When CCA member, Ruth Jarman, was arrested on 12th November as part of her involvement in the Extinction Rebellion, she decided to keep a journal documenting her time in custody.
Ruth being arrested… again!
I thought I’d write a diary of my time in my police cell so as to give others an idea of what it is like.
2.30pm. Peace at last. The cell door closes loudly and I am on my own with a Bible, Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, The Hundred Year Old Man who jumped out of a window and ran away, a pencil, a pen, a notebook, two tri-fold leaflets given to me by the policeman who checked me in, and a cup of tea.
My arresting officer, PC Mason, seems barely out-of-school, cool, sweet, not too sure of himself, smiles easily. We are ‘told’ by the protest legal experts that we shouldn’t allow the police to engage us in conversation as they are trying to find out about us by chatting. At CCA we don’t talk about the action or about anyone else – but we do chat generally and try to talk about climate change.
Sitting in my cell, the temperature is about right, though I will ask for a blanket soon, the blue plastic mattress is comfy enough, the walls like those of a public convenience, but without the smell. Ensuite toilet – literally – and room service of tea, water and beans and wedges just served by another motherly policeman. And hours ahead of me to write, read my Bible, pray, read. No phone, no emails, no washing up, no tidying, no cleaning. What’s there not to like?
Just heard the well-spoken voice of my CCA buddy Reggie talking, the PC calling him ‘sir’.
I guess I should plan what to say in my interview. The legal advice is always to do a ‘no comment’ interview. But I want to say why I did what I did, so I will read a prepared statement and then answer ‘no comment’ to any questions. You are always offered a solicitor on checking in at the police station – I declined one.
I wrote 4 pages, crossed out 2. That will do.
Prayed the Litany of Creation – another thing they allowed me in my cell. Out loud as the corridor was a bit noisy.
Just had another smiley policeman ask me if I was OK and give me some water.
Done 4 minutes of high impact aerobics. Wonder if they watched it on their CCTV and thought it mad or quite normal.
I just thought of something I needed to do and, of course I can’t do it. In the confines of the police cell I am liberated from that whole infinitely-long ‘to do’ list. That is such a freeing thought.
I have now tidied all my possessions. They are in a neat pile by my side. Tidying is done. I am liberated also from untidiness and the requirement to act on that untidiness. This is the life.
Now for Ephesians 1.
This is another huge benefit of being arrested. Maybe you are more focused than me, but when I read the Bible I have this monkey jumping up and down in my brain shouting about all the things I have to do on my ‘to do’ list, thinking up new things to do, telling me to check my watch, that I need to get through my quiet time as quickly and efficiently as possible so I can get on with making pancakes, hanging up the washing, sending that email. In the glorious freedom of the police cell the monkey is quiet, in fact I do believe it is curled up in a corner and gone to sleep. I read Ephesians 1 slowly, over and over again. Giving it time to be absorbed and remembered and respected and understood. I have soaked in it and phrases and verses have stood out for me and clicked into my understanding of life. In the serenity of this cell, ‘the eyes of my heart’ have been ‘enlightened’ in order that I have an inkling of God’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe.’
In the police van coming here, handcuffed, driving past the ‘Tell the Truth’ umbrellas of the protest at the main entrance of BEIS, our movement looked very small, very insignificant. But ‘for us who believe’ we have an ‘incomparably great power’, a power mighty enough to raise Christ from the dead. And also we are Christ’s body and our head, Christ himself, is far above all ‘rule and authority, power and dominion.’
I just woke from a lovely sleep. I am so relaxed. I feel I have done something for God and my children and just for the moment I can do nothing more. They took my watch away so there is no time, no schedule – I am free from deadlines! Holidays are meant to help you unwind in this way. This version is free and without any potential for disappointment and family arguments!
The night shift called by – 10-12 people to ask how I was and if I wanted anything, how I liked my tea.
Then an Inspector Marshall letting me know that I will be interviewed and then they will decide what to do with me – charged, bailed or freed. I feel a little anxious that I will not understand what I should do that that stage – hopefully there will be no decision to make.
Something Bonhoeffer wrote while in prison, spoke to me: “It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole. There are fragments which are only good to be thrown away, and others which are important for centuries to come because their fulfilment can only be a divine work. They are fragments of necessity. If our life, however remotely, reflects such a fragment… we shall not have to bewail our fragmentary life, but, on the contrary, rejoice in it.” If there is an ounce of possibility that our lives could reflect such a fragment, then we must continue and rejoice!
I’ve just been told that I am going to be escorted out of my cell to wash my hands. I’m quite excited.
Vegan Chilli and another cup of tea have come first, from a very smiley WPC.
Ummm, this chilli is the biz. I ate it slowly, savouring all the different soft vegetables. 200 calories, 1.5g fat. Won’t get fat in here.
Just back from interview, washing hands (finally!) and fingerprinting. PC something beginning-with-a-W and a bearded, larger chap. I took control a bit and told them up-front that I was going to read a short statement and then do a no-comment interview, though they were welcome to try to catch me out.
This was my statement:
‘I visited the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy today as a Christian and as a mother because God’s creation and the human race faces an existential crisis beyond anything in our history.
Our government has been offered a life-line, only available now, by international bodies of experts on climate and species loss, in the form of specific advice on what it must do to maintain abundant life on earth and avert catastrophe. It has refused to look at this life-line and instead is cutting support for renewables, increasing subsidies for oil and gas and expanding airports and roads. They know the truth about where we are. They know what they need to do to avert climate and biodiversity breakdown, yet they are refusing to act.
I hold our government criminally negligent for the coming extinction of most of God’s creation including possibly humanity itself.
I wanted to expose this truth and help them to repent and do what it takes to protect the future.’
Nearly cried at the end and then we both laughed when W asked the first question to my first-of-many ‘no-comment’. A fun game and I won! They showed a video of me spray painting the XR symbol on the glass wall of the lobby.
‘Is that you?’
‘Who owns that glass?’
‘Did you have permission to spray paint that glass?’
Green and Black Cross advise you to continue with the ‘no comment’ after the official interview, but I did respond to some questions. To ‘protest is a right but criminal damage is not’, I said ‘I have tried everything else’. They said that however much they agree with me, and they ‘live in the same world’, when their uniform is on they have to uphold the law. They said that PC W was policing the protest on Wednesday and Friday as well and was I planning to be here all week (‘no comment’) because if so I could superglue my hands to PC W and get his photo in The Sun. Later, when PC W left me, I said ‘see you soon!’ I hope that the protest legal support group, Green and Black Cross, didn’t have any spies listening!
They said they may need to take my CCA T-shirt as evidence and would give me another one. They then discussed it and decided they wouldn’t need to take it. Bless ‘em.
Um, this is a proper cup of tea that PC W got me as I was let back into my cell after my fingerprinting and mug-shot.
It was 9pm when we started the interview, so I’ve been here for 6.5 hours. Time flies.
Read more of The Cost of Discipleship. Costly Grace. Hard stuff.
Then a bit of low-impact aerobics – kicking, stepping, just moving around.
Now for some light relief – I finished The One Hundred-year-old man.
Just realised I have a window sill! The ‘window’ is frosted and is not an outside wall but the sill works as such. I have arranged the 2 leaflets that the ‘receptionist’ gave me on it for decoration.
I was ‘released under investigation’ (as were Reggie and Martin) at 2 am, and were welcomed with cheers, hugs and food by Martin and some arrestee support in the lobby. Free to keep on with doing our duty.
Ruth was arrested a total of five times during November as part of efforts to get the UK government to declare a state of emergency in relation to climate change. She has since been charged and is due to appear in court in January 2019.