I have never seen such disgraceful scenes at Shropshire Council since the chief executive confiscated cameras to prevent filming of a debate in 2015. Meeting in full session, the council faced protests on the climate emergency by Shrewsbury Extinction Rebellion. As XR activists tried to address the council in guerrilla action on the behalf of our future, the Tory Speaker who oversees the meeting ordered all councillors out of the chamber. Like lambs being rounded up by a sheepdog, all the Conservative members filed out of the chamber with studied looks of disgust on their faces. Their action was a disgrace. The Speaker told councillors to treat the protest with the contempt it deserved as they were moved out by security. That was also a disgrace.
This is deeply ironic because tomorrow millions of people will be walking out of schools and workplaces to protest about lack of action on climate change. Tory councillors walked out of a council meeting because they did not want to hear a protest about climate change!
As far as I know, none of us in the chamber knew the protest was to happen. It was clear within seconds that there was a divide across the chamber. The Tories walked out as they were instructed to do. They should have stopped to listen.
The Lib Dems, Labour and our single Green councillor remained seated. We strained to hear what the Extinction Rebellion protesters were saying as they were off microphone. Security arrived and evicted the entirely passive protesters.
We need to create space for public protest in Shropshire. The climate emergency was on the council’s agenda twice. My motion to plant 345,000 new trees across Shropshire, one for everyone in the county by 2050, and establish a tree bank went through. It was even seconded by a Conservative. But Conservative councillors approved a motion to upgrade the A5 between Telford and Preston Boats to motorway status. Unbelievably, the same councillor that supported our tree motion – he’s the cabinet member for climate change – spoke in favour of Shropshire becoming a motorway county.
Extinction Rebellion believe that Shropshire Council is being to slow to act on the climate emergency. I agree.
I didn’t see the protest outside Shirehall which included the delivery of a coffin. I was busy negotiating the last details of tactics for the meeting. But you can read Keri Trigg’s full report on the Shropshire Star website.
The protest in the council chamber began just after 10am. That was a few minutes after the usual prayers when members make promises to their god they will do great things for Shropshire just before doing entirely the opposite. I am not bothered in the least about this archaic process. Council meetings are full of contradictions.
The media were in the public gallery. I spotted Keri Trigg from the Shropshire Star, Joanne Gallagher from BBC Radio Shropshire and our Local Democracy Reporter, Andrew Morris. We be seeing and hearing their reports in the next few days. But I didn’t see any Extinction Rebellion members in the public gallery filming their intervention. If there was a video, please link it in the comments box below.
I could only hear part of what was being said at the opposite of the chamber. It was off microphone. The Extinction Rebellion protesters were ordered to leave Shirehall and escorted out by security. But we Lib Dems, Labour and our Green sat fast on our seats. This wasn’t planned. No one in the opposition groups knew a protest was to happen in the chamber. There was no conversation between those of us who refused to leave the chamber. It was instinct. We were driven by belief that the council must hear urgent voices on the climate emergency.
It was impossible to get a good video of this confrontation from my seat on the opposite side of the chamber. But this clip shows the Tories filing out one by one as instructed. And the Speaker telling the members: “Treat this [protest] with the contempt it deserves”.