The state is stepping up attacks on climate protesters. And with the police pumped up with expanding powers, climate activists don’t need to carry out actions before they are arrested.
On Sunday of last week at least four Just Stop Oil (JSO) activists were pre-emptively arrested after the police claimed they were planning to block major motorways. Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, Matt Twist, said their disruption of the motorways would cause “serious harm to the public.” Twist added, “We are calling on the public to assist us. Remain vigilant—if you see something suspicious or witness an attempt to cause disruption call 999 immediately.”
Already members of the public have dragged JSO activists from the road and sprayed them in the face with paint. Further calls for intervention will likely lead to climate protesters being met with more violence.
JSO activist Laura was arrested for simply attending the People’s Assembly demonstration on Saturday. As the cops arrested her she said, “We are here to demand a general election. I’m not allowed into London anymore, but I’ve said I’m not going to commit a crime. “This is the result of the disgusting public order bill that’s trying to take away our freedom of speech,” she added.
Four supporters of Extinction Rebellion were also arrested the following day for spray painting on the Coca-Cola store in London. The group’s daubed slogans including, “Coca-Cola lies” and “This is a greenwash” in opposition to the firm’s partnership at the Cop27 climate conference.
The arrests made on Saturday and Sunday didn’t stop JSO supporters from causing disruption on the motorways. On Monday morning JSO supporters climbed to the top of motorway gantries in Enfield, Essex and Surrey, temporarily shutting down the M25 motorway.
JSO supporter Louise was one of them. She said, “I’m here because I don’t have a future. You might hate me for doing this, but I wish you would direct all that anger and hatred at our government. They are betraying young people like me—I wouldn’t have to be here if they did their duty.”
Along with preemptive arrests, activists from JSO and Insulate Britain have been denied bail or are awaiting trial in jail. The two activists who climbed the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge last month and stopped traffic for 36 hours are currently being denied bail.
And Louis McKechnie who tied himself to a goalpost at Goodison Park as Everton played Newcastle United, has been in prison since 5 July without trial. He has been told that he won’t be tried until February of next year meaning he will have spent at least seven months in prison without charge.
Every socialist, trade unionist and campaigner should be outraged by the state repression that is being handed out to JSO and other climate groups. The new public order bill, which is currently on its second reading in the House of Lords, is designed to target climate protesters but will be a blow to the whole working class movement.
New laws could be used to curtail all protests and picket lines. The stepping up of state repression of climate groups is a further authoritarian move by the Tories to crush militant resistance to their rotten rule.
Protests against the climate inaction of those in power who are attending Cop27 in Egypt are planned across Britain on Saturday. The protests have been called as a response to a global day of action initiated by the African climate movement. In Britain, mobilisations are being organised by the Climate Justice Coalition.
On the group’s website it wrote, “The British government must stop its climate-wrecking plans and implement real climate solutions that solve both the climate and cost of living crisis and ensure that everyone has a right to live with dignity.
“Justice won’t be handed to us by world leaders or delivered by corporations. We need to organise in our communities and ensure that not only is no one cold or hungry this winter, but that we stop the headlong rush into climate catastrophe.”
In London protests will start at noon outside the Shell headquarters.
Debates about whether rich countries, who have contributed the most to the climate crisis, should send more money to poorer countries dominated the early part of the Cop27 talks. The organisers have, for the first time, decided to allow an official discussion of climate reparations and “loss and damages”. Loss and damage is a term used to describe the harm caused by climate change.
But former prime minister Boris Johnson, who is at the conference, says Britain can’t afford to pay out for the damage caused by Western capitalism’s industrial expansion. On Monday he said, “What we cannot do is make up for that in some kind of reparations. We simply do not have the financial resources. No country could. What we can do is help with the technology that can help to fix the problem.”
It’s not just a discussion about historic crimes, but about who pays for disasters now. According to research by the Oxfam charity, the need for financial aid after weather disasters has risen eight-fold compared with 20 years ago, and the funding shortfall is ever-increasing.
Researchers in Spain estimated that by 2040, the cost of loss and damage for developing countries alone could reach $1 trillion. The governments that protect the Western multinationals have been avoiding any questioning of this for years.
It’s not ordinary people in the West who should pay for the damage. Those responsible are big business and the politicians who back it. And reparations will not divert the planet from climate disaster. The Alliance of Small Island States said in a statement, “We do not want to be treated as though you are doing us a favour by adding an agenda item or creating a voluntary fund.”
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