A Just Stop Oil banner hanging across the Queen Elizabeth II bridge (Picture: Just Stop Oil)

On the same day Rishi Sunak announced he would back 100 new oil and gas licences, the courts doubled down on punishing climate activists. 

Judges rejected an appeal made by Just Stop Oil (JSO) supporters Marcus Decker and Morgan Trowland. They are currently held in Highpoint prison in Suffolk for climbing to the top of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at the Dartford Crossing in Kent last October. 

This will mean they will serve up to a three-year sentence— the longest sentence climate protesters have currently faced. Marcus and Morgan brought their case to the Court of Appeal on Wednesday of last week.

Protesters gathered outside to show their solidarity with the climate activists. After 50 hours in custody for participating in another action, JSO activist Sean told the crowd, “I refuse to lie down and die.

“I refuse to let the sacrifice that Marcus and Morgan have made and the sacrifice that thousands of activists in the Global South are making every day.” 

Sally, a teacher from south London, was outside the court. She said, “I know Marcus and Morgan. I was campaigning with them in 2019 with Extinction Rebellion. The sentences they both received on Saturday were out of the water of what anyone could expect. 

“The government shouldn’t be locking up anyone who is taking part in action to try and protect this country, our families and communities. They think they can lock people up and these problems will go away.

“But as people are seeing in places like Rhodes in Greece, with the wildfires, we can’t ignore this.” 

Marcus and Morgan heard their appeal was rejected on Monday of this week. After the ruling Marcus said, “We explained to the court and gave evidence on the crisis we are in right now, and the people that died in the United Kingdom last year in the heatwave because of the climate and ecological emergency. 

“I believe that situation wasn’t taken into consideration, and I don’t think we should be sentenced to such high punishments.”

Judge Sue Carr said their sentence reflected “parliament’s will”, referring to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. In court she said that public nuisance offences should “obviously include non-violent protest behaviour, with a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.” 

Judge Carr added that sentences should not be seen as having a “chilling effect” on the right to peaceful protest or assembly. But she did add that the sentence met the legitimate aim of deterring others from taking part in similar actions. 

The court’s decision could have devastating consequences for Marcus and Morgan. In May, Marcus, who currently has settled status in Britain, received a stage-one deportation order from the Home Office. 

Because the courts rejected his appeal, his sentence will remain over 12 months—qualifying him for automatic deportation. Marcus and his partner Holly have vowed to continue to fight the plans to deport him.

Meanwhile, a judge in Hove also handed out some of the largest fines to climate protesters on Friday of last week. They fined four supporters of Insulate Britain £3,000 for blocking a road in Dover in 2021. 

These harsh sentences must be met with fury—and not just from the climate movement. The state will not stop at using new repressive laws against climate protesters. It will use them to break up protests and hit other activists and trade unionists.

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