Government attempts to ratchet up prison terms and fines to crush protests which block traffic, using Insulate Britain as the excuse.

On 16 November nine people were jailed for taking part in Insulate Britain’s road- blocking activism, including one person from our neck of the woods, the wonderful west country.

The government managed to keep them out of jail before COP26 convened. It wouldn’t have looked good for climate activists to be jailed just before our government led the world’s governments to the abject failure that was the conclusion of COP26.

Insulate Britain’s (IB) demands are simple:

  1. insulate all social housing by 2025;
  2. insulate all homes by 2030

For the last two and a bit months, one hundred and seventy one IB activists have been arrested for a total of more than eight hundred times for blocking motorways and other roads. Through their incredibly disruptive protests, which have been reported in the most divisive fashion, they have kept the media spotlight on their campaign for the whole nine weeks. Many more people now know that 8500 people a year are freezing to death in the UK and that an estimated 5.3 million could end up in fuel poverty this winter.

For their part in these actions these nine were sentenced to either three months or four months in prison. Ben Taylor was sentenced to six months in prison; his sentence was higher because he said he’d get straight back out and block motorways at the earliest available opportunity.

In a step towards authoritarianism, the government requested that the latest in the line of many injunctions against IB included persons known or unnamed protesting on or adjacent to any road on England’s strategic road network could face an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.

I have been involved in many peaceful actions blocking traffic, mostly with Stop Killing Cyclists in London, also with the Exeter Cycling Campaign to mark Maria Gonzalez Pererez’s death after she was killed by a driver. Anyone involved in the numerous similar actions that have occurred in the UK could have faced up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine. Protests like Joe Fitzgerald’s recent protest in Honiton could have exposed people taking part in similar protests to punishments as extreme as these.

Thankfully this injunction was successfully challenged in court. I am one of the ‘two brave climate activists who were not associated with Insulate Britain’ named in this blog by one of the lawyers instructed to challenge the injunction; though I am not comfortable being called brave as I watch nine fellow activists being sent to prison.

The Insulate Britain activists are the brave ones at the moment, not me. They are on the right side of history. The government’s injunctions are not.