Rowan Williams, Emma Thompson, Ben Okri, Brian Eno, Es Devlin, Sir David King, Prof. James Hansen sign open letter in support of HSBC 9
November 24, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
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Public figures from across the arts, climate science, the economy, faith and more have signed an open letter in support of 9 women who were acquitted last week for breaking windows at HSBC’s HQ in Canary Wharf in 2021. The signatories are calling for the bank to be held accountable for their enormous fossil fuel investments: over £80 billion pounds in the 5 years after the Paris Climate Agreement was signed.
The signatories include actors Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Juliet Stevenson, Simon McBurney and Sir Mark Rylance; former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams; granddaughter of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Helen Pankhurst; former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, Sir David King; Academy award winning film directors, Adam MaKay and Andrea Arnold; comedians, Nish Kumar, Stewart Lee, Frankie Boyle and Rosie Holt; climate scientists, Professor James Hansen and Wolfgang Knorr; artist Jeremy Deller; authors Ben Okri, Kim Stanley Robinson and Monique Roffey; musicians and artists Thom Yorke, Es Devlin, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and Love Ssega; Fashion designer Bella Freud; co-founder of Kickstarter Yancey Strickler; economists Yanis Varoufakis, Kate Raworth and Ann Pettifor; and former CEO of Greenpeace International and Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo.
The letter reads: “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 three week trial concluded last Thursday when a jury of twelve concluded that the nine defendants were found unanimously not guilty after only two hours of deliberation. The legal defences of ‘necessity’, ‘protection of property’ and ‘belief in consent’ were all initially allowed by Judge Bartle, remaining in play until after the defence case had concluded and the women had given their evidence. The judge later ruled out all but ‘belief in consent’.
During the course of the trial, the women wore clothes given to them by celebrated British fashion designer Stella McCartney CBE, who designed the clothing for Team GB in the London 2012 Olympics, lending them shirts, blazers and suits to wear during the trial.
The letter references climate protestors, Morgan Trowland and Marcus Dekker, currently serving the highest sentences seen in this country for nonviolent protest in modern times. On Tuesday this week, a letter was made public from the United Nations to the UK Government criticising the ‘severe’ sentences and warned that the new Public Order Act which came into force in July was inconsistent with international human rights law and is therefore undermining the civil society response to the climate crisis we desperately need, calling it a “direct attack on the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly”.
In a tweet responding to the UN letter, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, undermined the intervention letter by claiming that the government is on the side of working people: “It’s entirely right that selfish protestors intent on causing misery to the hard-working majority face tough sentences. It’s what the public expects and it’s what we’ve delivered.” However, evidence shows that these extreme policy shifts are not being driven by ordinary people, but by shadowy lobbying groups such as Policy Exchange, and that when climate protestors are faced with the general public at jury trials such as the HSBC 9 trial, they are frequently being found not guilty.
One of the defendants, Eleanor (Gully) Bujak, 30, said in her closing arguments: “HSBC makes choices every day and they have the power to change those at any time, but first they need to know what’s happening. And so do we. Only then can we find the courage to do something about it.
“You have heard that governments are doing nothing about this crisis and nothing to hold the banks accountable, and I told you in my evidence that we as ordinary citizens cannot afford to simply leave these businesses and institutions to their own devices – we must intervene, urgently, however we feel we can.
“Because the truth is, it is not just this tiny handful of people who have any power to change things! They are not the only ones who can shape this world, or determine our future. There are moments in all our lives, when we find ourselves somewhere unexpected, when we have the opportunity to choose to do something extraordinary. And extraordinary things happen in court rooms.”
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.”
Please donate to the HSBC 9 legal fund: https://chuffed.org/project/104692-hsbc-9-fund-for-justice
Read the full letter at: https://hardart.metalabel.com
Full letter and list of signatories:
Open letter to all people of conscience in response to acquittal of HSBC 9
On Thursday 16th November, 9 women, from graduates to grandmothers, were found not guilty at London’s Southwark Crown Court. Their charge? Taking nonviolent direct action with Extinction Rebellion at the headquarters of one of the worlds’ biggest investors in fossil fuels, HSBC. These women cracked windows at the global bank’s London headquarters in Canary Wharf, a protest inspired by the courage of those now national heroes, the Suffragettes. They risked their freedom to try and prevent the bank’s own crimes against humanity, £80 billion in fossil fuel investments in the 5 years since the Paris Climate Agreement.
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. Global temperatures this September have left scientists the world over shocked to the core. The extraordinary summer heat will make 2023 the hottest year on record, not by a fraction, but by an ‘unprecedented’ margin, with the month of September 1.8C warmer than pre-industrial levels. This huge jump in global temperature shows that the climate crisis will not be steady nor granular, but increasingly erratic and unpredictable year on year.
It is heartbreaking to see the impact of inaction as the crisis unravels everywhere. Record floods have left the Greek breadbasket wrecked for years to come; Winters in South America are disappearing as heat waves cook the oceans and the monsoon season reaches a critical tipping point, which could result in up to 30% less rainfall and have a frightening impact on food production; Canadian wildfires which ravaged the Northern Territories this summer, are calming only now; New York City experienced a state of emergency from flooding during the same week that floods in Libya left an estimated 20,000 dead, parents tragically searching the beaches there for the bodies of their children. People the world over are sharing in a collective grief as nowhere is left untouched.
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?
Meanwhile, rather than listening to reason or scientific fact, the UK government continues to hand out contracts for oil exploration in the name of false ‘energy security’ while steering the UK towards authoritarianism. In Britain today, it is verging on illegal to urgently and effectively protest for the right of life to survive. Citizens are now regularly arrested for walking down the road holding a sign. Last year nearly 200 climate activists, who are committed to nonviolence, were remanded with custodial time in UK prisons. As you read this, Morgan Trowland and Marcus Dekker are serving the highest sentences seen in this country for nonviolent protest in modern times, despite a letter sent by the United Nations to the UK Government earlier this year, which criticised the ‘severe’ sentences and warned that the new Public Order Act which came into force in July was inconsistent with international human rights law.
Rounding up people of conscience instead of charging the real criminals is the response of a political and legal system in steep decline, unable to cope or envision a way out of this urgent crisis. Juries, appointed to protect us from tyranny, sit trapped between the philosophical and moral implications of the climate crisis, preventable mass death, and the restrictions of the legal system. Defendants are being refused the opportunity to use necessity to act as a legal defence, with judges ruling out mention of climate change at all in recent trials, holding people in contempt when they do. This is a frightening precedent that all who believe in freedom and human rights should condemn. Thankfully, juror after juror is seeing through this madness and finding protestors not guilty after they have waited years for their cases to go to trial.
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.
The Pope only a few weeks ago, defended protestors portrayed as ‘radicalised’ by saying, “in reality, they are filling a space left empty by society as a whole, which ought to exercise a healthy ‘pressure’, since every family ought to realise that the future of their children is at stake.” Until we, the people of Britain, recognise these women and their counterparts as acting in service to life itself, not as villains in a culture war created by the corrupt political class, any hope of tackling the existential climate and ecological crisis in a way that is fair and just will be fraught. Until we hold to account the real criminals, those political and business leaders who continue to turn the cogs of the fossil fuel economy and divide people for their own ends, humanity will not advance towards a future of genuine hope, prosperity and justice.
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.
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 Advisor 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)
Jeremy Deller (Artist)
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 (Theatre 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 Burk (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)
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 Medalist)
Jo Rendle (Artist/organiser)
Tamsen Kidd (Regenerative Farmer)
Immo Klink (Artist & Filmmaker)
About Extinction Rebellion
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a decentralised, international and politically non-partisan movement using non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
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Time has almost entirely run out to address the climate and ecological crisis which is upon us, including the sixth mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, leading to societal collapse and mass loss of life. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.