FOUR members of Bradford on Avon’s Extinction Rebellion group have been arrested for climate protest actions - two of them twice.

But what drives these people to such actions? Are they extremists intent on disrupting the ordinary public as Home Secretary Priti Patel would have us believe?

Stephanie Laslett, of Bradford on Avon Extinction Rebellion group, said: “They are a group of very ordinary people, of all ages and backgrounds, who had never met before but came together through a shared belief: that they could no longer stand by and passively accept the lack of urgency shown by local and national government in addressing the climate emergency.

“All of them felt moved to action. All of them were arrested, in different locations, two of them in London recently. All of them now have a criminal record. All of them would, and quite possibly will, do it again.”

Chrissie Aslett, a nurse practitioner from Bradford on Avon, and her husband Nick Aslett, a social worker, were both arrested for the second time in September 2020 and charged with breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act in Parliament Square, London.

The first time they were both arrested, they were charged with wilful obstruction of the highway in Trafalgar Square, London, in October 2019.

Mr Aslett said: “We had not intended to be arrested the second time. We had both found the experience of our arrest the previous autumn emotionally challenging.

“But we marched to Parliament Square with our fellow South West Rebels and sat in the road.

“A large bank of police advanced towards us in an almost military style and we were so shocked and angered by this premeditated and aggressive response that we decided not to move.

“Being dragged away by four police officers, having your possessions confiscated and being locked in a cell is not a positive experience. Emotions are mixed, moving from anger to fear to incredulity.

“I was treated politely at all times and have nothing but sympathy for the police officers being asked to carry out their duty.

“In fact many of them shared their personal support for the actions we take, as I’ve also heard from other people arrested.

“The experiences have affirmed my view that arrestable action is a necessary part of the global movement seeking to bring about the changes needed to respond to the climate and ecological emergency.

“Our Government, along with the vast majority of governments globally, is not showing the leadership we need."

John Coghlan, a former product director from Winsley, was arrested and charged with Breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act on Waterloo Bridge, London, in April 2019.

Mr Coghlan said: “I have three wonderful children just embarking on adult life.

“When I think of their futures, and the futures of their children blighted by the climate crisis, I just couldn’t stand by and do nothing.”

Viv Talbot, a charity manager from Bradford on Avon, was also arrested on Waterloo Bridge in April 2019 and charged with Breaching Section 14 of the Public Order Act.

She said: “Having campaigned against environmental destruction for the past 40 years whilst watching things get progressively worse, I felt our only chance of being heard was to take non-violent direct action, even if that involved breaking the law.”

There is evidence that some within the UK judiciary have sympathy for activists’ actions.

Ms Talbot said: “The judge seemed sympathetic to our cause."

The group says protests by climate activists will be severely restricted by the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Under this new law, the government will have the power to shut down any protest which causes noise that impacts upon an organisation or even a single bystander, and to prevent just one person standing alone legitimately protesting.

Alanna Byrne, of Extinction Rebellion, said: “Priti Patel can try and make the UK a protest-free zone, but it’s clear that the government is not going to do the right thing without protestors holding them to account so we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. They can try to make it a crime to care but they will not stop people from caring.”

Mr Aslett added: “I think it is almost inevitable that I will be arrested again and feel it is likely that I will be imprisoned at some stage.

"Sadly, we do not have the time to quietly prevaricate and kick action into the long grass.

"There is a climate emergency, we need to behave like it’s an emergency. I owe it to my children and to the vast biodiversity of this wonderful planet to do all I can.”

The four are part of an Extinction Rebellion Group that also covers Bath, where in May a student called CJ sat in the road outside the Guildhall. He was arrested and charged with wilful obstruction of the highway in High Street, Bath.

One of the group, Greg Dring, a clinical psychologist from Bath, has been arrested and charged three times in relation to protest incidents in Parliament Square in September 2020, Millbank, London, in September 2019 and Waterloo Bridge in April 2019.

Mr Dring also faces a disciplinary hearing with his professional body, the Health Care Professions Council, charged with bringing the profession of clinical psychology into disrepute.

Mr Dring defended his actions, saying: “I worked for nearly 20 years in Child and Adolescent Services in Bath and West Wiltshire and I have children and grandchildren of my own.

“I feel afraid there will be no possibility of survival for them and countless others in an overheated world.

“Every year brings worse news about the climate. The equatorial forests are losing the ability to draw down carbon dioxide, and so are the world’s oceans as their surface waters warm.

“The Arctic Tundra has defrosted far earlier than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and there can be no doubt that methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is already being released by both the Arctic Ocean and the tundra.

“For future generations to have a chance we need drastic reductions in carbon emissions now.”