While thousands gathered across London bridges yesterday (Saturday 17th November) for a mass day of action urging the government to act on climate change, Ruth Jarman, 55 was at Westminster Magistrates Court, as the first individual to attend court as part of the Extinction Rebellion protest.
Ruth, from Hampshire, was arrested on Thursday evening as she decorated the Brazilian Embassy red, to represent the blood of individuals around the world suffering the effects of climate change. This was the third time Ruth had been arrested since the Extinction Rebellion began last Monday. Previous arrests were for actions targeting UK government locations of Downing Street and DEFRA. Ruth was released on unconditional bail, with her trial taking place on the 2nd January 2019.
Following her attendance at court, Ruth joined crowds at Blackfriars Bridge and reunited with members of Christian Climate Action – a group of church goers from different denominational backgrounds around the UK who have been moved by recent scientific reports on climate change. On the bridge she talked to the crowds about her experience in court. “They say it was criminal damage” she explained, “but I have lawful excuse, because they are causing criminal damage to what us at Christian Climate Action call Gods creation. They are destroying it and we have to stand up against that. So we were improving the building because we were making it tell the truth – that this government is taking part in the extinction of Gods’ creation and possibly humanity as well. That’s why we did it and I pleaded not guilty because I am not guilty.”
At Blackfriars Bridge members of Christian Climate Action “locked-on”, using chains and circular tubing, forming a human blockade across the road. Four members of the group, Phil Kingston, 82, Fr Martin Newell, 51, Richard Barnard, 45 and Nick Cooper, 36, took part in blocking the road, despite attendance in the area being a breach of bail conditions they received from previous Extinction Rebellion arrests.
The Christians prayed as police sawed their tubing and removed them from the road. While this was happening, other attendees of the protest gathered around the group singing hymns. The police arrested the 8 Christians forming the blockade, including Ruth herself, some of whom for which this was the second or third time they had been arrested for the climate protest. Many more individuals were arrested for the cause across the capital – the estimated total being over 85 arrestees.
Phil Kingston, the 82-year-old retired Bristol University lecturer explained his motivation for being in the blockade “I love my grandchildren” he said “They mean the world to me and the thought of leaving them a broken world breaks my heart. I have to do my bit before it’s too late. Us more elderly folk have a lot less to lose than younger people by getting arrested”.
Fr Martin Newell, a Catholic Priest from Birmingham explained that his faith compels him to take action “I follow a Christ who cares passionately about the poor, and it is the poorest people of the world who are suffering the effects of climate change. I am called to love my neighbour and today that means pushing the government to take action on climate change. All other avenues of achieving this have failed and so I’m getting involved in non-violent direct action, just as Jesus did when he turned over the tables in the temple”
Today marked the sixth day of a fortnight of actions planned in the capital. Those involved in the rebellion are making the following key demands of the government concerning climate change:
- That the UK declares a state of emergency around climate change;
- That the government takes action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025;
- That we create a national assembly of ordinary people to decide what our zero carbon future will look like.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has pledged his support to the Extinction Rebellion protest by singing a joint letter with 93 other experts and influencers. An exert of the letter reads:
“When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The ‘social contract’ has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.”