Six Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists were acquitted of criminal damage charges in a landmark verdict at Southwark Crown Court on Friday
The jury delivered its not guilty verdict for each defendant, despite Judge Perrins ruling that five of the six had no defence under the law.
The trial, for criminal damage to the Shell HQ building in London’s Waterloo in April 2019 could have led to a maximum five year prison sentence and/or a £10,000 fine.
Defendant Simon Bramwell, co-founder of XR, said, “It is a significant victory for the truth of these times, when despite the letter of the law, jurors can clearly see that a broken window is a just response to a breaking world.”
The six were charged with over £25,000 criminal damage during an action at the Shell building on the first day of XR’s 2019 April Rebellion.
The action was designed to increase public knowledge of Shell’s complicity in the climate and ecological emergency. Thirty years ago, Shell researched the effect of carbon emissions on the climate.
But instead of moving out of fossil fuels, the company hired lobbyists to mislead the public and block action for decades.
Meanwhile climate activists dumped a pile of fake coal outside Lloyd’s of London on Friday in protest at the company’s investments in polluting industries.
The supporters of XR unfurled banners reading, “Climate criminals,” and piled blackened rocks outside the insurance giant’s headquarters in central London.
A statement from the group said the “dumped coal highlighted Lloyd’s support for the most polluting projects—tar sands and coal mines”.
Lloyd’s of London is a major player in the insurance market, with investments including the Adani coal mine in Australia.
The previous day, Earth Day, saw a world leaders’ talking shop on climate change—and direct action by XR.
XR activists shattered around 19 windows at the HSBC bank’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, east London.
They said HSBC’s climate change plan “still allows the bank to finance coal power” and "provides no basis to turn away clients or cancel contracts based on links to the fossil fuel industry".
The group used hammers and chisels to smash the windows, then sat down and awaited arrest.
On that day US president Joe Biden hosted the online Earth Day summit, where world leader’s proposed market solutions that won’t stop climate catastrophe. The 40 leaders included Brazil’s far right, climate denier president Jair Bolsonaro and India’s hard right prime minister Narendra Modi.
They discussed meeting carbon net-zero targets by 2050—far too late—and called for global cooperation.
Biden, for example, pledged that the US would halve emissions in the next ten years, But he admitted that Congress hadn’t considered any legislation to make this a reality.
And Australian prime minister, Tory Scott Morrison, claimed the free market was the way out of the climate crisis. He told the conference it was possible for Australia to get to net zero “through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them.”
But Morrison did not commit Australia—which is heavily dependent on coal mining—to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Other leaders tried to come across as more ambitious, with Boris Johnson announcing that Britain will aim to cut emissions by 78 percent by 2035.
Yet, despite some world leaders announcing revised emission targets, none of their plans will go far enough to tackle climate catastrophe.
Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg blasted the leaders present at the conference saying, “Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight.
“How long do you honestly believe that people in power, like you, will continue to get away with it?”
Xiye Bastida from the Friday for Future campaign said world leaders are “perpetuating and upholding the harmful systems of colonialism, oppression, capitalism and market-oriented brainwashed solutions”.
She also added that the solution to the climate crisis “must be aligned with the fact that climate justice is social justice”.
Thunberg and Bastida are some of the voices that are leading the movement against climate crisis, not world leaders.
And they are right to demand more.
In Britain, climate activists have already organised mobilisations for the Cop26 conference in Glasgow in November.
And protests against the G7 conference in Cornwall in June will also aim to take our leaders to task on the environment.
The Cop26 protests have been organised by an impressive coalition of organisations including XR, Campaign against Climate Change as well as faith groups and NGOs.
These mobilisations are vitally important to show world leaders that ordinary people oppose their inaction over climate change.