Wandsworth Prison Vigil Held for Jailed Climate Protestor

James Brown glued himself to passenger jet at City Airport

The vigil outside Wandsworth Prison
The vigil outside Wandsworth Prison

This Sunday (26 September) around 50 members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) began a daily candlelight vigil outside Wandsworth Prison to demand the release of a climate change protestor.

The vigil included drumming from XR samba bands, singing, poetry and speeches.

They were demonstrating against the imprisonment of 56-year-old James Brown from Exeter who had been jailed for a year for gluing himself to a passenger plane at City Airport.

The British Paralympic gold medallist was at an XR protest at against the expansion of the airport on 10 October 2019. He climbed on top of a plane heading to Amsterdam he had bought a ticket for, glued his right hand to its fuselage and wedged his phone in a door frame. He spent an hour livestreaming his protest before he was removed.

Officers, who were already on duty at the airport, spotted Brown and made their way to the plane where he told them he was visually impaired and that he would stay there as long as he could.

A team of specially trained protest removal officers were called, and along with the London Fire Brigade, they began the process of bringing him down from the roof. They used a de-icer machine to remove Brown's hand, which he had superglued to the top of the aircraft.

When back on the ground he was arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft, being unlawfully airside and causing a public nuisance.

James Brown was jailed for a year for gluing himself to a flight to Amsterdam
James Brown was jailed for a year for gluing himself to a flight to Amsterdam

Due to Brown's actions and the potential damage to the aircraft, the plane had to be taken out of service and inspected by an engineer. This meant the flight was cancelled and passengers were delayed for several hours. Several other flights also had to be cancelled as a result of the action.

In total nearly 400 passengers had flights cancelled or delayed. The airport had to close a number of gates and the runway was blocked while the incident was ongoing.

“This is a wake-up call right now for everyone on this planet to understand we are in desperate danger,” said London mayoral candidate Valerie Brown. “We are all willing to lay down our lives to help our children if they are in danger. We’re in danger now, and we have to make these sacrifices.”

He will be appealing against the sentence and XR Wandsworth have pledged to keep a vigil for an hour a day outside the prison until James is released – 6pm-7pm weekdays, 11am-12pm at weekends.

Mr Brown, who is registered blind, conducted his own defence and told the court, “I was prepared to challenge myself, to be scared, to face the fear, because the fear of climate ecological breakdown is so much greater.”

He was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of causing a public nuisance by a jury after less than an hour’s deliberation.

Judge Gregory Perrins, when passing sentence las Friday, said he accepted Brown was acting according to his conscience but added, “It is important that those who are tempted to seriously disrupt the lives of ordinary members of the public, in the way that you did, and then seek to justify it in the name of protest, understand that they will face serious consequences.”

Commander Karen Findlay, from Met Taskforce, said, ““Brown’s actions not only impacted on the business of passengers but also on their families, friends and colleagues with some being left out of pocket for travelling to meet them. Not only that, he endangered himself and the officers who had to work to safely remove him from the aircraft structure.

“The Met will always support the right to peaceful protest, but it will not tolerate disruption of this level. Activists do not have the right to cause unreasonable and serious disruption to other people.

“We will always deal robustly with such incidents and look to bring to justice anyone who commits a criminal offence as this sentence shows.”


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September 29, 2021