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Greata Thunberg appears in London court to face charges over October climate protest

UPI
Climate activist Great Thunberg appeared in a London court Thursday to face charges related to an October climate protest in London. File Photo Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Environmental activist Greta Thunberg appeared in a British court Thursday to face public order charges over an October protest against a meeting of oil executives in London.

Thunberg, 21, stood trial alongside fellow activists Christofer Kebbon, Joshua James Unwin, Jeff Rice and Peter Barker who were arrested for violating section 14 of Britain's Public Order Act for refusing to leave the area after they were told to.

"Miss Thunberg was stood outside the hotel entrance," prosecutor Luke Staton said of the scene at the climate protest at the Energy Intelligence Forum at the InterContinental Hotel in London. "She was approached at around 1:12 p.m. by [two police officers who] informed her of the condition and warned her that failure to comply would lead to her arrest."

Staton added that she was arrested three minutes later, with another 28 protesters in total also taken into custody.

Superintendent Matthew Cox, the Metropolitan Police's on-the ground commander during the protest, said the demonstration was a "rapidly evolving situation" with more than 1,000 people present at its peak who used their bodies in what appeared "a deliberate attempt to stop people coming into and coming out of the hotel."

"It was a slow build but essentially the delegates were not able to get in or out of the hotel. It was relayed to them on a number of occasions by [hotel] security that guests were unable to get out as well," Cox said.

He said he decided to order the protesters to move to an area away from the entrances to the hotel under section 14 of the Public Order Act, which had been modified to allow police to enforce public order restrictions on protests responsible for anything more than a "minor" disturbance.

"The condition alleviated the problem of access to the hotel and, in my personal view, it maintained the right to assemble and have that freedom of expression right up close to the proximity of the hotel," said Cox.

Thunberg pleaded not guilty to the charges in November and said before the arrest that she and the protesters had "no choice but to disrupt" because "our world is being swept away by greenwashing and lies" surrounding climate change.

She and the other protesters -- two activists from Greenpeace and two from the Fossil Free London activist group -- face a maximum fine of $3,187 if found guilty.

Maja Darlington of Greenpeace U.K. said the government's focus was misguided in a statement ahead of the activists' court appearance.

"Instead of cracking down on climate activists, the UK Government should force Shell and the rest of the oil industry to stop drilling and start paying for the damage they are causing," Darlington said.