April Arrestee Stories: Elinor Milne, Oxford Circus

Following her arrest at Oxford Circus, Elinor Milne became one of only a small number of people ever to receive an absolute discharge. After learning that Elinor and her partner were hoping to adopt, Judge Snow, sitting at City of London Magistrates Court, decided not to impose a punishment out of concern for “an infant in need of a loving home”.

I was arrested at Oxford Circus during the April Rebellion, for sitting in the road. I did not take this action lightly. I am not someone who likes to inconvenience others, and I have never before risked arrest. I felt driven to act by government inaction on the climate crisis which already means devastation for millions of people, most of them in the Global South, and the still greater devastation humanity faces in the future if our societies continue on the path we are on. 

I would like to highlight that my privilege as a white, middle-class woman allowed me to put myself at risk of arrest with an expectation of relative safety, and that many others in our society cannot have this expectation.

At my court hearing, I mentioned in passing my and my partner’s hope to adopt a child. Despite my guilty plea, the judge decided not to impose punishment, out of concern for “a child in need of a loving home”. I feel lucky to have received this extremely rare result, the only one of its kind for an XR arrestee. 

One year on, I look back from quarantine on a life that is so different that it seems like another era. The coronavirus has struck, bringing death, disease, poverty and distress. The society I am part of has changed drastically in a matter of weeks. For many of us in the UK, this is the first time we have directly experienced such a crisis. And yet the world was already stricken. So many people around the world have lived for a long time in the grip of the interconnected crises of climate, inequality, and war. And so many have already died as a result. 

Amidst coronavirus and our strange new reality, I find glimmers of hope. These times have shown us that sudden dramatic societal change can happen, that what was thought to be impossible can quickly become reality. Times of crisis carry potential for great change – both good and bad. At this time in history, with urgent and drastic action needed to avert climate catastrophe, the potential is magnified. We can emerge with a safer, more just, more equal world, or with one that is headed towards the very worst climate devastation. In this moment, it is for us to work to bring about the urgent climate action we so desperately need. 

As Rebecca Solnit says, “One of our main tasks now – especially those of us who are not sick, are not frontline workers, and are not dealing with other economic or housing difficulties – is to understand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make possible.”

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