Climate activist Greta Thunberg faces trial over London oil conference protest

Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 21, went on trial Thursday for refusing to leave a protest that blocked access to a major oil and gas conference in London last year.

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Greta Thunberg was among over two dozen protesters arrested on October 17, 2022 for preventing entry to a hotel hosting the Energy Intelligence Forum, which was attended by top industry executives.

The Swedish environmentalist, who spearheaded a global youth movement demanding more action on climate change, and four other Fossil Free London activists face charges of violating the Public Order Act. This allows police to limit public gatherings. Thunberg and the four other protesters have pleaded not guilty.

Thunberg and fellow activists accuse fossil fuel companies of intentionally slowing the global transition to renewable energy to maximize profits. They also oppose the UK government's recent approval of North Sea oil drilling off the Scottish coast.

In court, Thunberg sat wearing a black t-shirt and trousers, taking notes as a police officer testified about efforts to disperse protesters who had blocked hotel exits and entrances for hours.

"It seemed a very deliberate attempt to prevent access for most delegates and guests," said Superintendent Matthew Cox. "People were really restricted from entering the hotel."

Cox said protesters were lighting colorful flares and drummers created deafening noise as some sat on the ground. When officers began making arrests, others quickly took their places, leading to a "perpetual cycle" as police ran out of personnel.

After around five hours, police issued an order for protesters to move to a nearby street, said Cox.

Thunberg was at the front entrance when warned she would be arrested if she didn't comply, prosecutor Luke Staton said. She responded that she intended to remain where she was.

If convicted, the protesters could be fined up to £2,500. Outside court, supporters held signs reading "Make Polluters Pay" and "Climate Protest is Not a Crime."