This is my legal argument in court; for more about my motivation, see my previous post here.
We were taking part in a small, peaceful protest, and what we did was reasonable under the circumstance, therefore it was not criminal damage. I’m going to outline what the circumstances were, and why I feel that our actions under these circumstances were reasonable.
- The circumstances
Climate change – is the biggest threat to our country and global society we face. It’s not about trees and polar bears, somewhere far away in time and space; it is already affecting global health and agriculture, and is affecting the world’s most vulnerable people badly today. It impacts all areas of society – security, the economy, health, migration, agriculture, trade – and is worsening and becoming harder and costlier to deal with the longer we take to act. It is increasingly costing real, human lives, and sending global society into serious imbalances and undermining our future as a country.
Paris summit – The day we took our action was the first day of the Paris climate talks, at which our government were talking the talk about tackling climate change and committing us as a country to action – whilst at the same time, rolling back the policies at home that would allow this to be possible. This is stunningly hypocritical and demonstrates there is nothing but, at best, wishful thinking behind our talk, and this is the example we leave for other countries.
Government backtracking – the DECC is responsible for policy directly related to energy and climate change. We hear fine words about taking climate change seriously when it suits government rhetoric, but the actual policies coming out of DECC have been a systematic dismantling of support for renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, sustainable development and the green economy, whilst support for fossil fuels, like fracking, and new money for oil, gas and even old coal power, and climate-damaging infrastructure like airport expansion has increased. We cannot say we take climate change seriously and commit to cutting emissions if we at the same time cut all the measures that would make it possible.
Democratic deficit – You could ask why we didn’t for example hold a banner, or have a protest. But this is far from our first action – I personally have been campaigning for over a decade on this, and others have even longer, but it seems the message of the urgency and importance of real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions is not getting through in conventional ways, and hence the need for a bit of drama. The majority of the public want action on climate change, and support renewable energy in some way, and are against fracking. We’ve marched, we’ve petitioned, we’ve written to MPs, we’ve written to ministers, we’ve met our MPs and lobbied, we’ve campaigned and voted in the election, we’ve moved investments and supported businesses who are calling for progress… we’ve used all our democratic powers, and yet still those who are meant to represent us are doing the opposite of what we are calling for, systematically dismantling all the policies we had fought for that would help to make this country sustainable and keep us from a dangerous future. There hasn’t been nearly enough of an outcry about this, and whilst we are doing our best through the usual democratic means, we need to break this loud silence and get across that this is absolutely unacceptable, anti-progress and anti-democratic.
- Why it was reasonable
We did not cause harm, aggression or hostility to any person, and indeed my aim ultimately is for those inside DECC who want real action on climate change to be freed to do their jobs, not tied by short-sighted anti-green agendas from above.
Our action was small scale and reversible, but done to illustrate an important truth.
It was in line with my commitment to Jesus as a Christian – as a Christian I feel that whilst it is essential to always act out of love for God and others, I have a responsibility to speak out against injustice to protect all that God loves, human and non-human, which may at times involve non-violent direct action in the tradition of Christ and the prophets where I feel justice and truth are being silenced.
We were using art to make a statement exposing truth, exercising our right to creative expression – perhaps arguably an improvement given the building’s name afterwards was more truthful.
It was hard to find an alternative way to do this without resorting to such means when ordinary means of exercising democratic rights have been disregarded.
- Therefore this was not criminal damage.