A climate activist threw paint on the headquarters of four different charities because they were not doing enough to prevent a climate “catastrophe”, a court has heard.
Ryan Simmons, 36, is accused of conspiracy to damage property after allegedly working with founding member of Extinction Rebellion Roger Hallam, 56, Holly Brentnall, 31, and Valerie Brown, 70, to throw pink paint at the headquarters of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth on July 21 2020.
At each premises, the group asked to a hand in a letter and then went on to throw pink paint and attach copies of the letters to the buildings, the court heard.
Simmons also faces the same charge in relation to spraying pink paint on the political headquarters of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties alongside Brentnall, Reverend Steven Nunn, 58, Dr Diana Warner, 63, Nicola Stickells, 52, Stefan Lindon, 59, Nicholas Cooper, 40, Genevieve Scherer, 76, and Richard Barnard, 50, on or before August 13 2020.
Brentnall and Cooper are further charged with burglary for allegedly breaking into the Green Party building that same day.
A third conspiracy to damage property has been alleged against Hallam, Brentnall, Warner, Nunn and Ferhat Ulusu, 44, for spraying paint on trade union buildings between August 13 and 24 2020 although no actual damage was caused as the police intervened before the day of execution.
For this conspiracy, jurors heard there is a recording of a zoom call in which a number of defendants plan to commit damage against various trade union buildings.
All three conspiracies involved members of activist group Beyond Politics, now known as Burning Pink, the court heard.
The group aims to replace the government with citizen assemblies.
Giving evidence at Wood Green Crown Court on Thursday, Simmons said he threw paint on the headquarters of the different charities because he did not believe they were “doing enough to tackle the climate emergency”.
He told the court that the various websites of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth ask people to sign petitions, donate funds, write to MPs and join local lobbying groups.
Asked what he thought those suggested actions were going to achieve, Simmons said: “Not very much.”
“I used to be a member of Greenpeace … I used to sign their petitions.
“I used to write to MPs.
“Nothing’s changed in my lifetime.”
Simmons said people should take “non-violent direct action” to “avert the (climate) catastrophe”.
Jurors heard the 36-year-old saw the paint-throwing as a “wake-up call” for the charities.
He said he hoped that employees would “realise” they are not “doing everything they can” and that the public would be made “more aware” of the charities’ “lack of action” and increase “pressure” on those organisations to change.
Simmons told jurors he hoped the charities would be prompted to take “non-violent direct action” themselves, which would “achieve the political pressure needed in order to change the system so that we can stop burning fossil fuels so much and creating the emergency”.
He added that he believed the relevant person at each organisation would have “consented” to the paint throwing.
“A small act like throwing paint, if it can create a cascading effect whereby we end up taking the action needed to avert this catastrophe any longer, I don’t see why they would have refused this action taking place,” he said.
Asked about the spray painting of political party headquarters, Simmons said he was not involved in that action but was merely there to take photographs and videos.
During cross-examination, jurors heard no representatives of any of the targeted charities were asked for permission or consent to the damage.
“We didn’t ask for permission to throw pink paint because they would have stopped us if we had done that,” Simmons said.
Prosecutor Diana Wilson suggested that Simmons was “making up” a defence (reasonable belief in consent) to justify his actions and that “the truth has slipped out”.
He denied this.
Simmons, of Catford, Hallam, of Elephant and Castle, Brentnall, of Deptford, all south-east London, and Brown, of Highgate, north London, deny conspiracy to damage property in relation to charity headquarters.
Simmons, Brentnall, Nunn, of Longdon-Upon-Tern, Telford, Warner, of Bristol, Stickells, of Norfolk, Lindon, of Hove, Cooper, of Brixton, south-west London, Scherer, of Clapham, south-west London, and Barnard, of Brighton, deny conspiracy to damage property in relation to political party headquarters.
Brentnall and Cooper further deny burglary.
Hallam, Brentnall, Warner, Nunn and Ulusu, of Kings Cross, north London, deny conspiracy to damage property in relation to trade unions.
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