Protesters in court accused of blockading Amazon site on Black Friday

Five activists who allegedly blockaded an Amazon fulfilment centre on Black Friday last year appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court.

Chelmsford Magistrates' Court
Chelmsford Magistrates' Court

Five Extinction Rebellion activists accused of trespassing while blockading an Amazon distribution centre in Essex on Black Friday last year have appeared in court.

Julie Hermann, Sarah Michel, Nicholas Onley, Emily Robinson and Luke Whiting are each accused of disrupting a person engaged in lawful activity.

They pleaded not guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Prosecutor Micaila Williams said they all face individual charges of aggravated trespass contrary to section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

This relates to a “peaceful protest” by the climate group Extinction Rebellion at an Amazon fulfilment centre on Windrush Road, Thurrock, on November 26, 2021, the court heard.

The Crown said there are two access points to the distribution centre and they are both on “private land”.

Ms Williams said that being on the site without permission was a “trespass”.

She focused on the protest at the main entrance, which she called “site one”, on the first day of the trial.

At about 4.15am Brad Hayes, loss prevention manager at the fulfilment centre, was made aware of the protests, she said.

She said a “bamboo structure with rocket” had been erected at site one and Onley was sitting on top of it, wearing a mask of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

She said a Luton van was also parked across the entrance to the rear, blocking access for HGVs to leave or enter the site.

It had a sign on it which said “Black Friday exploits people and planet” and Whiting and Robinson were sitting on top, she said.

She said the van was not big enough to block all access to the site, so two protesters, Hermann and Michel, had laid on the road to “prevent or obstruct access”.

They “had secured themselves into a concrete anchor” so they could not be removed, the prosecutor added.

She said: “As a result of their actions at both sites, delivery drivers and warehouse staff were disrupted from going about their lawful activity.”

She said the blockade prevented them from going home or to work.

She said “the site was disrupted for around 15 hours” and the business was due 82 inbound deliveries and 150 outbound deliveries.

This caused approximate losses of £32,000 due to staff being unable to work, she added.

This did not include losses to Amazon as a result of compensation and refunds paid as a result of disruptions and delays, she said.

The defendants were later arrested and removed, she said.

The defendants at site one are expected to say that they do not accept the land was private and/or deny knowledge or awareness of being trespassers, the court heard.

Francesca Cociani was representing Robinson, 27, of no fixed abode and Michel, 43, of Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, north London.

Hermann, 38, of Robsart Street, Brixton, south London, Onley, 60, of Richmond Road, Tottenham, north London, and Whiting, 31, of Grove Road, Bow, east London, were self-representing.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday, when it is expected to conclude.

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