Two Manchester Plane Stupid activists who blockaded the road entrance to the World Freight Centre of Manchester Airport have been found guilty of obstruction of the highway. The group remain united and have vowed to continue the fight against the aviation industry.
The two defendants, Mark Howarth and Amanda Walters, had pleaded not guilty to the charge on the grounds that their obstruction of the highway was a reasonable use of the road considering the significant impacts on local homes and globally in contributing to climate change - caused by the proposed expansion of the airport. The court heard how the defendants had tried other means of redress prior to the protest action in May 2010 but that these methods had been ineffective as of yet in halting airport expansion.
Speaking after the case, defendant Mark Howarth said:
"The battle against airport expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick was won because ordinary people came together, joined forces and took on the aviation industry. We've linked up with residents in Manchester and Heathrow and we'll continue to challenge Manchester Airport's expansion plans".
The public campaign 'Manchester Airport on Trial' lives on and the defendants have received support from all kinds of different people and communities including support from Independent journalist Johann Hari, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP John Mcdonnell and Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith. The 6 who went airside and used armtube lock ons round the wheel of a plane will stand trial seperately for aggravated trespass in Feburary 2011.
There was a huge show of support for defendants at Trafford Magistrates Court this morning for the opening day of Manchester Airport on Trial.
Despite freezing temperatures people from all walks of life came down to the courthouse to wish them well. Pete Johnson one of the residents whose home faces demolition joined the supporters and defendants outside the courthouse with colourful banners. The case has galvanised support from a broad range of supporters from local members of the public, local groups, academics, barristers, writer and journalist for the Independent Johann Hari, and prominent national politicians such as Heathrow Labour MP John McDonnell, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith.
Eleven local campaigners were in court facing charges of obstruction of the highway. Nine of the eleven pleaded guilty unable to bear the cost of a trial and were sentenced at 1pm today. The court heard now the protest had been a 'response to a flawed planning process' and the 'democratic process being thwarted'. The judge handed out fines of an average £300 each before opening the prosecution.
Ali Garrigan, from Manchester Plane Stupid said:
"Today the defendants have taken responsibility for the protest, been accountable for their actions and will pay their fines. Meanwhile, Manchester City Council refuses to take responsibility for the emissions from the airport by excluding them from its Climate Change Action Plan and the aviation industry gets a free ride by paying no tax on it fuel."
The trial continues tomorrow and is set to be an interesting day. Amanda Walters and Mark Howarth, the two defendants pleading not guilty, will be asked to tell the court what effects the expansion of the airport will have both locally, such as on the residents at Hasty Lane, as well as internationally in terms of CO2 emissions and climate change.
Local councillor Martin Eakins will also be speaking to highlight the local democratic deficit and resident Pete Johnson from Hasty Lane will talk about the threat to local homes.
Over the past year a movement has developed using creative and empowering methods to highlight the deep-seated reasons we need to take action today. The reality that climate change, poverty and pollution aren't a mistake - fossil fuel industries and the politicians who turn a blind eye to their impacts rely on the unequal burden place on ourselves and our communities to uphold unequal power in the UK today.
So We Stand - a people's movement organising for empowering social change to develop multiracial politics and self defence strategies to better our lives and communities - are calling for individuals to listen to the voices, witness the images of how we are forced to live and watch the videos of different stories and then more importantly - stand up to take action.
From Heathrow to Grangemouth to Merhyr Tydfill this is just the start. Through this project we realise that we are not alone in this fight. In order to tackle these growing problems we must join the dots between social and environmental problems. We have lived for too long while greed and addiction to profit has brutalised our way of life. Those days are long gone and we must fight for justice, a way of life free from poverty, climate change and pollution.
Expansion plans at Aberdeen Airport have been given the go-ahead, with work expected to start in March 2011 and finish in Summer 2012. This 124m extension plan will leave us with no chance of meeting greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. We need a ban on all airport expansion if we are to have any hope of preventing runaway climate change.
Other groups such as Aberdeen Against Climate Change are also opposing these plans. The chairman of Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (Acsef) stated that "transport and connectivity are key to acheiving economic growth and enhancing the quality of life in the region". As seen with other airport expansion plans, it is clear that quality of life for those around the airport is certainly reduced significantly, with the threat of having houses bulldozed, increased air pollution and the construction of other infrastructure such as large access roads.
Tourism deficit means that more money is actually lost from our economy, as people spend more abroad than people spend when in the UK. Plane Stupid calls for a ban on all airport expansion, including at Aberdeen.
The court case of the 'biggest pre-emptive arrest' of climate activists began today in Nottingham. A year and half after being pre-emptively arrested alongside more than 100 other people, 20 activists have begun what could be a month long trial.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass for planning to safely shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station for a week and in doing so stopping 150,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted. The activists are going to be admitting the intent, however they maintain that they are not guilty of a crime.
Their defence is based on the argument that the activists acted out of necessity, to prevent further death and serious injury. 300,000 people per year already lose their lives due to the effects of climate change and half a billion are at 'extreme risk'. This is why the protesters felt the action at one of the biggest polluters in the country was extremely necessary.
Experts such as James Hansen, the high profile scientist who is the head of NASA's Goddard Institute and Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party, will be giving evidence in court to support the 20 activists who remain on trial.
Plane Stupid backs these brave protesters who took action to put the people and the planet ahead of profits for dirty coal companies.
Rebecca Quinn, 32, who was one of those arrested in April but later had the charges dropped said:
"Climate change is hitting those least responsible for it the hardest. Low-lying island nations are already seeing salt water encroach on their farm land, and in recent years we have seen an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Coal is the dirtiest method of electricity generation, and must be stopped. To avoid a climate crisis, we must put people before profit. In the face of government apathy and the failure of the Copenhagen conference, it is ordinary people taking direct action who are desperately trying to avoid a bleak future of flooding, drought, crop failure and water shortages."
Plane Stupid's bit of maths and common sense have shown the aviation lobbying group Flying Matters claims are nothing but greenwash. The group now has 2 choices - either to find the evidence to support their statements, or publish a full retraction with a public apology. If they fail to do so and the directors do not resign, they will be reported to the Serious Fraud Office and the Government's Climate Change Committee.
The greenwash on their website says:
The industry is committed to improving fuel efficiency of new planes by 50% by 2020.
The industry is committed to getting emission down to 2000 levels by 2050 despite a trebling of air passengers.
In an exchange of e-mails with Flying Matters, they could not provide a single piece of evidence for their claims - hardly surprising when these claims need to break the law of physics. Instead they tried to pass the buck to Sustainable Aviation who tried to pass the buck to the International Aviation Transport Association.
Flying Matters are the main industry lobbyists and they represent all the key aviation companies and organisations. Ludicrous false claims like 'this is no joke' are used as justification for airport expansion and aviation friendly Government policy.
Their lies are a serious abuse of power and the SFO and Climate Change Committee will have an absolute duty to investigate fully and prosecute.