A judge jailed two climate activists for seven weeks on Friday because they had dared to speak about the environmental crisis.
Councillor Giovanna Lewis and Amy Pritchard, who at the time were supporters of Insulate Britain, blocked a road in 2021. Together with another protester, Paul Sheeky, they were charged with causing a public nuisance.
At their trial, judge Silas Reid told them they weren’t allowed to mention the climate crisis or fuel poverty. Jurors trying the three at Inner London crown court on Thursday announced they were unable to reach a verdict.
But Giovanna and Amy defied Reid’s ban and were charged with contempt of court. Reid is the same judge who in February sent David Nixon, a care worker, to prison for eight weeks. That also was for telling a jury that fuel poverty and the climate crisis had motivated him to join the 2021 campaign
During her closing address, Amy told the court, “The climate crisis and fuel poverty are killing people now. I will not be prevented from saying this to a jury. When our so-called leaders are failing us, ordinary people have to step up. It is my motivation, and it is relevant.”
Amy also refused to apologise for mentioning the climate. Giovanna spoke to Socialist Worker hours before being tried at Inner London Crown Court on Friday. “The jury couldn’t come to a verdict in our initial trial. They took two days and couldn’t come out with a majority” she said.
“This led to Reid postponing the trial. We’ll find out when the retrial will happen at the end of March. The whole way through we were gagged by Reid from talking about the climate crisis or fuel poverty. He kept saying any motivations we had were ‘irrelevant.’
“But Amy and I decided to speak the truth at the end of our trial. After we did, those watching in the gallery clapped and security threw them out.”
Giovanna added, “The law isn’t on our side. We saw it with David Nixon, and now it’s happening with us. Judges know that when juries hear the reasons why we cause disruption, they are more likely to vote in our favour.
“I don’t relish the thought of going to prison. But equally no one should be silenced in this way. Inside I’m raging because all we want to do is speak the truth about the climate crisis.”
A group of lawyers protested outside the court as Amy and Giovanna were tried. Climate justice charity Plan B called the protest.
Human rights lawyer Jodie Blackstock said, “We’re here because a number of people so affected by the lack of urgency they took their own action to try and get their message across.
“That message was that things need to be done. They have a right to an effective defence.
“Being silenced on the motivation for their actions is, in many people’s views, a breach of the right to a fair trial.
“It is concerning we are starting to see this kind of decision appear, especially when protest rights are already under threat.”
Every socialist, trade unionist and campaigner should be outraged and stand with climate protests who are facing ever-increasing repression.
David Nixon is still in prison for telling the truth during his Insulate Britain trial in early February. Email: [email protected]
A judge has sentenced a Bristol Kill the Bill protester to 30 months in jail after a protest against the 2021 police bill.
Carl Davis was sentenced last week after pleading guilty to riot. His lawyer, Jacob Bindman, said that rioting had not been the 26-year-old’s intention when attending the demonstration in March 2021.
“He witnessed behaviour from the police he was concerned about,” Bindman told the court.
Campaign group Justice for the Bristol Protesters said police officers attacked protesters. They “hit them with batons and bladed them with riot shields.”
At least one demonstrator was knocked unconscious. Carl Davis said, “Ironically, one of the main pieces of evidence was traces of my blood that, in fact, came from an injury caused by riot police, which is a classic example of what really happened that day.
“I don’t even like to consider it as a riot when, in my eyes, it was just a peaceful protest against an inhumane Bill that was turned violent by the police, who broke countless laws and then lied to the media about getting injuries.
“All we did was defend each other and show the world that if the people who enforce the laws won’t abide by them, then neither will we.”
JBP added this conviction “brings the total to over 100 years across 34 convictions. They’re political prisoners persecuted for campaigning for everyone’s right to protest.”
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