XR activists win 11 acquittals

IssueJune - July 2021
News by David Polden

In April and May, 11 Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters were acquitted in three separate trials for two different climate actions.

Six XR rebels were acquitted by a jury at Southwark crown court on 23 April. They’d been charged with over £25,000-worth of criminal damage to the Shell building in Central London, and the judge had instructed the jury that five of the defendants had no defence in law.

During XR’s April Rebellion in 2019, the activists had poured fake oil, glued themselves to windows and doors, broken glass, climbed onto a roof and sprayed graffiti on the oil company headquarters.

A seventh defendant who’d pleaded guilty was later given a conditional discharge on the grounds of fairness.


The other acquittals relate to the 6 September 2019 XR blockade of three printworks – at Knowsley in Merseyside, in Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, and near Motherwell in Lanarkshire.

The 81 rebels involved were protesting that the papers printed there, including the Sun and Daily Telegraph, failed to report on climate change.

The first case was heard on 29 April. Three people who had sat on a van outside the Knowsley plant were acquitted of aggravated trespass by Liverpool magistrates. The prosecution had failed to prove they were on private land when arrested.

On 5 May, two more activists arrested at Knowsley were found not guilty of trespass by a jury. They’d been among dozens who parked a yellow boat and van outside the works there.

The third trial, of six Knowsley blockaders, was about to start on 10 May when one of the defendants, Liam Norton, put on a pink mask, started shouting about injustice and began filming with his smartphone.

Norton also glued one of his hands to his desk. He was later charged with criminal damage to the desk.

The trial has been adjourned.

  • In other news, XR co-founder Gail Bradbrook was arrested at her home in Stroud at 5.30am on 11 May on two charges related to XR’s ‘Money Rebellion’. The first charge was conspiracy to cause criminal damage, following a suffragette-inspired window-breaking at her local Barclays branch (see p7 for a London action in this series). Bradbrook was also charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. This relates to XR’s ‘Repair Harm’ debt strike campaign, which involves incurring credit card debt with fossil fuel-funding banks such as Barclays.