasonable: suggesting that Grimshaw workers should have a democratic discussion about the company’s position on the 3rd runway; highlighting the environmental unsustainability of such projects and stressing that their continued employment doesn’t depend on Grimshaws winning such polluting projects.
Despite Grimsaws’ protestations of openness, it seems there's only so much open debate they can handle before calling in the law. The Metropolitan Police turned up yesterday morning to confront the handful of leafleters. Leafleting is, of course, completely legal. Plane Stupid spoke to one WCA activist, who described what happened:
"This was another example of zealous and stupid policing we've come to expect from the Met. After asking me what I was doing, to which to answer was rather obvious, the officer proceeded to inform me that it was illegal for me to flyer and my actions were in 'breach of peace'. [Not true: see Redmon-Bate v DPP - Ed.] After explain that this was my democratic right, they attempted to get my details and when I refused, they decided I must be a real threat and should be searched.
"I questioned the legality of their position and under what section I was searched. 'Are you a lawyer?' one asked. 'No,' I replied. 'A journalist?' 'Why do I look like one?' 'Yes.' Clearly Islington cops are more used to humiliating young people who don't know their rights than with people who understand what they can and can't do.
"The cops eventually decided that I was being searched under Section 1 of PACE. But even after Kingsnorth and the G20 protests in London the police still don’t know what their powers are. They not only took my details of my ID cards [unlawful - police only have the power to search for contraband linked to the crime they suspect you of, such as drugs or weapons (and they must specify which at the time of search) and not to find out who you are - Ed.], but also attempted to take my IMEI number.
"When I again informed them this was totally illegal, the searching officer asked me why I had two phones. After seriously contemplating making a pithy comment, I decided to defuse the situation, asking if they'd seen the Arsenal game the night before. Such banter continued until they, unsurprisingly, didn't find anything and left me to continue flyering.
"This sounds like just another activist sob story - boo hoo, nasty cops. But the point is that we are clearly starting to create divisions between management and the workers; while management are rattled enough to call the police, many of the workers seem perfectly happy to engage with us."