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sue parfitt extinctiion rebellion credit helena smith extinction rebellionheader2.jpg
Helena Smith/Extinction Rebellion
sue parfitt extinctiion rebellion credit helena smith extinction rebellion.jpg
Helena Smith/Extinction Rebellion
UK News

Priest tells court why she should be cleared of disobeying climate protest order

by Press Association

An Anglican priest has said she should not be found guilty of disobeying a police banning order during Extinction Rebellion protests because not demonstrating would have caused further deaths and destruction to the planet.

Reverend Sue Parfitt denies breaching the order preventing activists from protesting at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in central London in April last year.

The 77-year-old, from Bristol, told City of London Magistrates' Court that it had been hard for her as a priest with no criminal record to refuse to obey a police command to move from Oxford Circus.

But, giving evidence at her trial on Wednesday, she said her actions were necessary because the climate crisis would risk the future of the human race unless people forced governments to take action, and urged the court to acquit her.

She added: "Each day, including the day I lay on the road at Oxford Circus, some part of the human race and the creaturely (sic) world was and is in imminent danger.

"My small action constitutes a necessary part of a worldwide action that we have to hope, for all our sakes, will be successful in preventing even worse harm than is imminently threatened by climate change.

"I am not a lawyer and not a scientist but I am also not a criminal. I have spent my life as a law-abiding citizen.

"But if we are to survive as a race and as a creation, we have to take the most radical, unpopular, counter-intuitive action, including acts of civil disobedience."

Prosecutors said Parfitt had refused to obey an order under the Public Order Act not to protest at Oxford Circus or Waterloo Bridge.

But the defendant said civil disobedience was the only option left to her, and the necessity of stopping the destruction of human life and planet gave her lawful justification to protest.

She is standing trial alongside 29-year-old Dimitra Soukiouroglou, who also denies failing to comply with the order.

Parfitt, who was wearing her clerical collar, told the court she is vegetarian and that she and her husband had decided not to have children because "that's the last thing planet needed more of".

She said she had not wanted to move to Marble Arch where Extinction Rebellion protests were not banned because she did not want to be involved in a "carnival".

She added: "I had come to protest, not to join a carnival, which is really what happened in Marble Arch at this time.

"We were to take acts of civil disobedience.

"When asked by the sergeant to move, it did take some small effort on my part to refuse, I'm not in the habit of saying no to policemen.

"I knew I must stand my ground; my responsibility was to the many millions in this world who are currently affected as a matter of climate justice now - it is the poor of the world who are mostly affected by climate change now - but also to future generations who will be most grievously affected."

The trial continues.

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