John Stewart, UK’s “most effective environmentalist” barred from entering US
On September 29, Stewart, who does not have a criminal record and meets the requirements
for the US Visa Waiver program, had his visa waiver rescinded mid-flight. He was
questioned by the FBI, the Secret Service, and immigration for six hours at New
York’s JFK Airport before being put back on a plane to London.
American environmental campaigners had planned a month-long speaking tour for Stewart, set to begin on October 1. Stewart had been instrumental in the
campaign to stop a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. He had chaired the diverse coalition of neighbors, environmental activists,
fiscal conservatives, and local politicians which persuaded the Conservative government
to scrap plans for a new runway. In 2008 the Independent on Sunday voted Stewart “the UK’s most effective green activist.”
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, says that barring a community organizer from entering the
U.S. is a dangerous statement. He continued, “We need more voices, not fewer,
explaining the dangers of climate change and the rational responses we must make.
And though it’s a backhanded testament to John Stewart’s effectiveness, this is
sad news for all of us hoping to hear what he had to say.”
Stewart said, “What seemed to concern them was that I would be discussing, as
part of my talk, the role that peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience played
in the Heathrow Campaign. I wouldn’t be able to explain the campaign without doing
so. In any case, it is completely legitimate to discuss the role of an activity
which has featured so heavily in so many historical campaigns, from the American
Civil Rights Movement, to the Suffragettes’ fight for the right of women to vote
in the UK.”
Stewart has also won support from across Europe and the UK. Earlier today, Conservative
member of the British Parliament Zac Goldsmith tweeted: “Heathrow campaigner, John Stewart barred from US. A heroic campaigner, and
a gent. Utterly scandalous.”
U.S. organizers have spent over a year planning the month-long national lecture
tour on aviation and the environment, and are shocked and embarrassed at their
government’s actions. Another invited speaker, award-winning Scottish climate
activist Dan Glass, was effectively blocked from participating because his visa
application was delayed indefinitely due to special “administrative processing.”
“John Stewart is a mainstream environmentalist who we invited because of his
ability to work with everybody, and for his role in helping influence people like British Prime Minister David Cameron to choose bold green solutions,” says Barnali Ghosh, a San Francisco tour organizer.
“Americans needs to hear from more centrists who can build left-right coalitions.”
Seattle organizer Debi Wagner asks why Stewart’s visa was rescinded mid-flight. “Barring environmentalists
won’t make us any safer or healthier.”
New York organizer Dr. Frans Verhagen is outraged, but affirms that the tour will go ahead. “We will use videoconferencing to ensure that John Stewart and Dan Glass can
still address our meetings. Our lecture tour still begins in New York tomorrow,
Details of the tour can be found at http://aviationjustice.org/tour/
The Aviation Justice Express is a coalition of airport watchdog, climate action,
and sustainable transportation groups and activists. Endorsers include 350.org,
US Citizens Aviation Watch, Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, Sane
Aviation for Everyone, Shut This Airport Nightmare Down, All Aboard Washington,
AirportWatch, So We Stand, and Left Field Films.
It is a huge compliment to Dan and John that the US government is so terrified
of them and their viewpoint that it bans them from speaking physically to people
in the USA. It just shows how repressive the US government is and how Obama has
done nothing to change that.
I have spoken to both, particularly Dan, but wouldn’t claim to know either well.
However, I do know both well enough to know that they are no danger to the people
of the USA. If they were then that might justify the bans. They are certainly
a danger to vested interests in the US, which is why Obama’s government has banned
The land of the free? Round objects.
Be careful that Obama doesn’t interfere with telecommunications, so preventing
people in the USA from hearing Dan and John.
I find it upsetting that a community organizer with no criminal record can be
stopped at the border and turned back.
Whatever the intentions of the authorities, their actions will certainly backfire
on them. Stewart’s work is now getting more attention than ever here in the U.S.
expansion’ and fuel direct action than possibly John could have done. Well done
USA – you mucked up again !
made the campaign Global.
globally the industry continues to have crazy growth plans. Other sectors have
to cut back their emissions, but aviation intends to keep on increasing the number
of flights and passengers, ad infinitum. At huge environmental cost. Now kerosene
is getting more expensive, they plan to use biofuels. This has immense and worrying
implications for all of us, and the campaigners are doing the US a public service
in waking them out of their slumber, to sit up and take notice of the problems
they are sleepwalking into. The US government and the , American people, should
be very grateful for the wake up call that this US speaking tour will provide.