Convicted XR protestor said 'action was necessary' to raise awareness of toxic air deaths
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 September 2019
Avon and Somerset Constabulary
An environmentalist said taking action and getting arrested felt necessary to raise awareness of 40,000 premature deaths a year due to pollution, because her son died in a asthma attack.
Melanie Phelps, from Kewstoke, was among eight Extinction Rebellion protestors this month found guilty of obstructing a public highway for four hours during week-long climate protests in Bristol, in July.
Phelps, along with Weston protestor Johnny Boxsall, was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs at a hearing at Bristol Magistrates Court.
The day of the sentencing also marked a decade since Phelps' 12-year-old son Jacques, funeral.
She told the court: "Not only was my son wrenched from my world but my heart and soul was torn from within me with equal brutality.
"Nothing I can say can convey the magnitude of his loss, nothing I can say can convey the magnitude of the trauma and grief of losing a child, so today is a poignant and difficult day for me.
"After losing one child to a respiratory disease linked to air pollution I am terrified at the prospect of losing other family members due to the impact and threat of the climate crisis.
"My 12-year old son, Jacques, died from asthma. We know toxic air leads to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year and the UK already has the highest asthma death rate for 10 to 24-year-olds compared to similar western countries.
"These deaths will increase significantly in the future because rising temperatures act to make air pollution worse.
"For me, taking action in Bristol and getting arrested felt necessary to raise this awareness."
Avon and Somerset Constabulary said the force intended to work with Extinction Rebellion to allow peaceful and lawful protests to take place, but were 'very clear' on what they 'would not tolerate,' and that campaigners' actions 'crossed a line'.
Its spokesman said: "We had to call on specialist police resources and equipment to remove the protestors from a bathtub and this operation lasted around four hours.
"The true cost to members of the public caught up in the disruption will never be known.
"However, it's inevitable that action like this has the potential to result in unforeseen consequences which can have a significant impact on people's lives."