Peace activism and criminal damage: ‘When you’re a Quaker and a Methodist minister, juries tend to acquit’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap. ‘We were about three metres away from the first plane when we got caught,’ says Dan Woodhouse, the Methodist minister who broke into a BAE Systems airbase this January. Along with fellow peace activist Sam Walton, Woodhouse had hoped to prevent British arms from making their way to Saudi Arabia. The pair was charged with causing £1,000 of criminal damage without a lawful excuse, but were recently acquitted at Burnley Magistrates’ Court. A district judge accepted their argument that they had acted for the greater good. Woodhouse and Walton, both experienced anti-arms activists, decided to take direct action because, in their view, they had exhausted all efforts to lobby MPs, demonstrate and sign petitions. ‘There’s a point when normal campaigning just doesn’t work because the government doesn’t want to hear it,’ Woodhouse suggests. ‘They just want to sell more weapons to Saudi. In the face …

Two Plantations: A Retrospective

  I, too, sing America. — Langston Hughes, 1945 i. Fewer than six miles apart, between two kinks in the same stretch of the Mississippi, stand two ancestors modern America would rather forget. An hour beyond the hum of New Orleans, Laura and Whitney hold the same plots they held 200 years ago. Since then, from atop the balconies of the Big Houses, the changes to this Louisiana landscape are almost imperceptible, the horizon newly busied with the occasional whizz of cars and the steadily rising levee that hides the river’s edge from view. Come, when the summer sun is at its highest and the trees cast only their slimmest shadows, as though rationing relief. In heat like this, shelter from the leaves above never seems to stretch quite far enough. “Feel free to take one,” chirps the guide at Whitney, gesturing towards the barrel of umbrellas just behind us. …

Modern slavery and the media: What we don’t know can hurt us

This piece was originally published by René Cassin. Who has read about John Lewis and Habitat’s decision to stop selling a range of granite worktops over worries that slaves played a part in making them? When the news broke early this month, only The Guardian and The Metro gave it airtime. An imbalance is hardening in the British media. What the public knows about modern slavery relates overwhelmingly to the prosecution and conviction of criminals. But that’s only a fraction of the story – and, when it comes to slavery, what we don’t know really can hurt us. The more mugshots fill front pages, the harder it is to see the bigger picture. For newspapers chasing headlines, supply chains and victim protection rarely fit the bill. At the centre of Britain’s problem with slavery, though, are the hidden tentacles of networks that reach well beyond our borders. Modern slavery is as much about the businesses and …