Court dismissed Phulbari activists of trespassing

Ansar Ahmed Ullah

Climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance of a building that hosted Global Coal Management’s (GCM) AGM have received conditional discharge.

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The judge decided not to charge activists for trespassing and charged them of criminal damage 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 do it again” and will take it to High Court.

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Three women climate activists convicted of aggravated trespassing and criminal damage-related offences for gluing themselves to the entrance doors of a building at Cavendish Square in London, which was hosting the Annual General Meeting of an AIM-listed coal mining company Global Coal Management (GCM), have received conditional discharge. The activists who stood trial on Tuesday 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.

Angela Ditchfield, a mother-of-two and Kings Hedges Green Party candidate, Amy Pritchard, an activist at Extinction Rebellion Youth, and Shulamit Morris-Evans, a school teacher and a member of Extinction Rebellion London pleaded not guilty. 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.

Ms Ditchfielf, 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.

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, said, “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.”

Ms Ditchfield who pleaded not guilty and is part of an activist group Christian Climate Action, said, “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.’

Ditchfield and Pritchard said that they “will do it 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 said, “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.” 

Dr Rumana Hashem who directs Phulbari Solidarity Group and was present at the 2006 demonstration in Phulbari, said, “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.”

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.  

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