A protest that blocked the distribution of major UK newspapers kept around 100 workers stuck at a printing site for up to seven hours, a court heard.
Extinction Rebellion activists staged the demonstration at Newsprinters Ltd in Broxbourne in September 2020.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp titles, including the Sun, Times, Sun On Sunday and Sunday Times, are published at the site, as are the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, and the London Evening Standard.
Six people are standing trial at St Albans Magistrates’ Court accused of obstructing the highway with bamboo structures (pictured) to block deliveries leaving the printing press.
The court heard around 20 taxis were called to take staff home, paid for by Newsprinters Ltd and not News UK, but some remained to wait for the protest to clear as they needed their cars.
One employee, due to finish at 5am, was not able to leave the site until around midday, the court heard.
Alan Brett, manufacturing director of Newsprinters Ltd, told the court that staff on-site at the time included printing contractors, engineers, drivers and cleaners.
“There were no journalists or editors in the building,” he added.
Eleanor Bujak, 28 of Bracey Street, London, Sally Davidson, 33 of Byards Croft, London, James Ozden, 35 of The Avenue, London, Timothy Speers, 35 of Rosswyld Lodge, Waltham Forest, and Morgan Trowland, 38 of Massie Road, London, are all appearing in person at the trial.
Liam Norton, 36, of Esplanade Gardens, Scarborough, is being tried in his absence after he glued himself to a table and began filming inside the courtroom on Monday.
He was arrested and released under investigation, but the judge ruled he could not return to the trial and he was refused access to the building.
District judge Sally Fudge said: “I will not allow Norton to return to court on the basis that the risk of further disruption is too great.”
On Tuesday the remaining defendants left the trial and refused to return unless Norton was admitted.
The trial was paused for around 20 minutes before the defendants returned and Davidson made an application for the judge to recuse herself from the trial, which was denied.
Raj Chada, who is representing four of the defendants but not Norton, said: “I do not see how he can get a fair trial in his absence.”
‘If anything, we should have done more’
Three of the defendants took the stand on Tuesday.
Bujak, who arrived at 10pm, said she was not locked on to the van where she sat and “came down willingly” at 11am on 5 September.
“Our intention was to disrupt the newspapers for a single cycle in order to have a protest that was heard by the public and people in power,” she said.
Trowland said the protest was not moved off the road, at the police’s request, because “no one would have paid any attention”.
Ozden, who addressed the court in the afternoon, said: “If anything, we should have done more”.
He added: “We disrupted one day after 10 years of climate denial and I think it is so reasonable to have an 11-hour protest after so many years of climate scepticism.”
The defendants cited Murdoch’s “control” over the UK media, and a lack of coverage over climate change, as to their reasons behind the protest.
Speers said he had told police he would come down from the van if he could have a “meeting with Boris Johnson”.
“That was seen to be an unacceptable demand,” he said, and there was “no further interaction from that moment on” with authorities, the court heard.
When asked why they would not move from the road, Davidson said the right to protest was “not symbolic”, adding: “If nobody is disrupted by it, it’s often not seen or heard.”
Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire