An activist—who was charged with contempt of court for speaking the truth about climate chaos—says the “case has highlighted just how unjust the system is”. Councillor Giovanna Lewis and Amy Pritchard were released on Monday after three and a half weeks in prison.
The Insulate Britain supporters, who blocked a London road in 2021, were charged with causing a public nuisance. They refused to stay silent after judge Silas Reid ordered them not to talk in court about climate change as their motivation.
Giovanna told Socialist Worker that her experience of the justice system has made it even clearer to her what side the law is on. “Three of us were in the trial, and we represented ourselves,” she said. “I was pretty surprised about how much discussion goes on when the jury isn’t in the room.
“So much of the evidence and questioning goes on without them there. Judge Silas Reid was great at making your questions seem irrelevant. He’s very skillful at his craft. He kept asking us if we wanted help with writing our defence statement, saying we’d get something wrong. But I didn’t want him to help.
“It wasn’t my plan to do what I did in court. But in the moment, I saw the corruption of it all, and I knew how wrong it was. That’s when I knew I had to tell the truth.
“The judge tried to tell us there were only two reasons why we defied him—either to influence the jury or to carry on our protest. I stood up and said we had a third reason, and that it was because it was the right thing to do.”
Giovanna and Amy are set to find out on Friday if there will be a retrial after the jury failed to reach a majority verdict on the public nuisance charge.
The two activists were taken to HMP Bronzefield. “We were separated and I was taken to the detox wing, as there wasn’t space for me in the rest of the prison,” said Giovanna. “There I met other women prisoners who, when they heard about what I had done, supported me and said what I had done was right.
“I was then moved to another part of the prison, into a room that used to be for just one person. Another bed and chest of drawers had been crammed in there to accommodate two people.
“From my time inside, what’s clear to me is that prisons are overcrowded, at capacity and under-resourced.”
Giovanna added, “It really hit me on the second night in prison that if a retrial happens and I’m found guilty, I’ll have to go back again. But I don’t have any regrets. It’s never pleasant to go to prison.
“But our case has highlighted just how unjust the system is. Someone needs to stand up and say sometimes you need to break laws because the law is wrong.”
Every trade unionist, campaigner and activist should be outraged that climate protesters are being imprisoned for telling the truth and stand with them.
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