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Extinction Rebellion protester goes on hunger strike and refuses water after being denied bail

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A woman who was arrested for causing criminal damage to a Government building went on hunger strike yesterday (April 15) after being denied bail by the Met Police. Ecologist Emma Smart was detained during a protest with 24 fellow scientists at the UK Government’s Energy Department meeting in Central London on Wednesday (April 13).

She has been denied an application for bail and is currently being held at Charing Cross Police Station ahead of her court appearance tomorrow (April 16). In protest, she is refusing all food and water. Husband Andy Smith has blasted the Government and police force for this, adding that “her treatment is disproportionate to her crime”.

Along with eight of her fellow activists, Emma has been charged with criminal damage after pasting scientific papers to the Government building and glueing themselves to the glass frontage. Their protests form part of the April Rebellion which is calling for an end to all new fossil fuel investments immediately.

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Emma was jailed over Christmas with fellow activists for breaking an injunction with Insulate Britain

Emma, who was jailed over Christmas for breaking an injunction with Insulate Britain, said during her trial last year: “This court may see me as being on the wrong side of the law, but in my heart I know I am on the right side of history. I will not be a bystander.”

Andy told MyLondon his wife is currently refusing all food and water in protest. He added that while Emma took part in a 26-day hunger strike when imprisoned for environmental protests over Christmas, this is the first time she has refused to take fluids too.

Andy said: “This one, because she’s not even drinking water, it’s upped the stakes quite dramatically. So I’m a little bit anxious about it, but I support her actions in whatever she does. I’ve spoken to her twice and she’s doing ok. She’s got headaches, the first sign of dehydration, but other than that she’s in good spirits.”

Andy, who is currently running Emma’s Twitter account while she is imprisoned, has raised concerns on the platform about the police’s understanding of just how dangerous the strike is. Dehydration can quickly lead to headaches, fatigue and exhaustion, before progressing suddenly to organ failure and, potentially, death.

He said it is common in strikes such as these for staff changeover to be a factor: “They don’t actually understand the severity of the situation and they end up neglecting you. But we know now they are well aware of the situation.”

It is understood Emma is now receiving specialist care to monitor her situation. This includes regular blood tests to check her blood sugar levels. But he said he was still worried about the condition of the cells and the impact on Emma.

“The conditions in the custody cells aren’t pleasant,” said the husband. “They leave the lights on 24 hours and there are no windows. It’s just an unpleasant situation. She doesn’t have a watch so it’s really difficult for her to know what time it is or how long she’s been in there.”

He concluded the challenges for Emma are “80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical”. He continued: “She’s holding up pretty well mentally but the physical can deteriorate quite dramatically quite quickly so it’s difficult to tell.”

Andy added: “What kind of world do we live in when scientists are forced to put themselves into positions of arrest and hunger strike to be heard? And why has she not been released? This was a minor crime with no disruption to the public. Her treatment is disproportionate to her crime.

“Our politicians are aware of the severity of the climate emergency, every decision should be informed by science, not coerced for profit and greed. Emma knows what’s at stake if we don’t stop fossil fuel investments and she is taking a stand for her niece’s future and all those around the world suffering now from this crisis. Everyone must stand with her now and come out on the streets to show the government that change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Air quality scientist Pete Knapp, of Scientists for Extinction Rebellion, added: “The fact that Emma is being held beyond the usual 24 hours shows that the UK Government is effectively at war with climate science. They would rather lock up and silence experts sounding the alarm than do their duty and protect the public from catastrophic climate change.

“The science is totally clear: we must not drill for new oil and gas. Instead, we must move to clean energy as quickly as possible. But our Government only last week declared it will licence new fossil fuel exploration in spite of repeated and dire warnings from scientists that this will lead to disaster. This is the flagrant dereliction of duty that Emma is calling out, and they are locking her up for it.”

Emma charged with criminal damage

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Emma Smart, 44, of Weymouth, Dorset has been charged with criminal damage. The charge relates to an incident in Victoria Street, SW1H on Wednesday, April 13.

“Smart was arrested at the scene and charged the following day. She was remanded in custody to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at the first opportunity. Due to the courts being closed on Bank Holidays, the date of that appearance is Saturday, April 16.

“Decisions regarding bail are taken on a case by case basis and consider a range of matters including, but not limited to, whether there is a risk to the public or the person detained, the likelihood of someone not complying with any bail conditions or absconding and any previous history of offending while on bail.

“While people are in custody, officers have a duty of care for their welfare and will ensure the medical needs of all detainees are considered. Health care professionals are available to each custody suite.” The Ministry of Justice has also been contacted for comment.

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I’m Sam, a News Reporter at MyLondon with a special interest in covering court and crime. I started in September 2021, and I’m based in Ealing. You can follow my Facebook page here.

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