- Text by Alex King
“Advertising makes a twat of us all,” STRIKE! Magazine reminded us when we talked about their subversive anti-advertising campaigns. It’s the propaganda that pollutes our public spaces.
One of the worst recent examples of a pathetic attempt to manipulate public opinion come from the pro-Heathrow Airport expansion campaign – so much so that the Advertising Standards Authority ordered them to be removed over unsubstantiated and misleading claims.
Before waiting for the ASA’s decision to confirm the ads were certified bullshit, graffiti activists Joe McGahan and Lawrence Rose took matters into their own hands – defacing the ads with some home truths.
They were arrested after painting a billboard reading ‘Heathrow expansion: Those living around us are behind us’ so that it read ‘Those living around us are choking’.
Both admitted to the graffiti upon arrest, but argued they were acting to prevent greater crimes against local residents and all other life on earth. They plead ‘not guilty’, using the statutory defence of ‘lawful excuse’.
However, a jury at Isleworth Crown Court found Lawrence, 29, and Joe, 32, guilty of criminal damage and Judge Edmunds QC ordered them to pay costs of £1615 and £1040 respectively.
In a bitterly ironic judgement, given the damage a third runway is likely to inflict on local residents, the pair were also convicted of going equipped to cause criminal damage against the property of Heathrow Airports Ltd and sentenced to a twelve month conditional discharge.
While Heathrow’s claims have been proven misleading, Lawrence and Joe have science on their side. A 2012 study found around fifty early deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution from Heathrow. “We attempted to alter Heathrow’s fraudulent billboards in order to portray a more accurate reality of the harm and misery Heathrow’s expansion will bring to local residents and the environment,” Joe said.
Unfortunately, this was insufficient to sway the jury, but local residents have rallied in supported of the convicted protestors. “The reason my home and my daughter’s school haven’t been demolished for new runways is that people took action like this,” Tracy Howard, a Sipson resident, said. “The ones who should be in court are the Heathrow bosses doing truly criminal damage to our climate and our villages.”