Climate protester 'who smashed Barclays window' was shareholder in bank

Campaigner tells court the £100,000 attack was done 'out of love' after years of campaigning

A police officer detains an activist from the Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, outside the Barclays offices in Canary Wharf, London, Britain, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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A climate protester accused of being part of a group who caused £100,000 worth of damage to the UK headquarters of Barclays had been a shareholder in the bank, a court heard.

Zoe Cohen, 52, had invested so she could propose a resolution against funding fossil fuels before helping to smash glass windows during a demonstration at the bank.

She was one of seven women said to have attacked the building in Canary Wharf, east London, on April 7 last year.

Ms Cohen — along with Carol Wood, 53, Nicola Stickells, 52, Sophie Cowen, 31, Lucy Porter, 48, Gabriella Ditton, 28, and Rosemary Webster, 64 — is accused of causing criminal damage during the protest.

It is said the women’s actions were associated with climate change campaigners Extinction Rebellion (XR).

All the defendants, apart from Ms Wood and Ms Stickells, are representing themselves.

The group spread out along the front of the Barclays headquarters before using chisels and hammers to break the large glass panels that made up the exterior of the bank, the court heard.

Giving evidence on Monday, Ms Cohen told jurors that over the past 40 years she has tried “many lawful paths” to campaign for environmental change.

For example, she said she became a Barclays shareholder in early 2021 to put forward a resolution asking the bank to phase out funding for fossil fuels.

She earlier claimed that Barclays was one of the largest funders of fossil fuels in Europe.

The board voted against the proposition, the court heard.

“I truly and honestly believed that by April 2021, I had run out of other options to try and achieve change,” Ms Cohen said.

“I felt that breaking that pane of glass carefully in a way that did not hurt anyone was needed to counteract or try to act against much greater evil.”

Jurors heard the defendant believed that “any reasonable person” would have consented to the breaking of the glass if they were fully informed of the “climate crisis”.

Ms Cohen also told the jury that the repair costs – £97,022 – were “insignificant” to Barclays, which had spent £100 million in refurbishments last year.

She added that windows were replaceable and glass recyclable, but “species” and “whole human cultures” were not.

Having worked in the NHS and public health for 18 years, Ms Cohen is now a self-employed “coach”, working with leaders and managers in the private and public sector.

She said she had a love of justice, which she owed to her parents and grandparents, one of whom worked with the French resistance in the Second World War.

“I don’t break things. I was brought up to reuse, repair and recycle.”

Ms Cohen added that she “genuinely believed”, then and now, that what she did at Barclays headquarters was “an act of love”.

Ms Wood of Swansea, Wales, Ms Stickells of Harleston, Ms Cowen of Shaftesbury, Ms Porter of Euston, central London, Ms Ditton of Norwich, Ms Webster, of Dorchester, and Ms Cohen of Lymm all deny criminal damage.

The trial continues.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 4:27 PM
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