Banbury campaigner found guilty for role in London protest against the government’s lack of action on climate emergency
'I feel my protest was proportionate given the danger to human life caused by the lack of action on climate change' - Maria Huff, Banbury Extinction Rebellion member
A member of Banbury Extinction Rebellion (XR) was found guilty of obstructing Oxford Circus as part of a London-wide protest against the government’s lack of serious action on the climate and ecological emergency.
The court found 58-year-old Maria Huff, from Banbury, guilty after a three and a half hour trial at City of London Magistrates last week on January 4. She was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £797. She was convicted of obstructing Oxford Circus during the protest on August 25 2021.
Maria’s defence was that the disruption which will be caused by unmitigated climate change will be far more severe.
She said: "I decided to use non-violent protest as a lever to encourage the government to change course. I feel my protest was proportionate, given the danger to human life caused by the government’s lack of action on the climate and ecological emergency.
"The situation we're in is so dire it's literally the stuff of nightmares, it fills me with dread for the world we are on course to become."
She also quoted data from the Environment Agency showing the Thames rose by 15 centimetres between 1911 and 2008, and that this rise is accelerating. As water levels creep up, almost half of all hospitals and 20 per cent of schools across London will be at risk of flooding.
Maria, a Quaker who is committed to non-violent action, and an employee of Oxford University, added: "I've been speaking to other people about the trial, and what's clear to me now is the inadequacy of a magistrates court for deciding how to address these huge issues of where are countries going and how we are going to safeguard the future.
"The magistrates were ill-equipped to deal with these matters of conscience and ethics. They were bound up instead by the the relative trivia of how the police controlled Oxford Circus on that day. They couldn't see how the the danger to all of London was by far a bigger issue, and will come about if we don't take action."
Jane Rogers, another member of XR Banbury who attended the trial, said: "The court mainly focussed on a discrepancy between the arresting officer’s statement and the video footage from his bodycam. They scrutinised the detail while completely avoiding looking at the bigger picture, the threat to life on earth caused by the climate emergency.
"I’m not blaming the magistrates - like the police officer, they were only doing their jobs. I blame the government, for having peaceful protesters arrested and tried, instead of taking urgent action – which is supported by more than half the population - to ban private jets, and stop subsidies for fossil fuels."