‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ related to the court cases of 17 climate activists who shut down Manchester Airport in May 2010. During the two trials in December 2010 and February 2011, the court heard from climate scientists, public health experts, local residents and a City Councillor about the danger posed to life and limb from climate change, exacerbated by aviation emissions.
Last week Manchester Airport on Trial received an email containing a press release from Manchester City Council announcing that the leader of the council had been invited to a global climate conference.
Let’s get this straight. Sir Richard Leese is the Labour head of Manchester City Council and responsible for aggressively pushing the expansion of Manchester Airport; ignoring planning consultations and threatening to demolish family homes in the process.
He was invited by the C40 group to speak at the conference in Brazil to share the region’s experiences of tackling climate change. This strikes us as a very worrying scenario. Some of the world’s largest and most polluting cities are looking to Manchester, a city which looks likely set to fail to meet its emission targets and drastically expand its most polluting transport sector, for advice on climate change.
Manchester Mule have covered the story in more detail- it’s certainly worth a read.
Today defendants Tilly Gifford and Dan Glass from the Climate 9 had their appeal heard at Edinburgh Appeal Court against the conviction they received last summer for Breach of the Peace.
The conviction related to a direct action taken in March 2009 where the Climate 9 shut down Aberdeen airport and directly stopped 107 tonnes of emissions from contributing to man-made climate change. They played golf in a cage on the taxiway to highlight the fact that the airport’s expansion will serve to deliver Donald Trump’s super-rich golfer pals to his contentious course at Balmedie Estate.
Following a two week long trial in August 2010, which was the first jury-led climate change trial in Scotland, all 9 defendants were convicted of Breach of the Peace for their role in the protest. Dan and Tilly made the decision to appeal against the conviction as they hold firm to the belief that the action they took was justified, proportionate and necessary in the face of catastrophic climate change.
Appellant Dan Glass said “the Scottish legal system defines breach of the peace as an activity “causing fear and alarm to the ordinary and reasonable person, and which threatens serious disturbance to the community. I can’t think of a better way to describe climate change. Sometimes, we believe, the law must be challenged to protect our fundamental freedom of expression and to disrupt lawful activities that are harming the prospects of future generations. Furthermore it’s the role of as democracy to protect the voices of the minority aswell as the majority”
The appeal has reached its final stages after months of anticipation and against a backdro0p of severe climate change, as recent estimates suggest an unthinkable 4 degree temperature rise by 2080. During the 4 hour hearing this morning the court heard a strong case from the defence, who argued that the jury wasn’t given any sense of this grave context regarding both the importance and urgency of the protest.
Appellant Tilly Gifford said “The judge presented a choice to the jury between ‘breach of peace’ and ‘freedom of expression’ without any context. This is simply not good enough. The jury should be given the serious climate change context of the situation relating to the case, otherwise the inference is completely abstract from reality.”
The appeal verdict will be heard within the next 6 weeks in a final court hearing. A date is not yet set. If it is successful it will set an important precedent for future protest cases, through actively defending freedom of expression and supporting the legitimacy of the right to protest given the governments inaction to effectively tackle climate change. It would be the first legal case in Scotland to engage with the severity of climate change that we face and challenge the ‘business as usual’ attitude that the aviation industry is taking in its expansion plans.
Plane Stupid spokesperson Joe Ryle said “Aviation remains the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in the UK and we cannot let this go unchallenged. However the heart of this debate is about our fundamental right to protest and whether we are prepared to tolerate greater disruption to business as usual in the face of climate change.”
Last weekend campaigners from across the north joined Manchester Climate Action and Manchester Airport on Trial to set up a temporary camp in the woods by Manchester Airport. The camp was attended by around 40 people over the weekend who came to raise local awareness about the airport’s expansion plans and bear witness to some of the greenbelt land the airport intends to build on over the coming months. The focal point of the weekend was a cycle caravan and walk around the area on Saturday where campaigners took a tour of the areas which are to effected by the expansion plans, including the area earmarked for the 60 acre ‘Enterprise Zone’ on the edge of Wythenshawe and cottages on Hasty Lane which are due for demolition to make way for a new freight shed.
During the tour of the area the group spoke to local residents and gave out flyers for a public meeting being organised by SEMA (Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport) this Thursday 2nd June at 7.30pm in Benchill.
Sally Holmes from Manchester Climate Action said ‘By 2030 the airport intends to be as busy as Heathrow is now, with flights every 70 seconds. Many of us have come this weekend out of concern for how the expansion will impact the local community, in terms of both air and noise pollution. The airport consistently over estimate how many jobs will be created by the expansion and fail to communicate to local residents how the increase in flights will really impact their lives’.
They were also joined by veteran campaigners involved in the Campaign Against the Secord Runway (CAR2) in the late 1990’s who described where the camps had been, how the biodiversity of the area had been affected and showed empty fields which had been the home of protected ancient woodland just 15 years ago. Although 10 years has passed since the second runway opened, many of those who lived in the former protest camps described how memories quickly came flooding back being in the woods again with the persistent drone of aircraft landing and taking off just a few hundred metres away.
Patrick Stone from Manchester Airport on Trial said ‘the weekend has been real success for us. With so many people coming down to support the campaign it shows the impacts of aviation are still on the high people’s agendas in the UK and that expansion plans won’t go unchallenged.’
Ali Garrigan from SEMA said ‘this event has been really important for raising the profile of the campaign in the local community. With the scoping process for a new national aviation policy taking place over this summer it’s really important that people who care about this issue speak out now. As the majority owner of the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) Manchester City Council have a significant opportunity to feed into this scoping process and ensure that future national aviation policy represents their communities wishes and reflect their commitment to tackling climate change’.
The campaigners were warmly received by much of the local community who were shocked to hear details of the extent to which the airport plans to expand both physically on the ground and in terms of flight capacity.
5.30pm Meet at Piccadilly Station
6.00pm Meet outside Manchester Central Library for Critical Mass (Cyclists)
7.00pm Depart Critical Mass for the camp
8.30pm Dinner and set up camp
9pm Introduction to the weekend, introductions and stories. Film showing
Yoga first thing in the morning
9 am Breakfast
11.00 am Meet at Heald Green for Bike Caravan or Walk
2.30 pm Walkers and Cyclists meet for at the Romper pub late lunch before continuing on their separate ways
4.30 pm Cyclists meet residents at the Railway Inn, Mobberley
7.00 pm Dinner in the woods followed by social and chilling
Breakfast followed by tat down. Maybe an extra walk. Lifts to the station can be provided if necessary
Event Details: Manchester Airport is planning to press ahead with its expansion plans, demolishing local homes and green spaces, and doubling air freight capacity. Come and spend a weekend in the woods, getting to know the area and local residents, and learning more about the campaign against expansion.
Meet 5.30pm at Piccadilly Station 27th May, or at 6pm outside Manchester Central Library for Critical Mass. We will go straight to the camp from Critical Mass.
Plans for the weekend include: Walk and Cycle Caravan to look at sites of campaigning significance such as Arthur’s Wood, the World Freight Centre, Hasty Lane, and the sites of the 2nd Runway Protest Camp; Pixie Picnic; Awareness Raising and much more besides.
Alternate meet time: 11am Heald Green Station Sat 28th May for the walk and cycle caravan.
Some hot (vegan) food will be provided, but the weekend won’t be fully catered. Bring enough food to be self-sufficient, and a little extra to share. Cater for your own dietary requirements.
What else to bring:
Bike (walkers welcome too, but cycling will be easier)
Decorations for your bike
Food (see above)
Campaigners from the ‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ group were sentenced today after a 2 day trial at Trafford Magistrates’ court. The judge recognised the “sincerity” and “laudable motives” of the protesters, and handed down lenient sentences of 2 year conditional discharges and £310 court costs. One defendant received 80 hours of community service. The six campaigners stood trial for an action last May 2010 where they formed a human circle around the wheel of a Monarch Airline jet. All 6 pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated trespass, stating that they acted out of necessity to prevent the higher crime of climate change.
In November 2009 Manchester airport received planning approval to expand the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport, which will result in the demolition of local homes and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Although the coalition government cancelled plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, campaigners are now focussing their action more regionally as capacity is now being increased at regional airports instead.
Councillor Martin Eakins described the local efforts to prevent expansion at the Airport. In response to the judge’s suggestion that campaigners would have had a strong case for judicial review of the plans, he explained that they had been refused funding on the basis that their challenge would be unsuccessful. Local resident, Pete Johnson, whose home on Hasty Lane faces demolition, told the court that their “efforts were thwarted by politicians with vested interests,” and that he felt “angry, frustrated and cheated.”
Over the 2 days the court has heard from many leading public figures who spoke out in defence of the ‘Manchester Airport on Trial’ group. On day one, leading scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research in Manchester, spoke out on the aviation industry’s ‘special treatment’. The aviation industry receives £9 billion a year in tax subsidies. Dr Geoff Meaden spoke on the impacts of climate change in the North West. Today public health expert Dr Robin Scott spoke in court, describing climate change as “a public health emergency”. Expert witness statements were also read out including one written by John Mcdonnell MP who was a vocal politician in defeating the third runway at Heathrow airport.
People from across North England have now pledged to continue taking direct action to stop the expansion plans. The threatened homes in Manchester have ‘twinned’ with the village of Sipson which would have been demolished to make way for the Heathrow expansion.
Speaking after the ruling one of the six defendants Iain Hilton, said: “Whatever the outcome was today, this climate court trial will not be the last. Climate change is accelerating at the same rate as it was before and continues to be the biggest threat to life as we know it. We have heard in court peer-reviewed Science, public health advocates, witness statements from MPs and we have heard from communities whose homes are threatened by airport expansion plans at Hasty Lane. We will not wait for the judicial system to act. Civil disobedience is a duty and a responsibility and we will continue to act to stop climate change”.
John Mcdonnell MP said: “When governments themselves so blatantly ignore the wishes of the people they are elected to represent, when they promote the sectional interests of one sector of business above the interests of their citizens, when they deny Parliament an effective role, when they subvert their own democratic planning processes, and when their actions so dangerously contradict their own legislation on climate change, responsible citizens are left with no alternative but to take direct action to further the cause that they believe in.”
Professor Kevin Anderson said in court: “Why is it fair that aviation continues to be a special case while every other sector has to reduce their emissions? Every year we have an exponential increase in CO2 embedding us in a future of dangerous climate change. If aviation continues to grow that means we’re heading for 4 degrees, but that would only be a transient temperature on the way to an equilibrium rise of 6 to 8 degrees. A rise of 4 degrees is dire, above that it gets worse and worse- it is a future that we contemplate at our own peril.”
After a fantastic day yesterday, we’ve just got news that the judge is expecting to announce his verdict on the six defendants in the Manchester Airport on Trial case this afternoon.
It’s a bit earlier than we expected, but we’re really hopeful for the right outcome. With the strength of arguments from our panel of expert witnesses, we’re sure the judge can’t help but be convinced!
Yesterday we heard from Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, whose testimony on the effects of climate change and the role played by aviation emissions was as terrifying as it was inspiring. He told us that “every day we are reducing the chances of living a reasonably liveable future,” and that only if we all take action now can we hope to keep global warming to anything resembling manageable levels. You can read his full report, as submitted to the court, here.
Today Lib Dem Councillor Martin Eakins told the court how local councillors voted unanimously against the expansion plans but were totally ignored by the owner of the airport, Manchester City Council. Local resident, Peter Johnson, described the proposed demolition of his family home – you can read more about the threat to the Hasty Lane community on the Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport blog. Hasty Lane’s been twinned with the village of Sipson at Heathrow, who finally triumphed over similar plans to bulldoze their village by Heathrow airport last year.
In May 2010 17 campaigners took direct action at Manchester Airport, opposing plans to destroy local homes in order to expand the World Freight Centre and temporarily shutting it down to stop some of the 5 million tonnes of annual carbon emissions. The legal system found the campaigners guilty of breaking the law, but this campaign continues to challenge airport's plans to become the 'Heathrow of the North' by 2050 and fight for recognition that the aviation industry are the real climate criminals.