On April 15th, the first day of Extinction Rebellion protests in London, an associated action took place at the Shell Headquarters on the South Bank near the London Eye.
Three activists glued their hands on to the entrance doors of the lobby, while two others climbed onto the glass canopy high up over the entrance. One more sprayed slogans on the wall to the right of the doors. The protesters planned to commit criminal damage worth more than £6000, which although small change for the oil giant, will ensure that they’d be prosecuted in a crown court in front of a jury. Using a punch tool, they also managed to shatter or damage several of the glass doors. The pair on the canopy hung a ‘Stop Ecocide’ banner, sprayed slogans, and dripped thick oily black paint down the walls.
In court, the campaigners hope to present evidence of Shell’s wilful ecological destruction, citing internal documents that show the corporation’s own climate scientist were issuing warnings nearly 40 years ago, which the company has done its best to hide and ignore. They will defend their actions as ‘crimes of conscience’.
We recently interviewed international lawyer Polly Higgins, who is helping island states to amend international law and bring in a new crime of ‘ecocide’. She also spoke of how activists can use a ‘crime of conscience’ defence. Five people were arrested at the scene, but the other two remained on the glass canopy overnight and came down after 25 hours. As they descended, another highly respected international lawyer, Farhana Yamin (one of the chief negotiators of the Paris Agreement) glued herself to the floor by the front doors, and two other protesters joined her.