Nora Ziegler, Henrietta Cullinan, Jo Frew and Chris Cole celebrate the not guilty verdict outside Stratford Magistrates Court
In an exciting two days for the London Catholic Worker and Put Down the Sword, eight activists have received not guilty verdicts, after appearing in court on charges of wilful obstruction of the highway. The charges follow their direct action protest during the installation of the DSEI arms fair in London’s docklands last September.
The first group obstructed the road using lock-on boxes and the second group used climbing equipment to lower themselves from a road bridge. The intention was to create a place for prayer and peace while disrupting the passage of equipment into the Excel London exhibition centre.
District Judge Hamilton accepted that their actions were reasonable in the circumstances. In giving his verdict, the judge said their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights must be upheld.
The court heard how during the No Faith in War day of protest, four Christian activists blocked the road using wooden boxes with arms tubes and lock ons. They were arrested after a matter of minutes, and the police took a further 90 minutes to free them.
The defendants Nora Ziegler (28), Joanna Frew (38), Henrietta Cullinan(56) and Chris Cole (54) each said they had campaigned for many years against the arms trade.
In their defence, Nora Ziegler and Jo Frew spoke movingly of how they each provided accommodation for destitute asylum seekers fleeing from the very conflicts exacerbated by the arms trade. Chris Cole told the court of a time when he had met a student from South Sudan, where traditional cattle rustling has become lethal since the introduction of weapons. Henrietta Cullinan told the judge of a time when she experienced first hand the militarisation of police in Calais, France, when riot police armed with tear gas and pepper spray prevented NGOs handing out food to refugees.
In the second trial that followed immediately from the first, Sam Donaldson, Louis Durton, Tom Franklin (59), and Nick Cooper of Put Down the Sword defended their protest that took place later on the same day. They showed the court extensive correspondence with their MPs about the arms trade, which had been to no avail.
You can read more about their trial here and the circumstances of their arrest here
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