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Luvvies support XR women who caused £500,000 damage at bank – and were cleared

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FIGURES from the arts, the climate change lobby and others have signed an open letter in support of nine women, all members of Extinction Rebellion (XR), who were cleared last week of causing £500,000 worth of criminal damage by breaking windows at HSBC’s HQ in Canary Wharf, a verdict likely to give the green light to further damage and bullying. Regardless of the punitive repair costs inflicted on the bank, the signatories are calling for it to be held accountable for its fossil fuel investments.

They include Chris Packham, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Juliet Stevenson, Sir Mark Rylance, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Nish Kumar, Stewart Lee, Frankie Boyle, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno. The full list appears at the end of this article.

Southwark Crown Court heard that the women sang as they shattered windows with hammers and chisels at about 7am on April 22, 2021.

They placed stickers on the windows reading ‘£80bn into fossil fuels in the last five years’ – the amount they say HSBC has invested in the area in the five years after the Paris Climate Agreement was signed. 

Jessica Agar, 23, Blyth Brentnall, 32, Valerie Brown, 71, Eleanor Bujak, 30, Clare Farrell, 40, Miriam Instone, 25, Tracey Mallaghan, 47, Susan Reid, 65, and Samantha Smithson, 41, all denied criminal damage. None denied their part in the action and their case was based on the defence of ‘lawful excuse’. The Criminal Damage Act allows such a defence if a defendant believed that they had the consent of others to damage the property in question.

During the trial, the women wore shirts, blazers and suits given to them by fashion designer Stella McCartney.

The letter distributed by XR reads in part:‘While we applaud the jury for recognising these women’s solid defence for taking such action and following their conscience, a collective act of madness is going unchecked both in the UK and across the globe. Those standing up in defence of life on Earth are being criminalised by the UK legal system, while our own government willingly continues to facilitate the destruction of our only home. 

‘The world stands ablaze in front of us and still global powers choose to risk the death and displacement of billions in pursuit of uncurbed fossil fuel expansion. Yet, the world is in the ultimate crisis of accountability. As the case of these women shows, it is not illegal for banks such as HSBC to profit from destroying life on Earth. With billions invested in fossil fuels in the five years since the Paris Climate Agreement, we can’t help but wonder how many deaths these billions will have caused already? Why do such heinous crimes continue to go unpunished?’

The letter concludes: ‘Women throughout history have always gathered to resist in the name of life and love. Now, as money and power steer us on a path towards total climate and ecological collapse, protests like this are a rational response to the greatest crime humanity has ever faced. These women believed, as we do, that they are duty bound to resist a violent system that is risking the survival of everything we know and love.

‘It is now incumbent upon all good people of conscience to rise up as these women have, to pull together and find our collective power. We must all take the most effective action we can, find our courage and work in firm opposition to the dereliction of our only home. 

‘We support all courageous and loving people who stand and fight for justice and the continuation of life on Earth. We will do everything we can to support them, and to play our part in building a new world where life is sacred.’

(In passing, we look forward to the ‘life is sacred’ line being promoted by the signatories in future debates about abortion.)

These are the signatories as they appear on the letter:

Dr Rowan Williams (former Archbishop of Canterbury)
Emma Thompson (actor and screenwriter)
Es Devlin (artist/stage designer)
Ben Okri (author)
Juliet Stevenson (actor)
Helen Pankhurst (women’s rights activist and great-granddaughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst)
Sir David King (Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government from 2000-2007 and head of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group)
Professor James Hansen (Directing Professor of the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions of the Earth Institute at Columbia University)
Andrea Arnold (Academy award-winning filmmaker)
Brian Eno (musician/composer/producer)
Stephen Fry (actor/author)
Adam McKay (Academy award-winning film director)
Thom Yorke (musician, Radiohead)
Ed O’Brien (musician, Radiohead)
Bella Freud (fashion designer)
Alan Moore (author)
Mira Awad (musician/actor)
Kumi Naidoo (Payne distinguished lecturer at Stanford University / Former CEO of Greenpeace International and Secretary General of Amnesty International)
Ash Sarkar (journalist)
Kate Raworth (economist)
Chris Packham (wildlife TV presenter and conservationist)
Peter Gabriel (musician)
Farhana Yamin (Director, Climate Reframe & Honorary Fellow, Somerville College, Oxford)
Caroline Lucas (MP)
Baroness Rosie Boycott
Clare Patey
 (artist/curator)
Julie Hesmondhalgh (actor)
Frankie Boyle (comedian)
Rosie Holt (comedian)
Sir Mark Rylance (actor)
Ann Pettifor (economist)
Simon McBurney (actor and playwright)
Love Ssega (musician)
Ian Rickson tTheatre director)
Nish Kumar (comedian)
Gavin Turk (artist)
Jay Griffiths (author)
Monique Roffey (author)
Yanis Varoufakis (economist and politician)
Yancey Strickler (entrepreneur/former CEO of Kickstarter)
Melinda Janki (international lawyer/winner of Commonwealth Lawyers Association Rule of Law Award 2023)
Jeremy Till (architect)
Robert Del Naja (musician, Massive Attack)
Kim Stanley Robinson (author)
Stewart Lee (writer/clown)
Frank Cottrell-Boyce (screenwriter/author)
Wolfgang Knorr (climate scientist/author)
Weyman Bennett (joint secretary, Stand Up to Racism)
Paul Epworth (music producer)
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman
Nika Dubrovsky
 (artist)
Marcus Lyon (artist/photographer)
Dr John Fass (designer)
Paul Ewen (author)
Martin Wroe (writer)
Olafur Eliasson (artist)
Josh Appignanesi (film director)
Matt Black (DJ/founder of Ninja Tunes Records)
John Higgs (author)
Jamie Kelsey Fry (New Internationalist/Global Assembly)
Michael Pawlyn (architect and systems thinker)
Robert Fripp (musician/producer)
Deborah Curtis (writer and educator)
Aaron Bastani (journalist)
Anthony Barnett (writer/co-founder openDemocracy)
Bart Cammaerts (Professor of Politics and Communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science)
Yanai Postelnik (senior Buddhist teacher and lay minister)
Raoul Martinez (author)
Jason Hickel (anthropologist)
Professor Steve Keen (economist/author)
Ed Gillespie (writer)
Rachel Donald (corruption journalist, Planet Critical)
Ian Bruce (artist/musician)
Mark Borkowsi (author/PR agent)
April de Angelis (author)
Toby Litt (writer)
Sean Burke (comedian)
Darius Caplinskas (architect)
Cathy Runciman (co-founder, Atlas of the Future/curator)
Ben Graham (writer) 
Jonathan Harris (High Priest of the Church of Burn)
Joanne Mallon (author/podcaster/coach)
Moksha Poetess (artist/producer)
Nick Hollins (podcaster)
David Lan (writer/producer)
Tracey Seaward (producer)
HAM (artist/illustrator)
Melinda Gebbie (artist)
Anwen Fryer Burrows (Festival 23 co-founder and Sheffield Community business owner)
Richard Norris (Journey to Nutopia)
Michelle Olley (Journey to Nutopia)
Cori Crider (journalist)
Clara Maguire (exec director of The Citizens)
Tim Jackson (economist)
Dr Leon Sealey-Huggins (academic)
Marc Silver (filmmaker)
Professor Graham Smith (academic on democratic design)
Natasha Walter (author)
James Schneider (writer)
David Spratt (research director of Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration)
Graham Smith (Professor of Politics at the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in the School of Social Sciences)
Professor Atul K Shah (economist/lecturer)
Dr James Dyke (Associate Professor in Earth System Science at University of Essex)
Claire Mellier (Global Assembly)
Liz Jensen (author)
Jon Alexander (author)
Inga Hamilton (sculptor)
Jen Brister (comedian)
Liz Slade (chief officer, UK Unitarians)
Francesca Martinez (comedian)
Nick Anim (Transition Town)
Matthew Jones (designer)
Paul Northup (creative director of the Greenbelt Arts Festival)
Sharon Eckman (author)
Charlie Waterhouse (The Brixton Project)
Jessica Townsend (writer)
James Miller (writer)
Lloyd Davis (social artist)
Roc Sandford (Ocean Rebellion)
Phoebe Tickell (Moral Imaginations)
Morgan Trowland (architect/climate activist currently in prison for peaceful protest)
Marcus Dekker (musician/climate activist currently in prison for peaceful protest)
James Brown (GB Paralympic Gold Medallist)
Jo Rendle (artist/organiser)
Tamsen Kidd (regenerative farmer)
Immo Klink (artist & filmmaker)

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Edited by Kathy Gyngell

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