London: Christian campaigners arrested in climate change protests

  • (Updated )

Prayers on Blackfriars Bridge

Prayers on Blackfriars Bridge

Thousands of protesters held a mass day of action on London's bridges over the weekend urging the government to act on climate change.

Among them were several members of different denominations from Christian Climate Action: Anglican Ruth Jarman, 55, from Hampshire, Catholic Phil Kingston, 82, Catholic priest Fr Martin Newell, 51, Richard Barnard, 45 and Nick Cooper, 36. At Blackfriars Bridge they formed a human blockade across the road using chains and circular tubing.

On Saturday the group prayed as police sawed their tubing and removed them from the road. While this was happening, other protesters gathered around the group singing hymns. The group were arrested.

Phil Kingston, 82-year-old retired Bristol University lecturer explained his motivation for being in the blockade "I love my grandchildren" he said "They mean the world to me and the thought of leaving them a broken world breaks my heart. I have to do my bit before it's too late. Us more elderly folk have a lot less to lose than younger people by getting arrested."

Fr Martin Newell, a Catholic priest from Birmingham said his faith compels him to take action "I follow a Christ who cares passionately about the poor, and it is the poorest people of the world who are suffering the effects of climate change. I am called to love my neighbour and today that means pushing the government to take action on climate change. All other avenues of achieving this have failed and so I'm getting involved in non-violent direct action, just as Jesus did when he turned over the tables in the temple."

All the group took part in actions earlier in the week. Ruth Jarman, was arrested on Thursday for pouring red paint in front of the Brazilian Embassy. She was released on unconditional bail, with her trial scheduled for 2 January 2019. After being released she said: "They say it was criminal damage but I have lawful excuse, because they are causing criminal damage to what us at Christian Climate Action call Gods creation. They are destroying it and we have to stand up against that. So we were improving the building because we were making it tell the truth - that this government is taking part in the extinction of God's creation and possibly humanity as well. That's why we did it and I pleaded not guilty because I am not guilty."

Sunday was the sixth day of a fortnight of actions planned in the capital by environmental groups joining together for the 'Extinction Rebellion'.

They are making the following key demands of the government concerning climate change:

· That the UK declares a state of emergency around climate change;
· That the government takes action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025;
· That we create a national assembly of ordinary people to decide what our zero carbon future will look like.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has pledged his support to the Extinction Rebellion protest by signing a joint letter with 93 academics. See the full letter here:

An excerpt reads:

"When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The 'social contract' has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government's inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself."

Tags: Climate Change, Environment, Fr Martin Newell, Ruth Jarman, Phil Kingston

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