Extinction Rebellion protesters who want to be arrested: be careful what you wish for

As one of the Stansted 15, I know that dealing with arrests sucks vast amounts of time and money from the cause (…) There’s undoubtedly something sexy about direct action. As activists we spend our life trying to agitate for change in a system built to resist it. Wins are rare, and the day-to-day grind of trying to transform the world into a better place – one that works for everyone – bears down on all of us. To take part in something material, that feels real, as if you’re actually doing something, is overwhelmingly attractive. But the reality is, direct action and becoming entombed in the endless bureaucracy of our glacial criminal justice system because of it, should make up only a tiny portion of our work as activists. There is an inherent privilege in being able to be arrested for protesting. The hugely disproportionate number of BAME people in prisons for relatively minor offences shouldn’t be underestimated here. To have people like Roger Hallam speaking of prison so casually undermines those who are the poorest or most oppressed in our society whose lives are ripped apart by it. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel guilty about our trial and subsequent conviction (no pun intended). Not because what we did was wrong – far from it. But because even though 11 people remain in Britain because of our action, the two years that followed the action saw an unfathomable amount of resources, time, money and energy from across the movement poured into helping us fight our case, to helping us stay afloat, and avoid a life incarcerated. It took valuable resources away from those at the sharp edges of the hostile environment that we were protesting about.

Ben Smoke in Extinction Rebellion protesters who want to be arrested: be careful what you wish for (Guardian)