Stop the Press: words from Quaker arrested

On 4th September, the News Corps Printworks in Broxbourne and Knowsley in Liverpool were blocked by around 80 people from Extinction Rebellion. These Printworks are home to The Sun, The Times, Sun on Sunday, Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Mail and The London Evening Standard. People blocked the routes throughout the night, using vehicles and lock-ons, in order to prevent papers from reaching newsstands in the morning. The groups are using disruption to expose the failure of these corporations to accurately report on the climate & ecological emergency, and their consistent manipulation of the truth to suit their own personal and political agendas

For more information on the action, click here: https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2020/09/04/breaking-extinction-rebellion-blocks-news-corps-printworks-and-demands-they-free-the-truth/

The below is written by Sue Hampton, a Quaker who took part in the Stop the Press action and was subsequently arrested by police…

This is the statement I scribbled in my police cell following my arrest at Stop the Press this weekend, where I locked on to blockade the print works and stop newspapers from reaching the shelves yesterday. It was written in case I was interviewed with a solicitor, which I wasn’t. I was charged with obstructing the public highway and released under bail conditions.

This protest was defined by inventiveness, humour and boisterous spirit, with solidarity and song, but it was also an expression of deep, sustained, patient and passionate commitment. Setting aside the Spooks-style excitement and tension, the purpose and its symbolism are profoundly serious.

The printing press we shut down for one night and one day represents so much that must change if we are to survive together, peacefully, as a species on this earth. Some of the papers that never reached their usual retail outlets are more toxic than others: guiltier of inciting racial hatred and hostility towards vulnerable minorities by vilifying and dehumanising refugees and Muslims. Individual newspapers are more or less divisive, manipulative and untrustworthy, but the most culpable provoke violent crime with violent rhetoric. The (70%) domination of the press by the 5 billionaires concerned, who abuse the power to shape discourse and public opinion with no respect for truth, is enormously dangerous and in itself a threat to democracy. Again and again, Rupert Murdoch has anointed pre-Election the Prime Minister-to-be, and independent analysis of press coverage over recent years shows consistent demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn. This is a malignant oligarchy that sets the BBC News agenda and that of most other UK channels, and has, when fact-checked, been exposed repeatedly for presenting a fake but widely ingested reality. Our papers are internationally scorned.

The papers that never went to print because of our blockade celebrate British ‘scorchers’ without reference to global heating, remain silent as the Arctic burns and the permafrost melts, and pay no attention to the overwhelming scientific consensus that without swift and radical action we face climate catastrophe here in the UK and across the world. Many climate scientists talk of a Sixth Mass Extinction event. Yet these papers’ narrow jingoistic focus fails to acknowledge the suffering and fear of those in the Global South who are already experiencing destructive extreme weather of the sort we don’t yet imagine here. Climate justice is racial and social justice, but the ‘news’ they report shows little interest in such fundamental justice. It is because of the press we targeted that in spite of climate scientists, the IPCC, UN and Paris Agreement, the UK government continues to pursue the very policies that hasten climate chaos, financing fossil fuels at home and abroad, building new roads, expanding airports and bailing out airlines while claiming world leadership. It is because of their lies, vocabulary and evasions that the public doesn’t vote that government out for ecocide shading into genocide. Because of their framing, those who have read the science and committed rationally and emotionally to raising the alarm are seen as the outliers, nutters, doom-mongers, extremists and even terrorists, threatening the ‘business as usual’ from which these barons profit along with the fossil fuel industry. Business as usual will ensure the kind of horror no grandma wants her grandchild to know.

In Extinction Rebellion we speak the truth and act on it, in our lives and our activism, in the hope that civil disobedience can awaken the public taken in by the media’s climate denial or vacuum. Today’s blockade was an attempt to highlight the role of 5 billionaires in their conspiracy to lie to and mislead the British people, thus preventing the change that’s so urgent and essential if we are to survive. I am a Quaker determined to do what love requires of me, and serve the truth. It is my sacred duty to rebel.

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