Katie Dowds, 28, is a Christian who took part in a Just Stop Oil action on Friday 15th April to demand that the UK government end new oil and gas projects in the UK. Along with two others she was remanded in custody over the following weekend and spent Easter Sunday in a police cell waiting to attend court on Easter Monday. This is the moving statement she read in court.
My name is Katie, I’m 28 and I help lead a church in Leeds. Before 1st April I had never been arrested or done anything that might be classed as “criminal”; bar the odd speeding ticket. Rather, I spend the overwhelming amount of my time running therapeutic Christian day centres for those who’ve been battered and bruised by the storms of addiction, mental health, homelessness and childhood trauma and serving this community is one of my greatest joys and privileges.
And yet on Easter Sunday, the most significant day in the Christian calendar, when I should have been feasting and celebrating the resurrection with this beautiful community, I was alone in a cell due to my involvement with the Just Stop Oil Campaign – a group of ordinary people with one no brainer demand: that our government halts all new licences for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels.
My decision to join Just Stop Oil was not one I took lightly. I am well aware of the potential implications of my actions, not just to my liberty but my future employment prospects and my ability to get a mortgage.
And yet, after reading yet another damning IPCC report outlining the catastrophic consequences of governmental failure to tackle the climate crisis and the unspeakable suffering this will cause to people everywhere, particularly the most poor and vulnerable, I feel I am left with no other choice.
According to the latest IPCC report, we have a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”. The International Energy Agency has said that if governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in fossil fuels from 2021. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence from the global scientific community of the direct threat the fossil fuel industry poses to humanity, our governments continue to subsidise and grant licences for its expansion, with 42 new extraction projects in the pipeline. This is absolute madness and a reckless gamble with all of our futures.
The UK government is not ignorant of the suffering this will cause, not just to countries with the highest exposure to ecological threat (10 out of 18 of which are listed amongst the 40 least peaceful nations on the Global Peace Index), but to your children, grandchildren and the children I hope to one day have. And yet they act with impunity and continue to prioritise profit and protecting the fossil fuel industry over the preservation of life on earth.
As a British citizen, I therefore believe that the government has broken the social contract and when business as usual equates to mass migration, mass starvation and societal collapse, I can no longer in good conscience comply. Nor, I maintain, should I be punished for speaking out against such injustice and using my body to peacefully disrupt an economic system which bankrolls in death and destruction.
It is usually a criminal offence to break the window of a house without cause. However, if the house is on fire and there are people trapped inside, such actions are not only proportionate but necessary.
Your Honour, our house is on fire and we’re doing everything we can to nonviolently sound the alarm to save as many lives as possible.
According to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guitterez “Climate activists are sometimes portrayed as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
I repeat, Your Honour, that these are the words of the UN Secretary General.
Nonetheless, I do plead guilty to the offence with which I am charged. However, I also humbly suggest that it is not concerned, ordinary citizens like myself who should be appearing in court today, but those who continue to profit from, protect and prop up the fossil fuel industry.
Thank you for your time.
Katie and the other two activists pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated trespass and they were issued with costs ranging between £150 and £349. On release from court, the three were immediately arrested again for breaching a High Court Injunction and taken back into custody. They were brought before the High Court the following day where it was found that the police had held them for longer than they are allowed to after their second arrest and so had to release them.