On Wednesday 27th of April, Rev Mark Coleman was one of 10 people who broke a North Warwickshire Borough Council injunction. The 10 Just Stop Oil supporters stood peacefully outside the Kingsbury Oil Terminal holding placards. Mark’s placard read: ‘Jesus Wept’.
Before he took this action Mark (pictured far right above) wrote the following statement.
Walking on the beach with my dad and the dog when I was 17 he asked me a question: what did I want to be? A doctor or a lawyer? It wasn’t exactly an open question! Deciding that science wasn’t my strong point and therefore medicine was not for me, I went off to university to study law. I learnt that at its best the law protects the vulnerable and promotes justice. As English law evolved women got rights to own property and workers protection from dangerous machinery.
The Insulate Britain cases have been coming to court over the last few weeks. I was one of those who decided to sit down on the M25 to draw attention to the scandal of fuel poverty and how insulating the housing stock would dramatically cut the dangerous emissions from our leaky housing infrastructure. With over 70% recognition of Insulate Britain by the public, people began to talk about the issues.
I am being punished, along with hundreds of others who demand an end to oil, coal and gas destroying the precious gift of life that God has given to us. Although many magistrates/judges tell us that they are sympathetic to our ’cause’ they tell us that they have to ‘just do their job’.
All our institutions, everything we create as part of our civilisation, should serve the common good. The law is not above this principle. The new heaven and the new earth we earnestly pray and work for will not become a reality if the law protects the rights of wealthy individuals and corporations to extract oil and destroy life. If the law is not delivering justice, and a future for God’s people, then it is failing. It has become an empty gong, a clanging cymbal. I am certainly not saying that the law should not apply to us but rather to highlight its failure to deliver justice. It’s an expensive process which is currently shooting the messenger. I fear that the courts are helping the government and business interests by scapegoating individuals like me and many others in Christian Climate Action who are trying to stop death and destruction on a massive scale.
The law is failing us all. It is punishing those who follow the rule of love, who make sacrifices for the sake of the poor, cold, indebted. It will soon, I expect, be putting in court the 20-year-olds who climbed on top of an oil tanker, for the crime of wanting a livable world in which to have children and a family.
We know clearly that we are on the knife edge. Sir David King, until recently the government chief scientist, said last year that what we do in the next 3-4 years will affect the future of humanity. Our government is on track to take us to temperatures well over 2°C above pre-industrial levels which will mean the death of billions of people and the collapse of civilisation. When our judicial system pretends it’s business as usual and that there is no crisis for humanity, it fails.
The heraldic motto of North Warwickshire Borough Council is ‘Govern yet obey’. This is a good aspiration. We need local government to protect the people they are elected to serve by supporting the rapid move away from oil. In that way they obey God, who wants us to live. Their obedience should not be to industrial interests but to the well-being of all God’s creatures. Have they forgotten that last March they declared a Climate Emergency?
Sometimes I am frightened for what punishment will come my way. Whatever happens I take strength from the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8v38-39). I am also greatly strengthened by the communities of resistance of which I am part, in which love binds us together.
At the time of publishing this blog, Mark and the other nine Just Stop Oil supporters were in police custody following their action. They are potentially in breach of the injunction, which was granted to North Warwickshire Borough Council on 14th April. The private injunction gives sweeping powers of arrest to the authorities and appears designed to help the state protect the profits of the oil industry by effectively outlawing any protest activity near the Kingsbury Terminal, the largest inland oil storage depot in the country.
At the end of their custody, they taken before high court judge Mr Justice Sweeting by video link. Their case was adjourned until the 12th of May. Over 26 protestors have been arrested for breaking the injunction to date.
Mark and his fellow Just Stop Oil supporters are likely to face a charge of contempt of court. If found guilty they face the prospect of unlimited fines and a prison sentence of up to two years.
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