Phulbari Solidarity Action At Coal Mining Company: Trial Verdict

Amy, Angela and Shulamit glued to the entrance: The protest last year at the AGM of Global Coal Management at 33 Cavendish Road, London. Photo: Paul Dudman, PSG.

 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.’

Amy, Angela, and Shulamit outside of the City of London Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 22 October 2019. Photo: Christian Climate Action.

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.

The protesters outside of GCM’s AGM last year on 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

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”.

The protesters outside of GCM’s AGM chant slogans last year on 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

 

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.”

The protest outside of GCM’s AGM held on Friday 28 December 2018. Photo: Golam Rabbani

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.

 

Further news:

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/

Stop #GCM Blockade The #Coal Burglars

On Friday 28 December in 2018, Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of a London based company Global Coal Management  (GCM) Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Activists were particularly angry about GCM Resources’  recent claim that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China Ltd. to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and their plans to build a 6000 megawatt power plant.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment.

Watch a short video of the demo outside of the GCM’s AGM:

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

PRESS RELEASE: London Protesters Disrupted GCM’s AGM

  • Activists Blocked the Front Entrance of the AGM for Four Hours

  • Three Arrested as Protesters Glued Themselves to the Entrance of the Venue

  • GCM’s Chairman Michael Tang Failed to Attend the AGM

  • Protesters Successfully Disrupted AGM

London, 28 December 2018: Bangladeshi protesters and transnational campaigners against the development of coal mines in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh blocked the entrance to the venue of the London based company GCM Resources’ annual general meeting in central London. Activists disrupted the AGM by occupying the front entrance for four hours from 9am to 1pm on Friday, 28 December. All major shareholders including GCM’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brian Mooney were blocked out, they waited angrily outside, then gave up and went home.

Three “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” blocked the foyer of 33 Cavendish Square at 9am on Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Samarendra Das.

Three activists superglued themselves to the entrance turnstiles of the lavish building of 33 Cavendish Square where GCM had planned to hold their AGM. The activists self-identified as “Friends of Phulbari Solidarity” refused to move until specialist police used solvents to detach them, then make arrests. Outside the building 30 more obstructed the entrance holding banners, chanting slogans and singing Christmas carols against the bullying coal mining company.

If the mine is built, it would lead to forceddisplacement of up to 230, 000 people over the 36-year life cycle of the project. It will increase poverty, water pollution and will plunder 14,600 hecters of Bangladesh’s most fertile and productive agricultural land in the region, causing a crisis of food production. It will have a devastating impact on the people and the environment. In return Bangladesh government would gain nothing but economic exploitation, said activists at Phulbari Solidarity Group.

A placard displayed outside 33 Cavendish Square by the Bangladesh National Committee’s UK branch asked the Financial Conduct Authority of London Stock Exchange to de-list GCM.  On Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Golam Rabbani/PSG.

Noisy and jolly protesters sang Christmas jingles “Phulbari says NO! GCM must GO! We won’t let you trade in England. Or pollute Bangladesh”! Friday, 28 December 2018. Copyright: Paul Dudman.

Construction of the plant is dependent on approval from the Bangladeshi government who previously shelved plans for the development following massive protests in 2006. The 80,000 people’s peaceful and powerful march was attacked by paramilitary forces resulting in the deaths of three protesters and injured 220 more. Abuse by the UK company was furthered by the recent arbitrary cases against community leaders by GCM’s CEO. Gary Lye, the CEO of the company, filed multiple arbitrary cases against 26 frontline local leaders for opposing the proposed coal mine in 2016.

Friday’s colourful and vibrant protest addressed these issues and more. On November 27, 2018 GCM Resources claimed to have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Power China to develop a giant coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 6000 MW power plant. This news has made protesters angry.

Rumana Hashem of CPRB and PSG read out a petition by 134 community leaders from Phulbari. Friday, 28 December 2018, 33 Cavendish Square, London. Copyright: Paul Dudman

An eye witness to the Phulbari shooting and the spokesperson of the Phulbari Solidarity Group, Rumana Hashem has conveyed a petition signed by 134 community leaders from Phulbari challenging GCM’s so called MoU with China Power. Dissident shareholders were to hand in the petition to GCM’s chairman Michael Tang. But Tang was not in attendance. Activists say that Tang was worried about the protest.

The protest was co-organised by the Committee to Protect Resources of Bangladesh – UK branch of the Bangladesh National Committee, the Phulbari Solidarity GroupReclaim the Power, and Extinction Rebellion. They were joined by Foil Vedanta, London Mining Network, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, Christian Climate Action, 350.org South Asia, and Udichi Shilpi Gosthi, UK.

Three “Friends of Phulbari” who successfully blocked out GCM’s shareholders on Friday were released from the Police custody at 3:30am on Saturday, 29 December 2018. Courtesy: Ian J Bray.

Three arrestees who passionately glued themselves to the entrance were released before 24 hours. They were charged with GBP 4000 for so called criminal damages. But the activists are proud to have joined and supported the Phulbari people. Extinction Rebellion said that they will fight the charges and provide legal supports to defend the activists during trial.

Protesters, jeering “Free Our Friends”, occupied the car park & fire exit of 33 Cavendish Squire. They blocked the exit and stopped the police van for police wrongly arrested three creative protesters. Friday, 28 December, 2018. Courtesy: Land In Curiosity.

Currently Bangladesh produces very little of its electricity from coal and whilst many other countries in the world are looking to transitioning away from coal, the Bangladesh government is planning to massively expand energy production through coal. “ We have published an alternative plan for power generation that demonstrates there is no need to take disastrous path of coal mining and coal power plants to meet power demand in Bangladesh – said Akhter Sobhan Khan Masroor of the Committee to Protect Resources in Bangladesh.

Supporting the protest, Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Director of 350.org stated:

The construction of any new coal power plant is inconceivable given the findings of the IPCC report released in October 2018. Every ton of coal burned makes an immediate contribution to the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere causing long term and irreversible climate change. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground now to ensure that we stay below 1,5 degrees in order to avoid catastrophic environmental breakdown.

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What is the status of the project now?

On November 27, Global Coal Management Resources signed a memorandum of understanding with Power Construction Corporation of China, Ltd (Power China), to develop the coal mine in Phulbari and to build a 4000 MW power plant in Northwest Bangladesh. The company states, “The MOU embodies the principles of a cooperative relationship between the two parties to develop the Company’s proposed coal mine as well as power plants generating up to 4,000 MW at the mine site, and sets out the steps towards a future Joint Development Agreement, obtaining approval from the Government of Bangladesh and subsequent development of both the mine and power plants generating 4000MW.”

GCM wanted to hold their AGM in London on Friday, 28 December 2018, but Bangladesh diaspora along with allies did disrupt the AGM. A powerful, jolly and incredibly noisy protest was held outside the venue and against GCM’s aggressive plans to start mining in Phulbari.

These snapshots are taken from Friday’s protest by PSG BD photographer Golam Rabbani. These are free to use for non-commercial purpose. Please give a credit to the photographer though.

 

A video of the protest can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79IV2TjqRTo&feature=youtu.be

For more photos and video foootage, feel free to contact: Golam Rabbani @rabbani.enpolicy@gmail.com

An online report of GCM’s AGM is available on London Mining Network’s website:  http://londonminingnetwork.org/2018/12/the-sound-and-the-fury-yet-another-gcm-agm/

 

Further reports can be accessed from below:

Morning Star – Environmental activists confront coal-mining executives at shareholders’ meeting in London https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/environmental-activists-confront-coal-mining-executives-at-shareholders%27-meeting-in-london
The Daily Prothom Alo: 29 December 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Asia Energy/GCM Must Stop Unethical Business In London Stock Exchange

In support of Phulbari communities, a noise demo and blockade was held outside GCM’s AGM at 33 Cavendish Square in London on Friday 28 December 2018. Copyright: Golam Rabbani/PSG.

Phulbari Verdict Must Be Fully Implemented

The below statement was signed by 134 community leaders from 50 communities around Phulbari, objecting to GCM’s proposed open cast coal mine. It was meant to be presented by dissident shareholders to GCM’s board of Directors at the AGM. The original letter from the community was  written in Bangla. PSG has translated the statement in English language for greater readership.

“The killer and corrupt extractive company, Asia Energy, thereafter Global Coal Management Resources  (GCM) , hold their AGM to bluff shareholders and to sketch out vicious plans for further human rights violation and to destroy livelihood  in Phulbari and northwest Bangladesh. The company has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a Chinese company and is trying to reach new agreements with various other companies to develop a giant open cast coal mine in Bangladesh to destroy Phulbari, Birampur, Parbotipur, Nobabganj and Boropukuria chapters.

Despite ban of Phulbari project, the company is selling shares in London Stock Exchange. This is outrageous. GCM’s do not have any business in Phulbari. They do not have license to undertake business in Bangladesh. That a company is selling fake shares in the name of Bangladesh’s Phulbari project abroad is an embarrassment for the nation. We see this is a humiliation for all of us. Such act should be legally challenged in international court.

We are aware that GCM’s directors continue to lobby Bangladesh’s corrupt ministers, politicians and elite businessmen. The company continues to harass local people and indigenous farmers. GCM has filed utterly false and multiple cases against 26 community organisers and frontline activists in the region.  Now they are selling shares in the name of Phulbari in other countries. Bangladesh government should denounce this utterly unethical act of GCM. Government must not allow this company to re-enter the region.

The Phulbari Verdict 2006 was written with our blood. We will never let GCM or any other company to enter Phulbari ever. We say loud and clearly that the construction of the coal mine in the region will never be possible. Not in our region. Not in our lifetime.

We call upon the government that this company be banned for ever.  We express our total disapproval of and outrage to GCM’s ongoing unethical and corrupt activities. We demand full implementation of the 6-points demand of the Phulbari Verdict.

We the undersigned,

Amar Chand Gupta, Bablu Rai,  Muahmmad Murtaja Sarkar Manik,

Sondhya Rani Rai, and 130 more community representatives.”

 

The above statement is translated by Rumana Hashem. The scanned copy of the original Bangla version of the community statement and the list of signatures are attached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A protest outside GCM’s AGM held on Friday 28 December 2018 in central London. Copyright: Golam Rabbani