It’s not often that we would post a piece by a Labour mayor, but Jamie Driscoll, Labour’s North of the Tyne mayor, made this very good response to Boris Johnson’s and Priti Patel’s threat to criminalise Extinction Rebellion.
“Extinction Rebellion could be treated as an organised crime group as part of a major crackdown on its activities that may also include new protections for MPs, judges and the press, The Telegraph can disclose.”
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are calling for Extinction Rebellion to be classified as “serious organised crime”. Some Tories are demanding they be classed as a terrorist organisation..
Why? Because Extinction Rebellion blocked a road to stop some newspapers being delivered. Apparently, that threatens democracy. They are claiming that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is essential infrastructure.
Under the 2015 Serious Crime Act an organised crime group “has at its purpose, or one of its purposes, the carrying on of criminal activities, and consists of three or more people who agree to act together to further that purpose.”
Those found to have participated in the activities of an organised crime group can be imprisoned for up to five years.
There has been no violence. No one has been hurt. All Extinction Rebellion did was park some lorries on outside the gates of the print works, and build a bamboo scaffold and chain themselves to it. They stopped one day’s delivery of some newspapers. Specifically, Tory supporting newspapers owned by billionaire foreign nationals who do not pay tax in the UK.
Now, some people might find Extinction Rebellion annoying. Fair enough, I support your right to be peacefully annoyed at people. But that doesn’t make them terrorists. Or a threat to democracy. Murdoch’s News International already has legal recourse against Extinction Rebellion activists. Like anyone else who is inconvenienced or has experienced financial loss, they can sue. There is no need to change the law.
Serious organised crime is drug smuggling, forcing trafficked women into prostitution, and murdering people. Given the level of violent crime on our streets on a standard pre-Covid Saturday night, I’d say there is a long list of people to deal with before we label climate activists as Mafiosi.
Personally, I find right-wing journalists annoying. Those who pedal racism and hate and division and xenophobia and who denigrate the poor and the oppressed. I still wouldn’t claim that Murdoch’s News International is “serious organised crime”. Even after the phone hacking scandal, which was, after all, serious, organised and criminal.
Extinction Rebellion are a breath of fresh air. Let’s face it, they’re good at putting the climate crisis on the agenda. And speaking as someone with a degree in engineering, I was rather impressed with their bamboo scaffold. I’m all for STEM based ingenuity in our public discourse.
The truth is, we do not have a free press. We have a billionaire press, owned by five people who live in tax havens. We have freedom of speech, that’s different.
Mind you, Britain has just been placed on a press freedom watch list by the Council of Europe. An honour we share with such bastions of freedom as Putin’s Russia, and Erdogan’s Turkey. What triggered a Level 2 “media freedom alert” on Britain? Boris Johnson and Priti Patel’s government has blacklisted investigative journalists. So let’s fix that, before we target peaceful protesters. (See the article in the Independent.)
UN IPCC We also have freedom of protest. As long as it’s ineffective. That’s what’s at stake here. Because as soon as a protest hits the mega-rich in their pockets, it’s not allowed. Claims that delivering the Daily Telegraph is essential infrastructure equivalent to water or electricity supplies is laughable.
Claiming that democracy is under threat if people miss a day of the Daily Mail is pure Orwellian Newspeak.
What’s Extinction Rebellion’s beef with these papers? That they don’t tell the truth about the climate crisis. They don’t. It’s not in dispute. Don’t take my word for it. James Murdoch has publicly criticised News International for its deceit about climate breakdown. This is the same James Murdoch who famously sat alongside his father Rupert in front of a Parliamentary inquiry into the phone hacking scandal.
There’s a simple resolution here. The papers could just tell the truth. The UN IPCC has said that if even if we meet the obligations of the Paris Agreement, we’ll see around 3.2 degrees of global heating. That’s beyond the threshold for unstoppable feedback – it will destroy the world economy, food production, and leave large parts of the planet uninhabitable. Action has to happen.
The worrying thing is that if the Tories implement this law, it won’t just be XR who are targeted.
Remember all those keyworkers we clapped for? Carers, bus drivers, shop workers, teachers, junior doctors, nurses, senior doctors, fire-fighters, delivery drivers, council workers… you know, everyone who keeps the country running? Well such a law could easily be used to criminalise any industrial action. Do we want to live in a country where anyone who threatens the interests of billionaires will face five years in prison?
Stand with Extinction Rebellion, because you might be next.
EXTINCTION REBELLION BLOCKADES MURDOCH PRESS