A judge on Friday acquitted climate activist Greta Thunberg of charges that she refused to comply with a police order to leave a protest that blocked the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference. gas company in London last year.
The gallery erupted in applause as Judge John Law told Thunberg and his four co-defendants to stand and told them they were cleared of the criminal charge of violating the Public Order Act on the grounds that there were “significant gaps in the evidence” presented against Thunberg and the others.
Law said police could have taken less restrictive measures, that they had not properly defined where protesters should move and that the dispersal order given was “so vague as to be illegal” that those who did not comply had not committed any offence.
The judge said he would grant defense attorney Raj Chada’s request that the government pay his legal fees and Thunberg’s travel expenses after submitting those bills.
The Swedish environmentalist, who inspired a global youth movement demanding greater efforts to tackle climate change, was charged at Westminster Magistrates’ Court with breaching the law which allows police to impose limits to public gatherings. She faced a fine of up to 2,500 pounds (C$4,250) if convicted.
“Perpetual cycle” of demonstrators, according to the police
Thunberg, 21, was among around 20 protesters arrested on October 17 after blocking access to a hotel during the Energy Intelligence Forum, which was attended by some of the industry’s top executives.
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 drilling in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland.
“We have to remember who the real enemy is,” Thunberg told the court Thursday after the first day of the trial. “What are we defending? Who are our laws supposed to protect?”
Metropolitan Police Superintendent Matthew Cox said he worked with the protesters for about five hours before ordering the demonstrators to move to an adjacent street.
“This appeared to be a very deliberate attempt … to prevent access to the hotel for most delegates and guests,” Cox testified. “People really didn’t have access to the hotel.”
“No proof” of any risk, according to the judge
Cox said protesters lit colorful flares and drummers created a deafening racket outside the hotel as some protesters sat on the ground and others recalled from the hotel roof . When officers began arresting people, other protesters quickly took their place, leading to a “perpetual cycle” in which police were short of officers to make arrests.
Law said the protest had been “peaceful, civilized and non-violent.”
“It is quite striking to me that no witness statements were taken from anyone in the hotel, approximately 1,000 people, or from anyone attempting to enter,” the judge said, reading from a judgment which made Thunberg and his co-defendants laugh. times. “There was no evidence that any vehicles were interfered with, no evidence of interference with emergency services or risk to life.”
Thunberg was outside the hotel’s main entrance when she received a final warning that she would be arrested if she did not comply, prosecutor Luke Staton said. She said she intended to stay where she was.
Thunberg rose to prominence after organizing weekly protests outside the Swedish parliament starting in 2018.
Last summer, she was fined by a Swedish court for disobeying police and blocking traffic during an environmental protest at an oil facility. She had previously been fined for the same offense in Sweden.