If elected co-leader, I want to see the Greens ramp up our non-violent direct action, says the councillor and leadership candidate Jonathan Bartley.
One morning in early 2012 I sneaked into the Green Party office hoping to go unnoticed. A little bruised and bleary eyed, I had been dragged off the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral by police a few hours before during the night-time-eviction of the Occupy Movement.
At the time I was doing the press work for Jenny Jones AM. It was my first job working for the Green Party and I wasn’t sure how my encounter with the long arms of the law would be received. But instead of a gentle scolding for putting her Mayoral campaign at reputational risk, I received hugs and affirmation.
It was then that it came home to me that the Green Party isn’t just different from the other parties in what is stands for – but also in how it stands for it.
It wasn’t the last time I would be dragged away by police. It happened again at the end of last year while supporting anti-fracking campaigners in Yorkshire. And of course I am not the only one – our MP Caroline Lucas was arrested – in a far more dignified manner as is her style. My co-leadership candidate Sian Berry has been labelled a “domestic extremist” for her own extensive campaigning work.
Over the last few years it has become increasingly clear that direct action will need to play a crucial role in winning the change we want to see.
As the triple environmental, social and economic crises grow, more and more appalling decisions and policies are being imposed on people against their will – whether that be sanctions against the disabled, the environmental and social destruction of high speed rail, estate demolition or fracking.
And even when it is clear that the majority oppose such destruction, corporations, councils and cabinet members are changing the rules. As I’ve written for Left Foot Forward, the government are inventing new offences and pushing through schemes even when local councils and planning committees want them stopped – defying communities’ wishes however they can.
In Sheffield we have seen a Labour council call for custodial sentences to be given to Green councillors who would resist the needless destruction of street trees. The government is invoking draconian anti-terror laws against protestors – which could mean life in prison – after they rightly prevented a deportation flight from taking off at Stansted Airport.
The Secretary of State has taken out injunctions against those opposed to HS2, and fracking companies have done the same against fracking protesters.
I have been proud to support these communities in court, and on the front line of their fight. And this is something that both my colleague Sian Berry and I are determined to continue to do, if we are elected as the Green Party’s co-leaders.
What has struck us about so many of these protests and causes is that they are not being waged by professional campaigners. They bring together people from all political persuasions and backgrounds, united in outrage and opposition to what is happening to them. So it is strange that we do not see other parties willing to step up.
While you might conjure up images of other party leaders standing on soapboxes or wielding megaphones, it is hard to imagine any others actually engaging in anything resembling direct action. But the Green Party’s philosophical basis states clearly our support for it.
We came out of the movement that first stood up against the atomic arms race, nuclear power, road-building, whaling and the silent spring – and we still have that movement’s vision and spirit, intertwined with the electoral ambitions of our party. In truth, we are the only party with campaigning in our DNA.
So, as part of our pledges in the election for Green Party co-leaders, we want to see more training, advice and resources given to members in local parties who want to campaign on the issues threatening their communities, including in Non-Violent Direct Action for when it’s needed.
The Green Party is brave. It is bold. And it is the only party willing to put its bodies on the line.
Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry are standing for Co-Leaders of the Green Party. Their website is here.
This piece is part of a Left Foot Forward series on the Green Party’s current leadership election. Voting opens on the 30th July and closes on the 31st August, with the results announced in September.
Got a story or take on the leadership contest? Contact [email protected]Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.