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Letters—The law protects fossil fuel bosses, not protesters like me

Climate protesters speaks to say those that take part in direct action are being barred from talking about their motivations in court
Issue 2843
climate Insulate Britain law

Insulate Britain protest at Heathrow airport in 2021 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

On 25th October 2021, I, with 25 others, sat on a road in London’s financial district. Why? I supported Insulate Britain, and we were demanding the British government insulate the country’s cold, leaky homes—starting with social housing. 

Our plan would create thousands of good jobs, lift millions out of fuel poverty and be the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. I was arrested for wilful obstruction of the highway—a common offence for civil disobedience. 

But in an unprecedented escalation, the Crown Prosecution Service charged us with the common law offence of causing a public nuisance. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

And in an unprecedented escalation, judge Silas Reid, presiding over the trials, ruled out all our legal defences. He also ruled that we couldn’t even speak the words “climate change”, “fuel poverty” or “insulation”. 

We were told we mustn’t share our motivation for blocking the road or face a penalty of up to two years in jail for contempt of court. People care about the climate crisis. When jurors heard the motivations of defendants in previous protest cases, they’ve often been acquitted.

And I was acquitted in my trial. The jury was able to read between the lines.  But Reid has since sharpened his knife and silenced activists further so that all subsequent trials for the same roadblock have delivered guilty verdicts. 

Without hearing our motivations, of course, we’re guilty! How is it possible that sharing our motivations in court has become unlawful?  How can it be that David Nixon, a quiet, thoughtful care worker from Barnsley, is now in jail for simply uttering the words “fuel poverty” and “climate change” and refusing to apologise?

The justice system is failing us. It’s silencing and criminalising ordinary people, while allowing the real criminals—the government and fossil fuel companies—to continue in their deadly pursuits. 

Gwen Harrison 

Climate protester

‘What I learned from Abellio bus strike’

The Abellio bus strike is over after more than 20 days of picketing. These are the important lessons I have learned as a driver to share with fellow striking drivers. Strikes are effective and are the only tangible means of getting real change. If some union members strike, all members should strike with them. 

We must be aware that our employers will do anything in their power to break us, including refusing access to garage toilets to pickets.  The workforce should decide what we want collectively. And we must continue to educate ourselves by reading the company policies and regulations. Crucially we must learn and understand our rights.

We must beware of sneaky voting strategies. We should only ballot officially, and we should question more. Who knew that a survey would turn into a legitimate ballot? During a strike we must all stay on the picket lines no matter what. 

I understand that financial obligations may impact strikers, but we have to find ways to manage that. Otherwise we’ll never see a significant increase in pay ever again.

Abellio bus driver

South London

We pay the price for the energy companies

I was horrified to read that British Gas’s parent company Centrica more than tripled its profits to £3.3 billion in 2022. 

Of course, this has only been possible because of the dirty tactics the company uses.  First, there were the sackings.  In 2021 bosses sacked hundreds of workers who refused to sign up to fire and rehire contracts that slashed their pay and conditions.

Second, the company has taken advantage of the wholesale price of energy going up due to the war in Ukraine. And it has more than passed on any rising costs to customers in order to increase profits. 

British Gas also sent debt collectors to install pre-payment meters in the homes of some of the poorest and most vulnerable.  It’s time to turn up the pressure on these climate-killing companies. 

Anna Chant


Wrong to pause Welsh strikes 

The Labour Welsh Government (WG) in Cardiff is proving itself a valuable ally for the bosses and Tories in putting the brake on strikes in Wales.  First the RCN then the NEU unions suspended strikes in Wales on the “offer” of pay increases from the WG. 

These offers fall far short of both the original demands, and inflation, and some don’t even amount to permanent increases in pay.  Union leaders argue that at least the WG “is talking” to the unions, unlike the Tories.

The problem is that the talking is a cynical game of blackmail. The over-celebrated cosy “social partnership” approach unions have with the WG is being used to undermine action and split unity with strikers across all of Britain. 

Now RCN leaders in England have indicated that were a similar offer made to the Welsh one, they would suspend strikes there too.  The suspension of strikes is a lesson in how reformism and the trade union bureaucracy sabotage effective action needed to win.

Labour is saying it is different to the Tories while sending a signal to the bosses that it’ll bring social peace. More strikes, escalating to all-out action and more coordinated resistance is needed. 

Matthew Shephard


Government encourages the racists

The far right is feeding off people’s feelings of impotence and anger at not being able to get the government to look after the country. 

Government ministers are the ones creating the collapse of services and creating a narrative of fear about the human beings they say are an invading hoard. 

Maggie Ganley 

On Facebook

  • The authorities have never stopped the far right. 

It’s up to ordinary people to push back and stop them.

Cary Doddington 

On Facebook

The London mayor fails 

Newham in east London has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country.  This will be made worse by the construction of the Silvertown tunnel. 

So why is it that when a concerned resident asked London mayor Sadiq Khan on the radio about what he was going to do about pollution, the mayor simply avoided the question? 

Why can’t he admit he’s signed off on a project that will make the air even more poisonous? And it’s happening in one of the poorest parts of the capital.

Beth Fernley 

East London

Charles isn’t very popular

It was music to my ears that King Charles was met with boos on a trip to Milton Keynes.  We’re often told the royals have a lot of support. 

If that’s true why is Charles met with abuse nearly wherever he goes?

Harold Sturman 


Law won’t save planet 

The law will never be on the side of climate protesters. It’s on the side of the capitalists as it always has been. 

Jon Long 

On Facebook 

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