Campaigners slam UK government’s “disturbing crackdown on peaceful protest”
Greta Thunberg has pleaded not guilty in court today alongside other climate activists during a plea hearing, following their arrest last month at an oil conference protest.
The Swedish environmentalist was arrested by Metropolitan Police under public order offences when taking part in a protest against a large oil summit at the Intercontinental Hotel in Mayfair in London.
Outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London this morning, climate campaigners held a demonstration showing their support for the defendants and holding a banner demanding ‘Make Polluters Pay’.
Three Greenpeace activists also pleaded not guilty to the charges which come under Section 14 of the Public Order Act.
They were among dozens of protesters arrested at the event which was led by the campaign group Fossil Free London and saw Greenpeace activists abseil from the roof of the hotel and unfurl a 30m banner that read ‘Make Big Oil Pay’.
Climate campaigners had targeted an annual gathering of prominent oil and gas companies to protest against record-breaking fossil fuel profits, and as part of an Oily Money Out series of disruptions against carbon emissions, political influence and fossil fuel lobbying.
Recent amendments to public order legislation under the controversial Policing Bill have expanded the powers of the police at protests. With campaigners expressing their grave concerns around the “disturbing crackdown” on protesting in the UK.
Joanna Warrington, an organiser with Fossil Free London, slammed the UK government for attempting to “shut down free speech and free assembly, rather than act on climate”.
“On the frontlines of the crisis climate justice campaigners are being repressed”, said Warrington. “As we see in the violent response to protests against Total’s East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline in Uganda. We stand in solidarity with them.”
Greenpeace UK campaigner Maja Darlington called Greta’s arrest another example of the Government’s “disturbing crackdown on peaceful protest”.
“Instead of arresting those standing up to the fossil fuel industry, the UK government should make polluters pay for the millions losing lives and livelihoods for the profit margins of the fossil fuel industry,” said Darlington.
An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said: “Young people, like Greta and these other activists, are being forced into this sort of action because they deem it necessary to protect themselves from the accelerating climate crisis.
“Like people all over the world, they are rising in a fury that is rooted in love. We will all continue to resist.”
(Image credit: Marie Jacquemin / Greenpeace)
Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues