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Acquitted for Bank Window Smash: Unraveling the Jury's Verdict and Its Implications

Monday, 20 November 2023 16:20 Opinion

In 2021, I found myself among nine women arrested for breaking the windows at HSBC's London headquarters as a bold act of protest against the failure of our leaders to address the pressing climate crisis. After enduring a grueling three-week trial, a jury of our peers, in just two hours of deliberation, delivered a verdict of not guilty for the nearly half a million pounds in criminal damage we were accused of.

My trust in the jury's decision rested on two fundamental beliefs. First, I hold a deep-seated conviction in the inherent goodness and cooperative nature of the human spirit. Given the opportunity, people will, more often than not, make decisions rooted in compassion and fairness. Second, I believe that people worldwide have reached a tipping point, a collective realization that we've had enough. Enough of the "moral and economic madness" described by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, particularly the misguided investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure symbolized by hundreds of oil and gas licenses recently granted by figures like Rishi Sunak.

Throughout the trial, the concept of human "conscience" weighed heavily on my mind. Its roots in Latin and Greek point toward the idea of sharing knowledge with oneself, emphasizing a moral judgment process that involves exchanging factual, emotional, and contextual information. We placed our trust in the jury to grasp the broader context beyond the specific act of breaking windows in 2021 – a context defined by catastrophic climate breakdown and the complicit role of banks like HSBC, which invested over £80 billion in fossil fuel infrastructure in the five years following the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Acknowledging that we did, indeed, use hammers and chisels to break the glass, we emphasized that not all damage is created equal. It is the context that matters, and in confronting tough choices, we recognized the point at which we know enough to make an informed decision.

The establishment clings to order and consistency to maintain its power, perpetuating the myth of the selfish "economic man." However, by dispelling this myth, eschewing the culture war, and rekindling a quiet faith in the human spirit and conscience, we can usher in great change. It is in the collective trust in ourselves and our ability to make informed, compassionate decisions that the seeds of transformation are sown.

Over the past six months, I've collaborated with a dedicated group of community organizers in Hull under the banner of Cooperation Hull. Our mission: to explore the profound transformation of democracy in the UK from the grassroots level. At the heart of our vision lies the belief that people's assemblies—public forums where ordinary individuals deliberate and collectively make decisions—hold the key to shaping a different world for our children. In the eloquent words of Hull organizer Adam Hawley, these assemblies are "places where the culture war dissolves."

Drawing parallels between people's assemblies and juries, there's an almost mythical quality to their democratic essence. Both hinge on a societal element that is currently endangered: trust. Trust in the collective wisdom of a group of strangers, trust in each other to convey and recognize truth, and trust that, devoid of the corrupting influences of money and status, the human conscience can reliably guide us toward the right path.

This concept of trust forms the bedrock of our endeavor in Cooperation Hull, as we strive to create spaces where genuine dialogue, devoid of divisive culture wars, can thrive. Our aspiration is to rekindle faith in the democratic process and the inherent goodness of collective decision-making. It is a belief that when individuals come together, unburdened by external influences, they can authentically engage in deliberation, recognizing the common ground that unites us all.

As we navigate the challenges of our time, I find inspiration in these democratic ideals, fostering a profound hope for a future where trust in one another and the democratic process prevails. Gully Bujak, having worked with Extinction Rebellion for several years, now proudly serves as a community organizer in Hull, actively contributing to the transformative journey toward a more participatory and trusting democracy.

In conclusion, the work undertaken by Cooperation Hull over the last six months stands as a testament to the belief in the transformative power of people's assemblies and the resurgence of trust in the democratic process. This small group of dedicated community organizers in Hull, guided by the vision that public forums can dissolve cultural divisions, is actively engaged in shaping a more participatory democracy from the ground up.

The comparison drawn between people's assemblies and juries highlights their almost mythical democratic nature, rooted in the endangered concept of trust. Trust in the collective wisdom of strangers, trust in truth-telling, and trust in the human conscience to discern the right path when unencumbered by the corrupting forces of money and status.

Through the lens of Cooperation Hull, these democratic ideals become the cornerstone of efforts to create spaces where genuine dialogue thrives, fostering a shared understanding that transcends divisive culture wars. The goal is to revive faith in the democratic process, recognizing the inherent goodness of collective decision-making when individuals come together authentically.

As we navigate the complexities of our time, Cooperation Hull's endeavors offer a hopeful vision of a future where trust prevails, and people actively engage in democratic processes that honor the shared values binding us all. Gully Bujak's journey from Extinction Rebellion to community organizing in Hull exemplifies a commitment to fostering a more participatory and trusting democracy, paving the way for meaningful change from the grassroots level.

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