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Why we're revolting all around the world
PHIL BALL, a father-of-three, left his Chipping Norton home in September to join a Greenpeace International mission to the Arctic.
He had packed for cold weather, spent weeks perfecting climbing skills needed to scale a Russian oil platform, and said little about where he would be going or when he would return to his family.
The aim of the Greenpeace mission is to draw global attention to the potential dangers of drilling for oil in the Arctic.
But their ‘peaceful’ protest was met with a swift armed response from the Russians, and now, as part of the so-called ‘Arctic 30’, Mr Ball is incarcerated in a notorious Russian detention centre on piracy charges which could see him jailed for up to 15 years.
Yesterday, Oxfordshire National Union of Teachers secretary Gawain Little said he was following a tradition of Oxfordshire people protesting over what they believed in.
He explained: “Oxfordshire has a rich history of radicalism and protest spanning from the 17th century Levellers, who defied Cromwell and paid the ultimate price, to today, as we see people like Phil Ball risking their lives to protect the environment and teachers losing a day’s pay to show how passionately they believe in protecting children’s education.”
Oxfordshire’s radical history is colourful and sometimes bloody.
The ‘Captain Swing’ riots spread across southern England during the agricultural depression of 1830 and 1831.
The instigators were mainly farm labourers who demolished new labour-saving agricultural machinery and set fire to haystacks, led by the imaginary character of ‘Captain Swing’, who signed threatening letters to hated landowners and local elite figures.
Swing rioting spread from Berkshire to Oxfordshire in November 1830.
The first major attack was at Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford, on November 21.
And on November 29, a machine was broken at Faulkner’s farm at Broadwell, south of Burford.
‘Actions’ of today are generally less violent in the county, with petitions having taken the place of pitchforks.
But the strength of feeling and willingness to act remains.
Sushila Dhall, 52, is chairman of Oxfordshire Green Party, chairman of Oxford Pedestrians’ Association and founder member of the Save Port Meadow campaign, which was launched after controversial new Oxford University flats were built overlooking the meadow.
She said: “I have been an activist since I was in my 20s and the campaign to save Port Meadow has been uplifting, in that it has become a campaign with a hard-working core group with many skills, and we have uncovered many irregularities in the planning process which at least explain how such a monstrous building could have been allowed.
“Personally I will not stop trying to get these buildings lowered until it happens, even if it takes years to achieve.”
Jonathan O’Neill was a founder member of Ardley Against the Incinerator, an organisation formed by ‘ordinary’ people, which would go on to fight a three-year battle with the multi-million pound corporation Viridor.
Mr O’Neill said: “One day while out shopping I saw a story in The Oxford Times about plans to build an incinerator near my village.
“Myself and another villager were concerned and so we delivered flyers proposing a meeting.”
The group would become Ardley Against the Incinerator and they could not have known it then, but they were about to embark on a campaign which would involve thousands of hours, petitions, meetings and even a visit to the High Court.
Mr O’Neill added: “We identified the lawyer, the barrister, the marketer and the accountant among us and we started to grow a campaign.
“We organised a petition signed by 19 local parish councils – no mean feat.
“We also raised £50,000 and gained the support of our district council.”
The group made it to the High Court, but their appeal to block the incinerator was thrown out and the incinerator is now going ahead.
Despite this the group’s failure to stop it has not been in vain, said Mr O’Neill.
“There have been instances where we have already upheld planning regulations and we will continue to do this.”
ON December 13, 1982, Sarah Lasenby, pictured, was one of 30,000 women who ringed the nine-mile perimeter of Greenham Common cruise missile base in Berkshire, in a demonstration against nuclear weapons.
Thirty years on and now 75, she has been arrested for demonstrating five times and still travels to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston near Reading, once a month to take part in an anti-nuclear vigil.
Mrs Lasenby, from East Oxford said: “I always supported nuclear disarmament, but I didn’t really have the time to commit to it properly until I retired at 60.
“Since then I have been a member of Action AWE which is a grassroots campaign of non-violent actions dedicated to halting nuclear weapons production at Aldermaston and Burghfield. In 2016 I will be 78, but I don’t see myself ever giving up protesting.”
TAKING ON POWER'S TALL ORDER.
ON October 26, 2009, 20 protesters occupied Didcot Power Station to protest about climate change.
The protest, which included Oxford students, saw nine protesters set up ‘camp’ atop one of the plant’s 200m chimneys, where they stayed for two days.
In November 2006, Greenpeace supporters also daubed “Blair’s Legacy” on the power plant.
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