Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

These 13 People Could Become 'Britain’s First Ever Climate Prisoners'

Climate

Later this month, a judge in the UK is set to jail 13 non-violent protestors who occupied one of the runways at London Heathrow in July last year.

The protest, the first ever on a Heathrow runway, lasted six hours and caused the delay or cancellation of some 25 flights.

A judge in the UK is set to jail 13 non-violent protestors who occupied one of the runways at London Heathrow in July last year.

It was carried out by activists from Plane Stupid, who are opposed to airport expansion.

In their trial last month the activists—known as the Heathrow 13—tried to argue the “necessity defense” in that their actions were necessary due to the “airport’s contribution to life-threatening climate change.”

It is the same defense that the so-called Delta 5 used recently in the U.S. after they blocked a crude by oil terminal in Washington State.

But whereas the judge in the Delta 5 trial praised the defendants for being “part of the solution to the problem of climate change” and “quite frankly, the kind of tireless advocates we need in this country,” the judge in the Heathrow 13 trial sees it very differently.

At the end of last month, the judge convicted the 13 of aggravated trespass and being airside without lawful authority. She asked them to return in three weeks on Feb. 24 for sentencing. The defendants have been told to prepare for immediate custodial sentences.

They could spend up to three months in prison.

In response to their convictions, the Heathrow 13 issued a statement:

“Today’s judgement demonstrates that the legal system does not yet recognize that climate defense is not an offense. We took action because we saw that it was sorely needed. When the democratic, legislative and processes have failed, it takes the actions of ordinary people to change them.”

There is now a growing campaign to urge the judge to reconsider: Today’s Independent newspaper reports how the judge is being “urged not to act on her threat to jail 13 peaceful environmental protesters—as campaigners warn that the British legal system’s long-standing tolerance towards non-violent direct action is under threat.”

Read page 1

The article points out that if the “Heathrow 13” are jailed, it would be the first time peaceful environmental protesters have gone to prison for the offense of aggravated trespass since the law was passed two decades ago.

The oldest of the Heathrow 13 is Dr. Rob Basto, a retired atmospheric physicist. He admits to being “apprehensive” about jail, “because of my family situation. My mother is ill and she’s 94.”

The Heathrow 13.

Another protestor, Danielle Pafford, 28, said she was shocked “by the judge’s comments. It was really galling to hear her say she understands the serious impact of climate change—but that we made some people late and that’s unacceptable.”

It is no surprise that many of them are being represented by Mike Schwarz, a lawyer from Bindmans, who tells the Independent: “A custodial sentence would be excessive and wrong because there is a long history of recognition by senior judges that an allowance should be made on sentencing for peaceful protests of public importance.”

Schwarz has often represented those fighting for a just and ecologically sustainable future.

More than 20 years ago, I interviewed Schwarz for the book, Green Backlash. He was then worried about how the government and establishment were clamping down on people protesting against road building.

He warned that the British Government was “trying to kill the messenger, rather than address the real issues. This is very worrying, because it is a blinkered way of dealing with issues.”

Schwarz added, “it is a sign of a healthy democracy that new issues are put on the agenda and by clamping down on new issues or those that try to put new issues on the agenda, then we are negating democracy.”

Then the establishment was trying to crush the anti-roads movement and now it is trying to crush climate change campaigners.

We cannot carry on building airports and expanding aircraft travel is we are going to address climate change.

As Leo Murray, one of the co-founders of Plane Stupid, points out: “If a third runway is built at Heathrow we will have no hope of meeting our legally binding carbon targets.”

Murray adds that if the judge does jail the Heathrow 13, they will be “Britain’s first ever climate prisoners.”

If you are concerned about this, there is a petition which can be signed here.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed as SoCalGas Faces Criminal Charges Over Porter Ranch Gas Leak

FBI Joins Flint Drinking Water Investigation

These 3 Women Attend Monsanto’s Annual Shareholder Meeting Demanding Answers

This Kid Warrior Is Assembling a Teen Army to the Save the Planet

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Michael Svoboda

The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.

Read More Show Less
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Thursday accused NOAA of ignoring its own scientists' findings about the endangerment of the North Atlantic right whale. Lauren Packard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Julia Conley

As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Beth Ann Mayer

Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.

Read More Show Less
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less