Six Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists have been convicted for their part in a protest against the right wing press last September.
The verdict came at the end of a trial that revealed Tory home secretary Priti Patel interfered personally in how the protest was policed.
Judge Sally Fudge found Charlotte Kirin, Caspar Hughes, Laura Frandsen, Amir Jones, Elise Yarde and Hazel Stenson guilty of obstructing a highway.
They had joined a blockade of Newsprinters, which produces papers such as the Daily Mail, the London evening standard, the Sun and the Times.
All of the defendants, excluding Frandsen, were ordered to pay a £150 to the court along with a £22 surcharge. Frandsen’s bill was even greater as she has already appeared in court on similar charges.
The protesters erected bamboo structures to block the printing press.
Earlier in the trial, the lawyer for the defence, Raj Chada accused Home secretary Priti Patel of putting significant “political pressure” on the police, on the night of the blockade.
Patel contacted both chief constable Constable Charlie Hall and Assistant Chief Constable Matt Nicholls during the night of 5 September 2020. Neither noted down the conversation.
Chada argued that this should mean that the defendants should be acquitted due to interference from the home secretary.
But judge Fudge said that the police had “maintained their operational independence”.
She said that the “level of disruption caused by the protest was high, and the obstruction of the highway went on for a very long time.”
“In my view the protesters had, up until the point of arrest, been able to exercise their article 10 and 11 rights with little, if any, interference from the state, and that part of the protest had already had some impact on Newsprinters’ ability to conduct its business in the usual way,” she said.
XR responded that it was “astonished that judge Fudge ruled there was no political interference in the police operation despite overwhelming evidence.”
It said in a statement, “Priti Patel contacted the police frequently throughout the night and demanded the early removal of protesters. We suspect under pressure from fossil fuels investing climate-delayer Rupert Murdoch. History will decide where the real guilt lies.
“XR will continue to demand that the press tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency.”
This is the second trial of the 81 activists who were arrested at two press blockades on 5 September. The first trial saw the defendants acquitted.
But unlike the first, this trial exposed Priti Patel for interfering with police procedures to arrest protesters.
Now activists could potentially be handed a £1,000 fine for their part in the blockade.
The government and the state want to punish for environmental activists. The best response is to defy them and join XR’s rebellion starting in London on 23 August.
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