Suffragettes Found Not Guilty
November 16th, a jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” for nine Extinction Rebellion supporters that broke the windows of Europe’s second largest investor in fossil fuels.
On Earth Day, nine women shattered windows of HSBC’s headquarters in London, due to the financial institution’s connections with fossil fuel companies. The suffragettes used hammers and chisels, and bore patches that read, “better broken windows than broken promises”. HSBC ranks as the second largest financial contributor in Europe to fossil fuels, despite claims to diminish it’s carbon footprint by 2050. XR released a statement concerning the action, saying,
“Despite HSBC's pledge to shrink its carbon footprint to net-zero by 2050, their current climate plan still allows the bank to finance coal power, and provides no basis to turn away clients or cancel contracts based on links to the fossil fuel industry.”
As a result of the action, these nine women have underwent a three week trial, in which the jury was informed of the Paris Climate Agreement, and given insight into steps taken by British government to meet the demands of this climate change treaty. Additionally, the jury was provided details of HSBC’s estimate for the monetary damages charged to the Extinction Rebellion supporters. Just over half a million pounds of damage to HSBC headquarters was reported, and HSBC was contrastingly reported to have invested 80 billion pounds in fossil fuels. This, combined with excellent character witnesses for the defendants, led to victory for these nine women.
Clare Farrell, Extinction Rebellion co-founder and sustainable fashion speaker, gave a statement following the verdict,
“This was a trial of unusual agreement, the facts of the day were not in any dispute, and the fact that we’re on course for civilizational breakdown and climate collapse seemed strangely not to be in dispute either. It’s tragically surreal to live in times when the justice system agrees we’re totally fucked but has nothing to say about the cause, the remedy, the victims or the perpetrators. We must continue, we will.”
Susan Reid, grandmother and retired community care worker, also stated,
“I have said from the beginning that I did this to stop HSBC from killing children. Unicef estimated that over twenty thousand children are displaced each day, and that climate change is the key driver. That means that every day of our three week trial over twenty thousand children have had to pick up the things around them and leave, none of those children will be able to go home at the end of the day.”
“I have spent my life caring for the people around me and I refused to stand by while HSBC poured money into the very thing we know is causing unimaginable harm – the jury’s verdict today shows that ordinary people will not give their consent to the destructive violence of investing in fossil fuels in 2023.”
In a closing speech to the jury, Eleanor Bujak, 30-year-old community organizer stated,
“There is evidence, plenty of evidence, that ‘consent’ exists within the very systems and structures we are trying to change. Of course it does. Because everyone, including the shareholders of banks, need a liveable planet. When these are the stakes, of course I believed they would consent to a sum of damage that, when put into context, equates to less than a penny of an average person’s salary.
“I believe in people doing the right thing. In a world in which buildings and corporations can’t feel pain, they can’t bleed or mourn. But people can. A world where it shouldn’t just be up to a handful of rich and powerful people to decide the future, it should be up to all of us.”
Clare Farrell also had given some final empathetic words to the jury,
“The prosecutor explained yesterday how important it is that you bring your wisdom and experience into the courtroom. And then she told you to put aside your personal thoughts. She told you to disengage emotionally.
“Maybe that’s what the Board of HSBC tell their staff to do too?
“There are many people I have known over the years who work somewhere that is not living up to the ethics they would like to see in the world but they stay, to keep their salary and pay the rent or mortgage and continue to wish that the organization will change.
“We are trying to live honestly in a corrupted world. This is a trial of women who are not perfect, but we are all here because we are dedicated to peace and non violence, willing to make great sacrifices on behalf of others. So when you heard our character references, from mayors, bankers, teachers and the former executive director of Greenpeace and Amnesty, you can see that we have loving goals, not selfish goals.
“I believe that the staff, shareholders and customers of this corporation want the economy to continue, they’re not in business to intentionally destroy capitalism. And I have to believe that they can’t know the extent to the deadliness of the projects they fund. As one of my co defendants said, to believe that all the people in that building support killing and displacing people, would mean an awful lot of people are sociopaths and that can’t be true.
“Ultimately my guess is that the people who work for HSBC aren’t so different from me and from you. And I don’t think any of us would do something if we knew it would cause so much death and human suffering.”
Of the nine defendants were; Clare Farrell, Extinction Rebellion co-founder and lecturer in sustainable fashion; Valerie Brown, grandmother and former candidate for London Mayor; Holly (Blyth) Brentnall, Smiley Movement journalist; Jessica Agar, 23-year-old recent graduate; Eleanor Bujak, 30-year-old community organizer; Miriam Instone, nanny and musician; Tracey Mallaghan, retired school nurse; Susan Reid, grandmother and retired community care worker; and Samantha Smithson, fashion designer.
Extinction Rebellion’s Money Rebellion seeks to hold financial institutions and corporations who profit off of the climate crisis accountable. It’s a call to disrupt the economic status quo—in which the rich get richer, and oil companies’ profit skyrockets, synchronous with the cost of living for the working class. This pattern is not sustainable, as the privileged few benefit at the cost of many. Extinction Rebellion quotes David Attenborough, emphasizing the irrationality of this gap, “Anyone who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either a madman or an economist.”
Join Extinction Rebellion to take collective action and hold corporations accountable, turning the tide on the climate crisis.
Join DE This Sunday for a talk about how you can join this exciting group - and start making headlines of your own! Or at least help others do the same.
“What are our responsibilities at this time? Because of the fossil fuel industry, we are facing horrors of a magnitude never before experienced in our existence. Our government continues to lead us to the edge of no return. We must stand up and defend ourselves. No one else is going to do it. It must be us, if we want to live.
Our methods must be disruptive, and they must be nonviolent. Our actions are evidence-based, credible, and we have a plan. The only thing missing at this point in time is YOU!”
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