Climate activist Greta Thunberg is on trial accused of protesting outside a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year
LONDON – Climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke defiantly about her mission outside court Thursday on the first day of her trial for refusing to leave a protest that led to entry being blocked at a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year.
Thunberg, 21, was among more than two dozen protesters arrested on October 17 after being denied access to a hotel during the Energy Intelligence Forum, which was attended by some of the industry's top executives.
“Even though we stand here… climate, environmental and human rights activists around the world are being persecuted, sometimes convicted, and legally sanctioned for acting in line with science,” she said. “The real enemy is. What are we defending? Who are our laws meant to protect?”
The Swedish environmentalist, who has inspired a global youth movement demanding stronger efforts to combat climate change, and four other protesters face a two-day trial at Westminster Crown Court on charges of violating a section of the public order law that allows police to impose restrictions on public gatherings. She and four protesters in Fossil-Free London have pleaded not guilty.
Thunberg and other climate protesters have accused fossil fuel companies of deliberately slowing the global energy transition to renewables in order to make more profits. They also oppose the UK government's recent approval of oil exploration in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland.
Thunberg sat in court, wearing a black shirt and black pants, and took notes as a police officer testified about efforts to disperse protesters who blocked several exits and entrances for hours outside the luxury InterContinental hotel in central London.
Superintendent Matthew Cox said: “It appears to be a very deliberate attempt…to prevent most delegates and guests from accessing the hotel.” “People were really blocked from accessing the hotel.”
Cox said that the demonstrators were lighting colorful torches and drummers were making a deafening noise outside the hotel, while some demonstrators sat on the ground and others descended from the roof of the hotel. As officers began arresting people, other protesters quickly took their places, creating a “perpetual cycle” that found police running out of officers to make arrests.
Cox said the protest continued for about five hours when police issued an order for demonstrators to move to a nearby street.
Prosecutor Luke Staton said Thunberg was outside the front entrance of the hotel when she received a final warning that she would be arrested if she did not comply. She intended to stay where she was.
If convicted, protesters could receive fines of up to 2,500 pounds ($3,170).
Outside the courtroom before the trial began, protesters carried signs reading “Make polluters pay” and “Protesting climate is not a crime.”
Thunberg rose to prominence after organizing weekly protests outside the Swedish Parliament starting in 2018.
Last summer, a Swedish court fined her for disobeying police and blocking traffic during an environmental protest at an oil facility. She had already been fined for the same offense previously in Sweden.
Associated Press journalist Kooyun Ha contributed to this report.
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