Christians, including clergy, arrested during London climate solidarity protests

A member of the clergy, and three other Christians, are among those who have been arrested today (Saturday 20th November) during climate-themed protests in London. Rev’d Bill White was amongst more than 100 people who sat down on Lambeth Bridge to break the National Highways super injunction in solidarity with at least 34 people who have broken these injunctions so far, nine of whom received prison sentences this week on 17th November. Some of them then moved to the south side of Vauxhall Bridge which is where the four were arrested.

l-r: Rev Tim Hewes, Sally Chapman, Rev Bill White, Kate Chesterman

The strategic road network injunction is one of four temporary injunctions granted to National Highways and Transport for London in the past two months since Insulate Britain protests began. The scope of the injunctions now covers the M25, all major roads in London, the Port of Dover and the entirety of the strategic road network in England.

‘The Highway 9’, who have all taken part in Insulate Britain protests and include Christian Ben Buse, 36, were each given prison sentences of between two and six months on 17th November. This sentencing came only days after COP26 ended in failure to take sufficient action to tackle the climate crisis and one day after the Police, Crimes and Sentencing Bill was in the House of Lords, which will place many extra restrictions on protest.

Ahead of the action Rev’d Bill White said:

‘Today, on the streets of London, I join at least 100 others with a message for our government: “I feel betrayed by you, and I’m here to resist the suppression of our right to protest.” Jesus stood up to the powerful bullying hypocrites of his day, calling them false shepherds and other choice words. So I will stand up to a government that is failing to protect its people. We have a moral duty to stand up to bullies, and sadly this includes the leaders of our present government.’

Kate Chesterman, 55, a university administrator, said:

‘I am here today in resistance because, despite the bluntest warnings from climate scientists that we must decarbonise rapidly and radically, our government – and other governments across the world – puts economic “wellbeing” and profit, and the protection of the fossil fuel industry, before the lives of the world’s citizens. Because of their choices, millions will die from the effects of climate change: drought, flood, famine, severe weather, necessary migration and war. Yet Government’s only response to those of us who protest against this is to arrest us and imprison us. This is slow geocide. This is evil and before the God who loves me, I resist it.’

Clare Cooper, 63 a retired physiotherapist and Sally Chapman, 50, were also arrested.

Above: a march took place before people sat on first Lambeth Bridge and then to the south of Vauxhall Bridge

The nine who were sentenced will likely only be the first of many to be imprisoned for breaking the injunction, with another 23 people who could also suffer the same fate. Many now feel committed to taking their place and breaking the injunction themselves in order to defy this ruling, which flies in the face of serious climate action. 

Ahead of the court case on Wednesday, Ben Buse, 26, a member of the Church of England from Bristol, said:

‘I’ve continued to break a high court injunction not seeking or choosing prison (this is an impossible choice) but to force a resolution. We have waited too long to act on cold homes, we must hold our government to account on the holes in its CO₂ reduction plans and its failures to meet targets on low carbon homes as documented by the climate change committee. 8500 people die annually from living in cold homes and steps to reduce carbon must be taken now. As we prepare to go to prison, others will step forward to demand government action.’

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