Renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg found herself at the centre of a trial on Thursday for her participation in a protest that obstructed the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year.
Thunberg, aged 21, was among a group of over two dozen protesters who were arrested on October 17 for blocking access to a hotel hosting the Energy Intelligence Forum, an event attended by some of the industry’s top executives.
The Swedish environmentalist, famed for inspiring a global youth movement advocating for stronger action against climate change, along with four other protesters, faces a two-day trial in Westminster Magistrates’ Court. They are charged with breaching a section of the Public Order Act, which allows police to impose restrictions on public assemblies. Thunberg and her fellow demonstrators have entered pleas of not guilty.
Thunberg and other climate activists have accused fossil fuel companies of intentionally impeding the global transition to renewable energy to maximize profits. They also oppose the U.K. government’s recent decision to approve oil drilling in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland.
During the trial, Thunberg sat in court clad in a black T-shirt and pants, taking notes as a police officer testified about efforts to disperse the protesters who had blocked multiple entrances and exits to the luxury InterContinental Hotel in central London.
Superintendent Matthew Cox described the protesters’ actions as a “deliberate attempt” to obstruct access to the hotel. He detailed how demonstrators were using colourful flares and creating a loud noise with drums, while some sat on the ground. As police attempted to make arrests, other protesters swiftly took their place, leading to a continuous cycle that strained police resources.
The protest lasted for approximately five hours before police issued an order for the demonstrators to relocate to an adjacent street. Thunberg, stationed at the front entrance, was warned of potential arrest if she did not comply. Prosecutor Luke Staton stated that she expressed her intention to remain in her position.
If convicted, Thunberg and her fellow protesters could face fines of up to £2,500 ($3,170).
Outside the courthouse, supporters held signs advocating for climate justice, with messages such as “Make Polluters Pay” and “Climate protest is not a crime.”
Thunberg gained prominence in 2018 for staging weekly protests outside the Swedish Parliament. Last summer, she was fined by a Swedish court for disobeying police and blocking traffic during an environmental protest at an oil facility, having previously been fined for the same offence in Sweden.
Image by European Parliament on Flickr