In the early hours of April 13th 2009 a highly expensive and widely condemned policing operation saw 114 climate campaigners arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage. In what has been deemed the largest ever ‘pre-emptive’ arrest, hundreds of police burst into a meeting room where plans were being made to safely shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK’s third largest coal fired power station.

Had the action gone ahead it would have stopped around 150 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere, while drawing attention to the failure of provided democratic channels.

Through invasive surveillance police had gathered information on the activists, pinpointed their location, and interrupted the meeting meaning the action never went ahead. The campaigners were held for over twenty hours before being released onto the streets of Nottingham in the middle of the night, many with their phones and money confiscated.

All charges were dropped for the majority of the 114, but 26 have been committed to Nottingham Crown Court on a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. The maximum sentence for this offence is three months in prison, a fine of £2,500, or both. All entered a plea of not guilty.

Six of the defendants hadn’t yet decided whether or not to take part in the action when the police arrived on the scene. They were arrested anyway, just for thinking about climate action!
Their trial starts on January 10th 2011, and will be an important case with regard to freedom of protest in the UK. Watch this site for more information closer to the time.

The remaining 20 defendants admit that they planned to shut down the power station, but argue that they are not guilty because they were acting to prevent the greater crimes of death and serious injury caused by climate change. This is called a ‘defence of necessity’. Their trial starts on the 22nd November 2010.

Why Necessity?

In addition to slowing Ratcliffe’s carbon emissions, this action was to be part of a wider movement for global environmental justice. You only have to look at the floods in Pakistan and the droughts in Russia to see that climate change is hitting those least responsible for it the hardest while putting all of our futures in jeopardy.

Around the world governments are failing to address the climate crises. Instead they protect business as usual as they continue to compete for endless economic growth. This is in spite of increasingly stark warnings from the scientific community of the cost of inaction. By allowing the coal to keep burning at dinosaurs like Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK government continues to evade its legal duty to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.

As we face the worst spending cuts in decades we have to ask why so many resources are being ploughed into monitoring climate campaigners, while so little is being done to create an environmentally and economically just future.

From the suffragettes to the civil rights movements, direct action has long been the pathway to change the world for the better. Those on trial are ordinary people experiencing the failures of our present political system, who remain determined to see action taken on climate change.

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