09:40, June 25 68 0 theguardian.com

2019-06-25 09:40:10
Extinction Rebellion protester convicted of public order offence

The first person to face trial over the Extinction Rebellion protests in April has been found guilty of a minor public order offence for blocking a road in central London.

Angie Zelter, 68, was given a conditional discharge at Hendon magistrates court on Tuesday after being arrested for lying in the road near Parliament Square on 17 April. She had been taking part in protests in which thousands of people blocked key sites across the capital over 10 days to highlight the escalating climate emergency.

Defending herself, Zelter outlined the “clear and unequivocal” scientific evidence of climate chaos and the threat ecological breakdown posed to the future of humanity, citing a swath of scientific studies, UN-backed reports and academic papers.

She told the court that although this was only a “dry summary” and a “minute fraction” of the available evidence, it proved that her peaceful civil disobedience was both necessary and proportionate.

Zelter told magistrates that humans faced mass extinction unless governments implemented wide-ranging changes.

The judge, Margot Coleman, said that although she was mindful of the evidence from Zelter, the case “was a matter of law not morality”. “Your argument does not provide you with a defence to these charges,” she said.

Zelter, who has been involved in various campaigns concerning the arms trade, environmentalism and nuclear weapons since the early 1980s, was convicted of breaching a section 14 order, which the court heard had been imposed because the Extinction Rebellion protests were causing widespread disruption to businesses and the wider community.

She had been lying in the road near Parliament Square and refused to move when asked to do so by the police, the court heard.

Zelter disputed the implementation of the section 14 order, arguing the disruption was minimal compared with the “chaos that will ensue from climate breakdown”.

Coleman ordered her to pay £640 costs, but Zelter said she would not.

Speaking outside the court she said she was considering an appeal. “I am sad that the judge did not take the broader view of finding me not guilty because of the severity and urgency of the climate emergency,” she said.