Police officers have described the moment they first saw bamboo structures used during an Extinction Rebellion protest that blocked deliveries of some of the UK’s major newspapers.
Six defendants appeared at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Monday accused of obstruction of the highway in relation to a demonstration at the Newsprinters printing works in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on September 4 2020.
Appearing in court were Liam Norton, 36, of Esplanade Gardens, Scarborough, Eleanor Bujak, 28 of Bracey Street, London, Sally Davidson, 33 of Byards Croft, London, James Ozden, 35 of The Avenue, London, Timothy Speers, 35 of Rosswyld Lodge, Waltham Forest and Morgan Trowland, 38 of Massie Road, London.
During the protest last September, the court heard activists used vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to block roads near Newsprinters’ Broxbourne site.
The Newsprinters presses publish the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp’s titles including the Sun, Times, Sun On Sunday and Sunday Times, as well as the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Police constable Josh Wilson and Inspector Matthew Barton, the senior officer first on the scene, gave evidence during the first day of the trial.
Pc Wilson, who arrived on scene at 11.30pm, told the court he saw protesters suspended from the structures with “rock-climbing-like” equipment, while other activists stood below.
He was told by activists the structures had taken seven minutes to assemble.
Pc Wilson said: “They said they had been trained, and no-one was to touch it.
“If it fell it would have fallen on the people beneath it.”
The court heard protesters also asked police to “get Rupert Murdoch” down to the site.
Insp Barton said protesters had been given the option to let police facilitate a lawful protest by moving them out of the two-lane road.
He said he was told by a police protest liaison officer they would not move, but would consider leaving the protest at 10am, an hour earlier than their planned departure time of 11am.
But Insp Barton told the court this was “not a significant compromise”.
The trial was paused for two hours after Norton glued himself to a table in the courtroom and began filming on his iPhone.
When asked to put down his phone, the 36-year-old said he had glued it to his hand – although it fell to the floor a short time later.
It took police two hours to remove Norton before the trial could continue in his absence.
District judge Sally Fudge said: “[Norton’s] behaviour was particularly disruptive and I take the view there is a high likelihood he should become disruptive again were he allowed to attend court for a trial again.”
Four of the five remaining defendants were represented by Raj Chada, with Speers representing himself.
Speers cross-examined both witnesses, asking them their understanding of the climate emergency.
He added: “I just do not know why you have not arrested Rupert Murdoch when you have arrested us.”
The trial continues.