MANCHESTER AIRPORT ON TRIAL
"Civil disobedience is a duty and a responsibility and we will continue to act to stop climate change" Iain Hilton
It's not just in this city that Salford Council is intent on demolishing homes. Out near Manchester Airport – part owned by Salford City Council along with other Greater Manchester councils – local homes are soon to be demolished to expand the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport.
Last May six campaigners from the Manchester Airport On Trial Group formed a human circle around the wheel of a Monarch Airline jet in protest at the expansion which will lead to the trashing of homes and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
The campaigners were subsequently charged with `aggravated trespass', but pleaded `not guilty', stating that they acted out of necessity to prevent the higher crime of climate change. And during the two day hearing this week they attempted to put Manchester Airport on trial instead, enlisting scientific experts and an MP in their defence…
On day one, leading scientist, 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. And Dr Geoff Meaden spoke on the impacts of climate change in the North West. On day two, public health expert Dr Robin Scott spoke on the health impacts of climate change.
A statement was also read out in court from MP John Mcdonnell who helped stop Runway 3 at Heathrow…
"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."
The six campaigners were found guilty but the judge recognising the "sincerity" and "laudable motives" of the protesters, handed down lenient sentences of two year conditional discharges and £310 court costs. One defendant received 80 hours of community service.
"Whatever the outcome was today, this climate court trial will not be the last" said Iain Hilton, one of the six defendants "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".
Years after the eco-camp at Manchester Airport, the issues still haven't gone away. And with Salford Council well involved in the airport perhaps it would like to square its own policies on climate change with what's going on in South Manchester – and indeed on it's own peat destroying doorstep at Chat Moss.
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See also Peat Protestors Not Guilty: click here
Graphic: original flyer from the Manchester Airport protest camp 1997