Nine hammer-wielding Extinction Rebellion activists who sang and chanted as they smashed 16 windows at HSBC’s Canary Wharf HQ – causing £500k worth of damage – are cleared by a jury
Nine hammer-wielding Extinction Rebellion eco-zealots have been cleared of £500,000 of criminal damage after smashing up ‘bomb proof’ widows at a bank HQ.
The nine female XR activists sang and chanted as they used hammers and chisels to shatter the custom-made windows at the HSBC building in Canary Wharf, London on April 22 2021.
They were wearing patches reading ‘better broken windows than broken promises’ and placed stickers on the windows of the bank reading ‘£80 billion into fossil fuels in the last five years.’
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 and they were cleared of the charge by a jury today.
Paul McCartney’s fashion designer daughter Stella McCartney CBE had lent the ‘HSBC nine’ shirts, blazers and suits to wear during their three week trial at Southwark Crown Court.
Extinction Rebellion activists smashed windows at HSBC’s Canary Wharf headquarters as they claimed the bank is financing climate change.
Extinction Rebellion women broke the windows of HSBC to condemn the bank’s apparent investment in fossil fuels
All nine activists involved were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage, but a jury today cleared them of criminal damage
The trial is thought to have cost the taxpayer another £500,000.
According to XR the jury made several requests during the trial, including for an explanation of the Paris Climate Agreement and information on what the British Government has done to address the climate crisis.
Sally Hobson, prosecuting, earlier said: ‘They accept that on 22nd April 2021, they went to the HSBC building armed with hammers and chisels and, they also accept that they used those tools to break the windows – they were responsible for the damage.
‘The value of the damage caused is in the region of £500,000 and additional security measures caused further expenditure so as to ensure damage was not caused again.
‘Although the defendants accept they caused the damage, they deny that their actions amount to criminal conduct.
‘The defendants are believed to be associated with the protest group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and their actions on this day were likely to be associated with the ‘Money Rebellion’ which had the purpose of targeting financial institutions.
‘Simply put, the damage was caused during a protest and the defendants say that they were lawfully justified in doing what they did.
‘We say that whatever the purpose behind them causing the damage there was no lawful excuse for doing so. It was, we say, unlawful conduct outside of a lawful protest.
Several woman stuck fliers reading ‘£80 billion into fossil fuels in the last five years’ to the windows, before hammering painted chisels through the glass
A sticker reading ‘£80 billion into fossil fuels in the last five years’ is stuck to a smashed window at HSBC’s headquarters
‘However well intended their ultimate goals were, they were not entitled to damage property that did not belong to them.
‘On 22nd April 2021, shortly before 7am, each of the defendants arrived at the headquarters of HSBC at Canada Square. Each brought with them a hammer and chisel.
‘On arrival the defendants spread out along the HSBC building. They then, acting together, used the hammers and chisels to shatter the large glass panes which cover the exterior of the building and the revolving entrance doors.
‘The defendants chanted and sang as they caused this damage. They then attached documentation, relating to their environmental protest, to the building before sitting down; many with their implements in front of them.
‘The windows were large bespoke windows; they were custom made bomb proof windows designed to withstand considerable force.
‘Police attended the scene and each defendant was arrested on suspicion of committing criminal damage before being taken to the police station
‘The defendants’ actions were captured on a number of different cameras: local CCTV, cameras worn by security and police officers and mobile phone devices.
‘Police eventually arrested all nine defendants, the arrest of each defendant was captured on police body-worn cameras.’
One activist smashed a painted chisel into the window of HSBC’s headquarters using a hammer reading ‘Sorry mum!’
The activists used chisels reading ‘We act with love’ and hammers painted with the word ‘Love’ during the protest
Activists from Extinction Rebellion sit together outside the HSBC headquarters in London
XR co-founder Farrell, of New Cross, southeast London, Agar, an artist, of Hereford, Brentnall, a journalist of Deptford, southeast London, Brown, a former London Mayoral candidate of Highgate, northwest London, Bujak, a former receptionist of Hull, Instone, a musician of Greater Manchester, Mallaghan, a retired school nurse, of Milton Keynes, Reid, a retired community care worker of Preston, and Smithson, a former fashion designer, of Hackney, east London, all denied causing criminal damage.
Following the verdict Farrell, an associate lecturer in sustainable fashion at Central Saint Martins, said: ‘This was a trial of unusual agreement, the facts of the day were not in any dispute, and the fact that we’re on course for civilisational breakdown and climate collapse seemed strangely not to be in dispute either. It’s tragically surreal to live in times when the justice system agrees we’re totally fucked but has nothing to say about the cause, the remedy, the victims or the perpetrators. We must continue, we will.’
Reid said: ‘I have said from the beginning that I did this to stop HSBC from killing children. Unicef estimated that over twenty thousand children are displaced each day, and that climate change is the key driver. That means that every day of our three week trial over twenty thousand children have had to pick up the things around them and leave, none of those children will be able to go home at the end of the day.
‘I have spent my life caring for the people around me and I refused to stand by while HSBC poured money into the very thing we know is causing unimaginable harm – the jury’s verdict today shows that ordinary people will not give their consent to the destructive violence of investing in fossil fuels in 2023.’
An activist from the Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, holds a hammer in front of a broken window
Nine women took part in the demonstration, wearing jackets with the words ‘better broken windows than broken promises’ in a reference to the Suffragette movement
In her closing speech to the jury, Farrell said: ‘The prosecutor explained yesterday how important it is that you bring your wisdom and experience into the courtroom. And then she told you to put aside your personal thoughts. She told you to disengage emotionally.
‘Maybe that’s what the Board of HSBC tell their staff to do too?
‘There are many people I have known over the years who work somewhere that is not living up to the ethics they would like to see in the world but they stay, to keep their salary and pay the rent or mortgage and continue to wish that the organisation will change.
‘We are trying to live honestly in a corrupted world. This is a trial of women who are not perfect, but we are all here because we are dedicated to peace and non violence, willing to make great sacrifices on behalf of others.
‘So when you heard our character references, from mayors, bankers, teachers and the former executive director of Greenpeace and Amnesty, you can see that we have loving goals, not selfish goals.
‘I believe that the staff, shareholders and customers of this corporation want the economy to continue, they’re not in business to intentionally destroy capitalism.
A placard hangs on a broken window as activists from the Extinction Rebellion hold a direct action protest outside HSBC headquarters in Canary Wharf
A security officer speaks with an activist from Extinction Rebellion during the protest in London
‘And I have to believe that they can’t know the extent to the deadliness of the projects they fund. As one of my co defendants said, to believe that all the people in that building support killing and displacing people, would mean an awful lot of people are sociopaths and that can’t be true.
‘Ultimately my guess is that the people who work for HSBC aren’t so different from me and from you. And I don’t think any of us would do something if we knew it would cause so much death and human suffering.’
Bujak said: ‘There is evidence, plenty of evidence, that ‘consent’ exists within the very systems and structures we are trying to change. Of course it does. Because everyone, including the shareholders of banks, need a liveable planet. When these are the stakes, of course I believed they would consent to a sum of damage that, when put into context, equates to less than a penny of an average person’s salary.
‘I believe in people doing the right thing. In a world in which buildings and corporations can’t feel pain, they can’t bleed or mourn. But people can. A world where it shouldn’t just be up to a handful of rich and powerful people to decide the future, it should be up to all of us.’
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