I am sharing the story of my arrest because I believe that anyone who is considering voting for me deserves to decide for themselves whether my actions were done with malicious intent, or in service of the wider cause of protecting our planet and the species we love from destruction, aided by this criminally negligent government.
My first and (for now) only arrest was on Saturday the 17th of November: Rebellion Day. After a 2am coach with my friends and fellow Extinction Rebellion members from York, we joined the occupation of Lambeth Bridge at 11am. After only an hour connecting with fellow activists, the police moved in.
After leading several chants, a group of officers approached me directly and asked me to vacate the bridge. I knew that I had been singled out for arrest, and sat down and locked arms with my friends and comrades. It was incredibly reassuring to know that I wasn’t alone, and as an officer read me my rights I knew that I was doing the right thing. In a surreal moment, as the crowd chanted in solidarity and cameras snapped, four officers struggled to wrestle my limp body away. Arresting officer Ian grabbed my sandwiches from the scrum for me, for which I am very grateful.
Sat in a police van with a 16 year old in cuffs, I had an opportunity to engage with the police that I didn’t think I would get. They were angry at what they saw was a waste of police time that should be spent tackling violent crime, and I was sympathetic. I explained to them that their struggle for greater resources to ease the immense strain they were under was part of our struggle against austerity: violent crime is propelled by cuts to social services, preventative policing, and community projects.
I also urged them to see the inaction of our government as criminally complicit in the deaths of millions around the world over the next century, and to question why they did not or could not arrest the heads of corporations for the ecocide of our planet. Within the very city they serve to protect, 10,000 people die a year as a result of lethal levels of air pollution, and yet politicians do nothing.
I asked them to consider at what stage they would disobey orders and stand with the people against the elites: would it be when they were ordered to beat up peaceful protestors? Would it be when they were order to fire on crowds of climate refuges, when the situation deteriorates? By the time I was through processing and being led to my cell, the officers were silent. Ian shook my hand and told me I had given him a lot to think about. He almost sounded guilty.
I spent 7 hours in a cell, sleeping on and off and pressing a button repeatedly that make a friendly officer bring me ready meals. As the hours passed I knew my friends from York would have gotten the coach home by now and that I was stuck in London. The bed’s graffiti brought home the reality of the place I was in: carved under my pillow were the words ‘POLICE RAPEST’.
After a visit from the solicitor who’s number I had scrawled on my arm, I was (and remain) “released under investigation”. I could, but probably won’t be, summoned for further questioning, or charged and sent to trial. In practice this meant being shuffled out of the back door into the arms of a cheering and utterly brilliant group of XR members greeting arrestees as they were released. They gave me an appreciated space blanket (it was freezing); bought me a pint; and someone offered to put me up for the night.
The London Rebellion Day achieved exactly what it was supposed to. The arrests drew more media coverage than any other environmental protest in decades, and as of today 22 councils have declared climate emergencies and set meaningful carbon neutrality targets across the UK in response to our demands.
This is just the start. I am involved in a campaign in York to force the council to declare a Climate and Biodiversity crisis and set meaningful and brave targets to reduce our carbon emissions and protect the species we love. We are determined to force both the local council and the University of York to divest from fossil fuels and set a date for going carbon neutral. Extinction Rebellion groups now exist across the world, and our sights are set on the social, economic and political systems that legitimate the destruction of the planet and its species for profit, and enforce inequality and poverty on the poorest.
Getting arrested was the single most rewarding and worthwhile experience of my life. I made countless friends, found renewed purpose, and was motivated to run for council.
I now feel hope for the first time in years. When people who care come together and take action with bravery and determination, we are powerful.