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Grandmother: How I found myself locked up in the fight to halt climate change

Doro Marden was arrested in Parliament Square

09 January, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Doro Marden was fined £300 for taking part in Extinction Rebellion’s protest

THE penny dropped for Doro Marden while staring up at the ceiling from the bed in her cell.

“I was thinking I am a very respectable grandmother who lives in Primrose Hill,” she said. “I’ve never been in trouble before.” The 71-year-old had been arrested at a sit-down Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in Parliament Square.

She was one of more than 1,100 people arrested during a first wave of mass civil disobedience that shut down central London for several days last April. All the main political parties declared a “climate emergency”.

Describing her 12 hours in the cell, she said: “You have a toilet there, but no sink – you have to ask to be taken out to wash your hands. You lie down and look up, and on the ceiling is stencilled ‘are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? – contact our drug rehabilitation unit now’. And there is also a telephone number for rewards if you give over information. It was quite an experience.”

She added: “I’m not the sort of person who likes being in the public eye. But I have tried to tell everybody that I’ve been arrested to show how strongly I feel. I can see the shock in their faces when I tell them. Nearly everybody has been very supportive.”

Ms Marden, who has lived in Primrose Hill since 1982 and is a long-standing trustee of the Primrose Hill Community Association, pleaded not guilty to public order offences at the City of London Magistrates’ Court.

In her court speech, she made the “necessity argument” insisting her protest was justified to “prevent harm” to her grandchildren “and others all over the world” from “climate breakdown”, adding there was an “overwhelming consensus of scientists” about increasing pollution, rising sea levels, harvest failures, ocean acidification and the extinction of many species.

None of the XR protesters making this legal argument has won their case.

Ms Marden was fined £300.

This week, she said: “What is causing air pollution is the same thing that is causing climate change – car fumes basically,” she said. “People complain about bikes on pavement, but no one thinks about the cars parked everywhere up and down the pavements – no one thinks about that.”

Ms Marden she had got rid of her car and had stopped buying new clothes since joining Camden XR in 2018. She said she joined in outrage after seeing there was “nothing in the budget about pollution or a mention of climate change”, adding: “First I organised a meeting in Primrose Hill Library – about 30 people came. Then I organised a non-violent workshop in PH community centre – about 10 people came. We then formed a group and all went and blocked Oxford Street on the first day of the rebellion. I was arrested a few days later, in Parliament Square on Easter Sunday.”

She said: “XR Camden is a very lively organisation that meets every other week. Everyone gets a chance to speak, they always finish on time. It is very impressive.”

Ms Marden agreed that XR had been criticised for being a middle-class closed shop, but insisted that any sceptics attending an XR meeting would find it “inclusive”. The XR group meets fortnightly in Camden and is looking for new recruits in the run-up to a major non violent protest in the spring. She said that in 10 years she would like to see this country “zero carbon”, adding: “All the technology is there to do it, it’s the political will that is lacking.”

Ms Marden was represented in court by Raj Chada – a criminal defence solicitor and head of the protest team at Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors. He helped many protesters get off charges after the High Court ruled the Met Police had acted unlawfully in demanding XR called an end to protests in October.

He said: “It cannot be in the public interest to prosecute thousands of people for peaceful protest.”

For information on Camden XR meetings visit https://www.facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellionCamden/

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