A Writers Rebel Campaign
On Trial for Causing Criminal Damage to the Home of Dark Money
Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell, Professor Rupert Read and I are in the heart of London to perform an act of civil disobedience. Later, we expect to be arrested. I don’t know about the others, but I’m nervous. I’ve thought long and hard about doing this. It’s 5 September 2020, and I’ve recently become a grandmother. Why aren’t I at my daughter’s, helping with the baby?
In the end, the answer is this: here, I’ll be doing something – however small and symbolic – to help them both, and to safeguard not just their future, but those of billions of other precious humans who did not ask for the world to be like this.
Our target is the imposing Georgian townhouse at 55 Tufton Street – the beating heart of London’s Dark Money. This is the home of some of the shadowy bodies profiting from the world hurtling towards an impossibly heated, species-depleted future: the climate denialist think-tanks. Chief among these is the nefarious Global Warning Policy Foundation, founded by the Tory climate denialist extraordinaire and one-time Chancellor, Nigel Lawson.
We’re here to speak truth to power.
It’s been an exhilarating, powerful evening, and Writers Rebel is just finishing one of the most hard-hitting actions of its one-year history: a pop-up festival of protest readings calling out the climate deniers and their enablers. On a stage of wooden crates, novelist James Miller is thanking George Monbiot and a dozen other writers including Zadie Smith. Earlier, Zadie Smith had told the crowd: ‘The deniers don’t yet feel shame at their actions. Like the tobacco lobbyists, it will be their grandchildren who do that.’ The police have been here all along, some watching the performances with open boredom, others with what might have been engagement.
I am a bag of nerves not just because this is my first non-violent direct action but also because the rebel who was supplying us with the equipment to perform the NVDA was the first to be arrested that day and I am not sure if contingency plans to get alternatives will hold. But twenty minutes before the event ends, someone guides me towards a big suitcase that hold the equipment we need.
As the audience applauds, Clare, Rupert and I head for the building’s imposing stone pillars, our spray cans of non-toxic paint hidden in our sleeves. My heart beats are erratic as I go first applying my stencil to spray Lies Lies Lies on the pillar. I’m quickly followed by Clare Farrell. Another rebel (whom I can’t identify, as she evaded arrest) is busy spraying the third pillar, while Rupert Read pours glossy fake blood over the steps between Metropolitan Police boots.
I get nicked first, as my pillar is closest, with an officer grabbing my arm to prevent me spraying, getting between me and the can for his trouble. He’s clearly very annoyed to be sprayed. XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook later joked to me that my parting shot left a mark like a stubby penis on the pillar. The others are more successful, and as we’re led away, images of 55 Tufton Street stamped many times with the word LIES are already spreading rapidly across cyberspace. We’ve done what we came to do. We’ve branded this building and our message is reaching out through the world.
As a decisive female police officer marches me from the scene, James Miller is running alongside shouting ‘We love you!’ This softens the suddenly jagged edges of the moment. Soon after, Rupert Read and I find ourselves sitting in a police van and begin the long wait before we are transported to a police station.
Now, awaiting trial on 28th October as the Tufton 3, Clare, Rupert and I want to use our court case to put the Global Warming Policy Foundation and groups like it firmly in the spotlight – just as the Shell Seven did in their landmark court case in June. We believe that in the months leading up to November’s climate summit, the GWPF has been injected with new funds to step up its insidious propaganda work – and alter its tactics.
In the past, it has used its influence to propagate the kind of falsehood on which the internet thrives: that global warming is no threat to polar bears, or that trees actually flourish on increased carbon emissions so there’s no harm done. But the think tank’s new approach is to gaslight the world into thinking that adapting to a Zero Carbon world will entail a populist, Trump-style backlash and be unaffordable to the poor. It is blackly, grotesquely hilarious that big oil’s big ally, the GWPF, is posturing as a friend of the underprivileged. But sadly these tactics are having increasing success at feeding stories to the right wing press including the Telegraph, the Spectator and most recently the Sun.
With groups like the GWPF wielding such dangerous power over the media, never has XR’s first demand to Tell The Truth been more important. At Writers Rebel we believe it’s incumbent on us to tell that truth in fresh and compelling ways. For storytellers, this has always been a challenge. The climate and ecological threat we face is so grave that it’s easier for those who can’t bear that truth to label us as fantasists and doomers, than pay heed to the science – and we realise with passion that although the recklessness of our species means we will face a horrible series of reckonings down the line, yet still it’s not too late to salvage some of what is vulnerable.
And if writers can’t serve the truth, at this most crucial of times, who will?
HOW TO HELP
- Get the word out: We will be mobilising many of the well-loved names who appeared at our Tufton Street event. And more have already offered to pitch in. But we need more writers, readers and rebels, and more social media support. So please use your own channel to support us, however small your following. You can share Jessica’s video, recorded outside court.
- Subscribe to the Writers Rebel newsletter to keep updated about this and other campaigns.
- Save the date: We are organising an event-filled day on the 28th October near the City Magistrates Court, with finalised details to be released nearer the time. So please, save the date, and come and support us, or catch up with us online here at WritersRebel.com