A Coal Mine in Bangladesh and The Superglue Three

By Tim Jones

 

Getting into bed on Thursday evening I got a call: plans for a vast coal pit in Bangladesh, 130,000 people threatened with forced displacement, a coal company’s annual general meeting in central London tomorrow morning, blocking the doors, need one more person. A fitful night’s sleep and then, suddenly, it was 9am and I was hurrying up Regent Street, still very confused. The plan was formed in the minutes or two that it took to cross Regent Street and walk to Cavendish Square where we saw a small group of protesters outside the building where GCM Resources Plc were planning to hold their AGM. My three friends each had a little tube of superglue tucked up their sleeve. They knew there were three turnstiles so I was happy to offer welfare support and be a legal observer.

We walked past the dozen or so protesters, blanking them, and straight through a revolving door. Inside the foyer (bland, pillared, glassy) we were confronted by several security guards. A second’s hesitation would have undone the whole job but with absolute composure and resolve the three gluers found a way to the turnstiles. It took half a minute for anyone to do or say anything. It took even longer for them to realise that these three angry women weren’t going anywhere. As the adrenaline flowed it was intoxicating to watch the puzzled reactions of the gym-built, sharp-suited security guards. In the end they were very pleasant. We explained what was going on and why (‘What! With superglue?’ they almost laughed, hardly listening to the why bit).

The protesters outside gave a lot of loud support. The police came and several hours of slow negotiation ensued. This was totally different to an action outdoors in a public or open space where the police had been given warning, where there were large numbers risking arrest, where there was media presence. Soon the option of the gluers leaving without arrest was removed. The manager of the building was initially diplomatic but became increasingly irate. The gluers sang, read aloud from Naomi Klein and, at every opportunity, spoke with clarity and conviction about the people of Phulbari in Bangladesh and of what climate breakdown means for us all. Some listened and nodded, then mostly stopped listening. But everyone who was there or who hears about this will have to, at some even subconscious level, reflect on what it all means. We heard that the AGM had been cancelled, although we couldn’t be sure this was true. ‘So now you can go, right?’ said the building manager. The gluers reflected calmly, with aching arms and burning hands, and decided not to self-remove but to stick it out until the Protester Removal Squad arrived from Kent.

After blocking the turnstiles for three hours they were removed by a team of very large, gentle and professional officers who came with tool kits, kidney dishes and syringes. The gluers were each carried out through a fire exit to a waiting van. It was solemn and uplifting, sacrificial and defiant.

Afterwards I was privileged to meet some of the campaigners from Bangladesh who represent the people of Phulbari. Their story should shame and terrify us all into action. Companies operating from London continue to impose colonial tyranny over the Global South, continue to accrue vast wealth to a blind and nihilistic elite and continue to burn the delicate and infinitely beautiful ecosystem that still, somehow, sustains us all. It was hugely encouraging to meet people from Foil Vedanta who, after years of campaigning, have managed to get Vedanta Resources d-listed from the London stock exchange and publicly condemned for their conduct and environmental and human rights abuses.

On reflection it would have been good to have press coverage and to have arranged live streaming but, in many ways, it was the suddenness of the action that was so effective. Some of the campaigners had bought shares in GCM so that they could have access to the meeting and thereby hold the company publicly to account. The purpose of blocking the entrance, however, was to completely shut down the meeting. So we learned something about planning and co-ordination, especially when working with other organisations. But everyone was extremely grateful for what the Superglue Three had done. A clear message was sent to GCM and those who host or support them. At the same time the composure, dedication and courage of our three rebels is a reminder to us all of a lesson I’ve always been aware of but am only really beginning to understand: that to live is to act and to act is to sacrifice.

The arrestees were taken to Charing Cross Police Station and charged with aggravated trespass and criminal damage. Solicitors came after about 5 hours, interviews were conducted and we heard that they were all fine. We waited in shifts. I had to go at 12.45am to get the last train. Two lovely people from XR had joined me for the evening and they continued waiting until nearly 3am. In the face of appalling abuses of power and the reality of present and future tragedy, it had been an inspiring day: incredible, brave, dedicated people who have been moved to act out of love and concern.

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