As soon as I heard that my good friend Nigel Harvey had been arrested at the Extinction Rebellion event in Trafalgar Square on Monday (7 October 2019) I wanted to get his side of the story. This is what he had to say:
“I was arrested on Monday afternoon, for alleged wilful obstruction of the public highway in Trafalgar Square. I was sitting peacefully in the road. The police warned me in advance that I was likely to be arrested, but I chose to remain where I was.
Compliance with the law is in my DNA:
- I manage the Recolight WEEE compliance scheme
- I have relentlessly exposed the problems of non-compliant lighting products sold through online platforms. Those efforts have resulted in proposals to change UK law to close this loophole.
- I have been chair of the UK WEEE compliance schemes trade association for 10 years
Although I was released 13 hours later without a police interview, caution, or charge, the process of being arrested was distressing and intimidating, and a night in a police cell is not pleasant. So what on earth could drive someone so committed to compliance, to take this action and put himself in harm’s way?
As David Attenborough put it “…the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.”
The climate emergency is not just about polar bears and penguins. This is about the collapse of our own societies resulting from mass migration, food riots, flooding, fires and more. For the last decade, many of us have tried to reduce our carbon footprints, and encouraged others to do likewise. The lighting industry has been a fantastic contributor to that. And yet carbon emissions keep rising. All the usual ways of encouraging politicians to take really difficult decisions to address the issue have largely failed. Understandably, they are generally focused on the next election, which makes difficult decisions much harder.
So we need to try something different. And the urgency means it needs to be radical. So drawing on the example of peaceful civil disobedience that drove change in the US civil rights movement, and many other similar movements, Extinction Rebellion (XR) are encouraging large scale peaceful protest to drive the issue up the agenda.
It has already started working. After the April protests, XR met with Government, and a climate emergency declaration followed. But little real action followed. More is needed. And that is why I was prepared to do what I did. I chose to be arrested, and I chose to have that arrest publicised, as a way of raising awareness – my comments in the press were prepared in advance, before I was arrested. I am honoured and humbled by the emails/texts/retweets of support I’ve already received.”