Insulate Britain protesters stage 24-hour fast outside Downing Street
Insulate Britain supporters are staging a 24-hour fast outside Downing Street in solidarity with jailed members who are on hunger strike to call for action on fuel poverty.
Around 10 protesters were in London’s Whitehall on Tuesday morning, with some wearing hi-vis jackets and holding placards reading “Here for Emma and Ben” and “Hunger for justice”.
They were supporting Emma Smart, 44, and Dr Ben Buse, 36, two of nine members of the campaign group jailed for breaching an injunction designed to prevent disruptive protests.
Ms Smart is on day 14 of her hunger strike in HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey, and was moved to the jail’s hospital wing on Friday.
Her husband, Andy Smith, 45, said he planned to stay outside Downing Street for 24 hours in solidarity with his spouse.
Mr Smith, from Dorset, said: “She spoke to her mum and dad this morning and she’s still in good spirits and she’s doing OK.”
Ms Smart was sentenced to four months in prison on November 17 and immediately vowed to stop eating until the Government moves to insulate homes.
We're the sixth richest country in the world and, at the moment, we have a person dying every 15 minutes each winter from winter fuel poverty
Mr Smith said it is unlikely she will get what she wants from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“He can barely string a coherent sentence together about Peppa Pig, let alone make a meaningful statement regarding saving the lives of 8,500 elderly vulnerable people every year,” he said.
But, he added, his wife is a “pretty persistent woman” and will continue her hunger strike “as long as she possibly can”.
Mr Smith said that, before becoming a full-time climate activist, his wife had been a scientist, working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), advising the BBC on wildlife documentaries, and creating protected areas in the Middle East.
She discovered a new breed of fish that was named after her and “is now probably going extinct”. Mr Smith said, adding that it has been “heartbreaking” for her to see nature being destroyed.
“She had a realisation and awareness that her work as a scientist wasn’t being listened to by the Government,” he said.
“And so she made the conscious decision that… the best way to make change and to protect the planet is to move into activism.”
Around 100 people were joining the fast remotely from across the UK and France, according to Mr Smith.
He said: “It may be cold and it might be wet, but I will be here for 24 hours.
“They may try and remove us.
“We’ve had one person arrested already this morning; I believe they were breaking bail conditions.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that a woman aged in her 60s was arrested for breach of bail conditions.
Insulate Britain spokesman Craig Scudder, from Hertfordshire, also joined the action on Whitehall in solidarity with Ms Smart and Dr Buse, who he said started his hunger strike two days ago.
The 55-year-old said: “Really, this isn’t about them.
“They’re just such selfless people.
“This is about highlighting the issue.
“We’re the sixth richest country in the world and, at the moment, we have a person dying every 15 minutes each winter from winter fuel poverty – I think it’s just disgraceful.
“We have a Government that seemed to be more interested in putting ordinary people in prison for raising the alarm about this than just doing what they should be doing morally and legally.”
Nine Insulate Britain protesters appeared at the High Court on November 17 after they admitted breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade of the M25 on October 8.
They received sentences of between three and six months and were ordered to pay £5,000 each in costs.
A further nine Insulate Britain protesters are to appear at the High Court on December 14 to face a charge of contempt of court.
Insulate Britain began a wave of protests in September and supporters have blocked the M25, other roads in London including around Parliament, as well as roads in Birmingham and Manchester and around the Port of Dover in Kent.
Videos showing furious motorists dragging the climate activists away from the blockades have gone viral on a number of occasions.
Mr Smith, who is not himself a member of Insulate Britain, said the disruptive tactics are needed to “get the message out there”.
He said: “I do appreciate that it’s uncomfortable for the public to be disrupted.
“But, when you consider the level of disruption that’s happening compared to the level of (climate) disruption that we’re going to face in the future, I think it’s justified by those means.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox