Diary: Crime & punishment

IssueApril - May 2016
Comment by Ali Tamlit

It was quite easy to decide to do the action. We knew that the Davis commission was due to make an announcement that would recommend a new runway somewhere in the South East, we just didn't know whether it would be Heathrow or Gatwick. The Davis commission was flawed from the beginning, asking where we need airport expansion, not if we need it – and clearly we don't need it.

Airport expansion is being driven by 15 percent of the population taking 70 percent of flights; this isn't necessary, it's just the pleasure flying of a privileged few. We know that there can be no airport expansion in the face of climate chaos and without a new runway aviation is already the fastest growing source of CO2. So, deciding to take action on this issue and in this way wasn't difficult. Given the huge U-turn on Cameron's 'no if's, no buts' promise, we knew high-profile, disruptive action was necessary. What's more, this is pretty much the action that Plane Stupid was set up to take.

Taking the action, on the other hand, was a bit more nerve-racking. The process of getting to the perimeter fence from our safe house was the tensest period of time I can remember for a long time. Every police car that we passed, of which there were a few, I was constantly thinking: 'Oh shit, we're going to get rumbled!' Obviously we were prepared to get arrested, but to be stopped from actually doing the action, that would have been the worst.

Thankfully, we got there, adrenaline took us onto the runway, and from there on in it was the best seven hours of my life. All the photos in the media of the action are of big smiling faces and those are totally genuine because we felt so good for being there.

Trial was a weird experience. I had never been in a court before that, and it felt a bit like theatre, with people playing different roles (like a judge or a defendant) and all these silly little rituals (like standing up and sitting down). For some of us this was a chance to tell our story and justify the action. For me, it was all a bit funny and an interesting insight to how the legal system works.

Being threatened with prison was a real shock. We knew it was possible but thought it highly unlikely. I think we all went through a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts about it. The great thing about being threatened with prison is that it caused such outrage and garnered a lot of support for us and the campaign.

This meant we were weighing up in our mind the benefits of 'if we go to prison it might make things even bigger' vs 'I don't want to go to prison'. Another great thing about this was that it made us engage with the realities of prison. We got support from people like the Anarchist Black Cross and the Empty Cages collective, who have loads of experience with these issues and it made us aware about how messed up the prison system is and also how privileged we were in all the support we received.

Really, we should be getting ready for people going to prison, because if we are actually going to stop climate change (ie stop capitalism, imperialism, racism, patriarchy, because they're all interlinked), then that means challenging power and breaking the law – a lot. So, in a way, this was a good warm up.

All the support we got from so many different people helped us all get through this. From our friends and families who came day after day to court, to the several hundred people who came to our sentencing, and all the messages and Facebook posts. It's been amazing.

Especially great are the links we've built with other struggles such as in La Zad in France, or the Northern Forest Defence in Istanbul. Knowing that we're not alone, but are fighting different but connected struggles helped a lot, and will help me keep doing this in the future.


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