COURT DISMISSED TRESPASSING CHARGES, ACTIVISTS RECEIVED CONDITIONAL DISCHARGE
- Climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance of a building used by criminal GCM have received 12-month conditional discharge.
- The judge decided not to charge activists for trespassing but charged them of criminal damage of £350 each after he accepted they were motivated by the cause of “human rights”.
- Three women pleaded not guilty at the City of London Magistrate’s Court and said that they “will take it to High Court” and “will stop GCM”.
Three transnational women climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance doors of a building that hosted the criminal Annual General Meeting (AGM) of an AIM-listed murderous coal mining company Global Coal Management (GCM), have received conditional discharge.
The activists who stood trial on Tuesday the 22nd October took part in an action in solidarity with Phulbari protesters who were protesting against an immense open cast coal mine to be built in northwest Bangladesh, where GCM wants to construct a 4000 MW power plant by immediately displacing as many as 130, 000 people from the region.
The judge at the City of London magistrate’s court decided not to charge activists for aggravated trespassing after he accepted they were motivated by the cause of “human rights”. The judge suggested initially that all charges should be dismissed but the women’s defence barristers felt ethically obliged to tell the judge that he had misunderstood the criminal damage charge and that he was wrong to dismiss it. The activists were then found guilty of criminal damage of £350 each.
Angela Ditchfield, 41, Shulamit Morris-Evans, 23 and Amy Pritchard, 34, were all given a 12-month conditional discharge, ordered to pay £350 each in costs and a £20 surcharge. Deputy district judge Paul Booty said: ‘The act of glueing oneself to an object was thought through and the possibility of damage could not have slipped your minds, therefore such an act was reckless.’
Angela Ditchfield, a mother-of-two teenage boys and Kings Hedges Green Party candidate, Amy Pritchard, an activist at Extinction Rebellion London, and Shulamit Morris-Evans, a school teacher and a member of Extinction Rebellion Youth pleaded not guilty. They told the City of London magistrates that the protest last December was proportionate due to GCM’s plan to build a mine in Bangladesh that could displace thousands of vulnerable people. They joined a direct action alongside the Bangladeshi anti-coal campaigners at Phulbari Solidarity Group and Reclaim the Power that targeted the extractive company, GCM, at their AGM on 28 December in 2018.
Although GCM do not have any valid stake, they are aggressively moving to build the coal project in Phulbari. They have recently announced a strategic partnership with two Chinese firms – China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction Company (NFC) and Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) to develop the mine, which created a hike in its share price. On 4th September GCM Resources have signed yet another agreement with DG Infratech Pte Ltd, a Bangladesh based firm to get a deal with Bangladesh government.
Ms Ditchfield, Morris-Evans, and Pritchard glued themselves to the entrance of the AGM’s London venue before it started in the early morning, disrupting the event for nearly four hours. Specialist police used solvents to detach them before making arrests. Outside the building 30 more protestors obstructed the entrance by holding banners and speaking out against the coal mine. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Brian Mooney, were blocked from entering the building. The attendees waited outside of the venue for several hours, before eventually leaving to go home.
If the Phulbari coal mine is built, it would lead to forced-displacement of up to 220, 000 people over the 36 years life cycle of the project. The company would give only 6 percent of all extracted coal to Bangladesh and the remainder of high quality coal would be exported. Bangladesh government has declined the licence of GCM in 2007.
Ms Pritchard of Extinction Rebellion Youth, who blocked GCM’s AGM, says,
“The story of this coal project demonstrates clearly the almost unbelievable global exploitation which continues to be based in this City. I will continue to act in defiance of the domination of vulnerable countries, communities and Indigenous peoples at the front-line of climate change. I call on others to consider their power and privilege and do the same.”
Ms Ditchfield who pleaded not guilty and is part of an activist group Christian Climate Action, says,
“As a Christian, I believe Jesus calls us to come alongside people who are oppressed and in need, just like he did. I stand with the brave Bangladeshi activists who have been resisting this project for more than a decade. Successfully so far, yet the company continues to take investment from HSBC and other shareholders to try and pressure the government of Bangladesh to ignore local people and change their mind. Thirteen years ago GCM allegedly paid paramilitary guards to shoot at a protest of 80,000 people against the mine in 2006. Three teenagers were killed, the youngest 13 years old. 200 others were injured for peaceful protest against the theft of their homeland for foreign profit. The GCM director and representatives of the London Stock Exchange laughed when presented with this news. “As a mother of a 12yo and a 14yo, I have to stand with the families left still resisting this company which killed their children and seeks to bring so much more destruction and death through displacing communities and through climate change. One UK Bangladeshi activist recently asked me: “how can people do such things?” – destroying the lives of whole communities in the only flood-safe land in the region. I have no answer”.
Angela Ditchfield and Amy Pritchard said that they “will block GCM again” and that they “will take the charge of criminal damage to High Court “ because they “have not intended to cause any damage”.
Ms Morris-Evans, a school teacher and the third defendant who glued herself to the entrance in support of Phulbari says,
“To attempt to build a coal mine when we are at such a pitch of crisis – a crisis engendered by our excessive use of fossil fuels – is utter madness. If we do not cease to burn fossil fuels we risk entering into uncontrollable spirals of climate change which could ultimately endanger the survival of our own species along with countless others. We cannot stand by and watch as others plunge our world into disaster for the sake of short-term gain.”
Dr Rumana Hashem who directs Phulbari Solidarity Group and was present at the 2006 demonstration in Phulbari, says,
“I appreciate it that women who have intervened to obstruct GCM’s way of criminal activities are the dedicated earth defenders. My heartfelt thanks to Angela, Amy and Schulamit for risking their bodies to hold GCM to account. I have witnessed GCM’s violence in Bangladesh, heard the cries of the victims’ families and seen tears of non-violent protesters who were injured in GCM’s inflicted violence in one of Bangladesh’s most harmonious, flood protected and green place. GCM want to destroy Phulbari and livelihood of tens of thousands of people. GCM’s CEO Gary Lye has been targeting local opponents. They are a fraudulent company. They are selling shares in London without a valid license for business in Phulbari. They must be held to account.”
Baroness Natalie Bennett who stands in support of protests against the company says,
“I am proud to stand in solidarity with campaigners in Bangladesh campaigning against the Phulbari Coal project as well as in remembrance of those massacred in 2006 while standing up for their rights. There should be no place in the London Stock Exchange for companies creating such immense harm to our environment and international community. We all need to take action to ensure we remain below 1.5 degrees of warming, and that includes the LSE. There is no place for open cast coal mining in the fossil fuel future this planet demands.”
A collation of 12 climate organisations, called the Phulbari Solidarity Alliance, have recently asked London Stock Exchange to consider de-listing GCM and investigate the criminal activities of the company. The coalition echoing the demands in their letter said that allowing GCM to retail shares on the share market is to allow cheating on ordinary people. London Stock Exchange is yet to respond to the call.
Report on British Bangla News, 23 October 2019: http://www.britishbanglanews.com/court-dismissed-phulbari-activists-of-trespassing%ef%bb%bf/
Brief report by London Metro, 23 October 2019: https://www.metro.news/xr-activists-convicted-of-glue-protest-at-coal-firm/1769161/