First Extinction Rebellion trial in Scotland today in Sheriff Court, Edinburgh
September 17, 2019
- Two members of Extinction Rebellion Scotland were at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today for their peaceful participation in the International Rebellion in April, the largest act of civil disobedience in recent British history.
Dr Anna Fisk, 35, was sentenced to a £300 fine for Breach of the Peace, but Bobbie Winter-Burke, 31, was released without charge.
The sheriff acknowledged that both women took “provocative if non-violent action” out of “deeply held beliefs”, but that they caused “significant disruption and indeed anger”.
The sheriff referenced “flagrant conduct” and blocking a “main arterial route” when he sentenced Dr Fisk to a £300 financial penalty. However in the case of Ms Winter-Burke, he said there was “room to distinguish” and that he would give her the “benefit of the doubt” as the evidence showed she was “not as consistent” in her efforts to block the road and that her actions “fall short” of the breach of the peace charge.
The two women are the first to be tried in Scotland for participating in an Extinction Rebellion protest. Their arrests occurred as part of Extinction Rebellion’s ongoing campaign of civil disobedience to demand urgent government action to tackle climate and ecological breakdown.
Dr Anna Fisk is a lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Glasgow, and Bobbie Winter-Burke is an art librarian at Glasgow School of Art. Both were arrested for Breach of the Peace while taking part in the ‘Climate Emergency Roadblock’ at Edinburgh’s North Bridge on Tuesday 16th April 2019. The roadblock aimed to peacefully disrupt business as usual and push the climate and ecological crisis to the top of the political agenda.
Their action was part of the International Rebellion, which saw hundreds of creative, high profile events by Extinction Rebellion groups around the world from New York to Accra and from Berlin to Tokyo in order to highlight the threat posed by the accelerating crisis. In London, thousands of Extinction Rebellion protesters peacefully occupied major sites across the city for ten days, which resulted in over 1,130 arrests.
Extinction Rebellion Scotland began their International Rebellion in Edinburgh on April 15th and 16th, before a group of 70 travelled down to London and peacefully held three road junctions around Parliament Square for 5 days against repeated attempts by several hundred police to forcibly remove them.
The Edinburgh action on Tuesday 16th April lasted from 3pm to 8.30pm as over 700 people blocked North Bridge, Edinburgh at both ends. There was a carnival atmosphere with huge puppets, dancing, music and speakers.
Smaller groups of activists caused further traffic disruption by blocking junctions using a technique called ‘swarming’, which consists of entering the road with banners and blocking it for a short period of time. Bobbie Winter-Burke and Anna Fisk were arrested at this point.
The police reaction then escalated and the protest was asked to clear the bridge. A large group of protestors at the north end of the bridge sat down on the road. Over the next two hours, the police carried away these activists one by one and put them in an out-of-service Lothian Bus to be taken to the police station, with 29 people arrested in total. Meanwhile, a large crowd continued to dance, demonstrate and chant in support. The week following the fortnight of International Rebellion, both the Scottish Government and Westminster Parliament declared a Climate Emergency. Independent research has also shown that public awareness of the climate and ecological crisis has risen dramatically since the wave of protests, with two thirds of the British public now agreeing that we are in a climate emergency.
Recently, a senior Scotland Yard police officer admitted at a group trial of Extinction Rebellion activists in London on 21 August that the mass protests in April had made a rational case for urgent action to prevent climate and ecological breakdown. He added that the Extinction Rebellion protests had provoked “soul searching” among many people.
The remaining 27 Extinction Rebellion Scotland activists (ranging from age 18 to 66) charged with public order offences will be tried at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on dates throughout September and October.
About Extinction Rebellion Scotland
Extinction Rebellion Scotland is a non-violent direct-action movement formed to take urgent action in the face of climate emergency and ecological catastrophe, as part of the global justice movement.
Our demands, issued as a Declaration of Rebellion to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government on 24 November 2018, are as follows:
- That the Scottish government tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, acknowledge and reverse any policies that help drive the climate crisis, and commit to enabling a rapid and just transition to a sustainable and fair society.
- That the Scottish government enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, including by replacing a system based on accelerating consumption with one based on ensuring the well-being of all.
- The creation of a Scottish Climate Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose and a society that cares for all.
Read more about Extinction Rebellion: https://rebellion.earth