Academics Denounce The Persecution of Activists
On April 6th of last year, several dozen members of Scientist Rebellion and other environmental groups took part in an act of civil resistance in front of the Palacio de las Cortes in Madrid, Spain: a historic government building where a legislative body, the Congress of Deputies, meets. The resistors sprayed a biodegradable fake blood made from beet juice on pillars and all over the steps of the Palacio, as a symbol of the murder and destruction government inaction on the climate crisis is causing, and then proceeded to sit on the steps to protest. Police immediately began removing the scientists and activists, dragging them off the steps one by one.
Now the Prosecutor’s Office in Spain has demanded that 15 of these people receive one year and nine months in prison for their action of rebellion.
The Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, has condemned the action. "I don't share the idea that throwing paint is the best way to achieve a goal. It is disrespectful of people, heritage and the institution,” she said, although she took pains to say that the climate crisis needs to urgently be addressed through a reduction in emissions. In contrast, Scientist Rebellion has this to say: “The most effective means of achieving systemic change in modern history is through non-violent civil resistance. We call on academics, scientists and the public to join us in civil disobedience to demand emergency decarbonisation and degrowth, facilitated by wealth redistribution.”
The calls from the Prosecutor’s Office in Spain for prison time for the 15 have prompted several dozen scientists and academics throughout the country to sign an open letter or “manifesto” denouncing the harsh criminalization and persecution of defenders of humanity. The authors call out the increasing repression of nonviolent activists, institutionalized in Spain partly under something called the “gag law” or the Citizens Security Law. This law, created in the 80s but completely revised in 2015, curbs the rights of protesters and members of the public and expands police powers to arrest and fine citizens with impunity. Furthermore, in its report from this year, the State Attorney General's Office included “radical environmentalism” within the terrorism section. This bears similarity to a raft of other countries, including the United States, which have labeled environmental activists as terrorists.
The manifesto’s authors say this: “We reaffirm, therefore, the relevance of the protest that now wants to be criminalized, and the need to persist in actions of this type. We support the demonstrators and the 15 people accused by the Prosecutor's Office, and we urge that all charges be withdrawn: they are ridiculous and unfair. The law must be used to enforce justice, not to punish those who demand it.”
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