'Bang the drum' climate demonstration labelled 'bullying' by some councillors

County councillors have complained of ‘bullying’ after a ‘bang the drum for fossil fuel divestment’ protest.
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On Tuesday (July 12), environmental campaigners from a variety of groups held a demonstration outside County Hall in Lewes, as East Sussex County Council gathered for its most recent full meeting.

The demonstration — now a regular feature of full council meetings — saw protesters call on councillors to support the East Sussex Pension Fund relinquishing its investments in the fossil fuel industry.

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Drumming from the demonstration could be heard for much of the meeting that followed.

'Lightship Greta' outside County Hall (Photo by JJ Waller)'Lightship Greta' outside County Hall (Photo by JJ Waller)
'Lightship Greta' outside County Hall (Photo by JJ Waller)

Those to criticise the protest included Labour’s Godfrey Daniel, who described the drumming as ‘bullying’ and called for action to prevent similar demonstrations on council grounds in future.

He said: “I don’t like bullies and when bullies seek to disrupt the democratic process that has me worried.

“I do hope the leader and his legal officers might look into using any powers to stop that. At the end of the day we are here and people are entitled to come and address us as they for public questions.

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“We deserve to be able to hear people and understand what they are saying.”

But Green councillor Wendy Maples, who said: “What is important is that those people are feeling like they are not heard. Whatever you might think of the nature of the protest, these are people who are exercising a democratic right.”

Nick Bennett, Conservative cabinet member for resources and climate change, said: “You heard this morning that some people believe that the behaviour of the people outside was bullying. Others found it irritating. That is a breach of the peace, therefore that cannot be a peaceful demonstration, therefore something should have been done about it.”

Chris Collier (Lab) said: “Now I am not suggesting the council doesn’t listen, because I have seen responses from officers and I know the council does listen. But that is different from people believing they’ve been heard.

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“I think there is something we could maybe carry forward through governance about engaging better with our residents, maybe changing some of the constitution about how we engage with them through these meetings.”