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Magna Carta Protest Meant to ‘Get Things in Proportion’

The Rev. Sue Parfitt, 82, a retired Church of England priest and family therapist who broke the enclosure protecting Magna Carta, has been arrested before in her efforts to resist harm to the earth. “I believe it’s what God is asking of me,” she said in Bristol Crown Court in March 2022. “It’s my absolute duty as a Christian to protect the planet.”

On May 10, Parfitt and retired teacher Judith Boyce, 85, entered the British Library, chipped away the glass enclosure, and — using a favorite method of climate activists in recent years — glued themselves to the enclosure. In other protests, activists have thrown soup on the Mona Lisa and glued themselves to various spots on classic art.

“The Magna Carta is rightly revered, being of great importance to our history, to our freedoms, and to our laws. But there will be no freedom, no lawfulness, no rights, if we allow climate breakdown to become the catastrophe that is now threatened,” Parfitt said.

“We must get things in proportion. The abundance of life on earth, the climate stability that allows civilization to continue, is what must be revered and protected above all else, even above our most precious artifacts.”

Like her fellow activists in the Just Stop Oil movement, Parfitt believes time is running out to reverse the effects of climate change. Reporter Sean Morrison of The Bristol Cable quoted her in 2022 as saying an “irreversible tipping point” for the earth is between three and four years away.

In 2022 Parfitt was on trial for staging a blockade in front of MOD Abbey Wood, a Ministry of Defense facility in Bristol. She acknowledged in court that the blockade disrupted the day of MOD Abbey Wood’s employees.

“I apologize, to them of course,” she said. “I didn’t want to disrupt their day. However, somehow we needed to try to get across to everybody … the gravity of the situation we are facing.”

She predicted worse is likely to follow, and not because of blockades: “If you remember back to the beginning of COVID-19 there were scenes in supermarkets of people fighting over toilet rolls. That is going to be nothing when you are fighting over food, water, and fuel and all the basic qualities of life.”

Magna Carta, issued in 1215, declared the principle that no one was above the law, including the king. Centuries later, Magna Carta inspired the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A statement by the British Library said damage to Magna Carta was minimal, and it has closed the Treasures Gallery until further notice.


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