...By Jack Sylva for TDPel Media.
Seven activists from the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion are currently on trial for aggravated trespass at the Swansea Magistrates’ Court in Wales.
The group occupied the Aberpergwm coal mine near Glynneath on July 10, 2022, to protest against the extraction of coal at the site.
The protesters claim they did not intend to cause any disruption to the operation of the site.
The prosecution alleges that the group intended to cause disruption by occupying the site.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Protest Details and Consequences
During the protest, the activists spread across the site, with two of them, Stephen Jarvis and Rosalind Pears, placing themselves on a gantry used to transport coal until the next morning.
The group also targeted the main vehicular access gate, where workers enter and leave before and after their shifts.
They hung banners, sat on the floor, and some chained themselves to the gate.
Some claimed to be glued to the ground.
The group was asked to protest away from the gate on several occasions and given a final warning, but they showed no sign of moving.
As a result, business operations were halted for between 18 and 20 hours, causing a loss of £40,000.
During the trial, Francesca Cociani, defending all the defendants except Jarvis, argued that the protest was arranged to target the subject matter and avoid disrupting other members of the public.
Cociani pointed out that the protesters agreed to clear the gate to allow for it to be unlocked for the change of security shift between 6 pm and 7 pm, demonstrating their lack of intention to interfere with the operation of the mine.
Cociani also stated that each of their intentions was to stay until the morning shift to engage with the workers and create further media attention, which would have caused minimal disruption at most.
The protesters claimed that they were not there to disrupt the mine but to raise awareness of the issue.
The prosecution argued that the presence of the protesters on the gantry, which was used to transport coal, and the main access gate, which was used by workers, would have caused disruption.
They further argued that the group could have protested anywhere, even on the public road, where more people would have seen them, but they chose to occupy the site.
The prosecution also claimed that the protesters intended to cause disruption.
The judge, Christopher James, is expected to return his verdict in the case on Thursday.
If found guilty, the defendants could face prison sentences or fines.
The case is likely to have implications for the tactics of Extinction Rebellion in Wales and the UK.