For Activists, Arrest and Trial Is As Important as Protest
Image credit: Climate Camp
Climate Camp protesters may have denied accusations of dangerous vandalism—but like many other climate activists, they are not averse to breaking the law. From occupying runways to play golf to a rogue protester shutting down an entire power plant, illegal activity is often embraced by those wanting to challenge authority. And while law makers may explore harsher penalties to deter further unrest, they might do well to be careful. Arrest and trial is just one more weapon in the activists' armory. Of course, the revelation that arrest and trial may actually be the goal of many activists is not a new one. From Thoreau to Jesus Christ, there are plenty of folks who have used what they see as unjust punishment to cast an unflattering light on the authorities. Nevertheless, I was struck when an (ex) professional-activist friend of mine described a big part of his job as "getting arrested and going to trial."
Andrew Hickman is musing on this topic over at The Guardian. Following news that the Aberdeen runway protesters were fined for disrupting flights, he asks whether trial is more important than protest for climate activists. Reading his article, it may actually be more accurate to ask whether trial is actually just another form of protest:
"Before we stepped on the runway, we knew that the court case would be a significant part of our action,' said Glass. 'By campaigning around the court case, we made allegiances with a huge number of groups that don't usually campaign on environmental issues. One of our supporters is the Church of Scotland, who acknowledged that breaking the law was legitimate in our situation.'"
The court case also provided ample opportunity for the activists to put government action on climate change firmly in the spotlight, with Dr. Alice Bows, lecturer in Energy and Climate Change at Manchester University, and retired lecturer and UN advisor Dr. Geoff Meaden both testifying in damning terms about the inadequacy of current government policies.
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