Three Extinction Rebellion activists found guilty of criminal damage of Cambridge colleges

An NHS worker, a teacher, and a Gonville and Caius alumnus were found guilty in Peterborough Magistrates’ Court this morning

Three Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists, including a previous Gonville & Caius student, were found guilty of criminal damage in Peterborough Magistrates’ Court this morning for their role in an XR march that took place in Cambridge last August. All three of the activists have been fined.

The XR protest, called Cambridge’s Oily-Handed March, aimed to encourage the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Hundreds of activists allegedly participated and several activists chalk-sprayed an outline of their hand on the walls of Christ’s, Gonville & Caius, Trinity, and Senate House to “symbolise the institutions’ investments in the fossil fuel industry.”

The demonstration in August 2020 (Image credits: Extinction Rebellion Cambridge)

One of the defendants was arrested at the march dressed as Mother Earth and appeared in the same dress today in court. She said: “Mother Earth should not be in the dock today, or ever. Powerful institutions knowingly profiting from the destruction of the planet are the real criminals.”

Defendant dressed as Mother Nature enters Peterborough Magistrates’ Court (IMage credits: Ams Hall)

Since the march, the University as well as Christ’s, Corpus Christi, Pembroke, and Trinity have committed to fully divest from the fossil fuels industry. Lucy Cavendish and Trinity Hall have committed to partially divest.

XR said that “the University of Cambridge is a powerful and influential institution which, as a centre of advanced learning, understands the climate crisis deeply”. The group points out, however, that “at the time of the protest, the University and its colleges had fossil fuel investments totalling around £400 million”.

A Cambridge student who is a member of XR said: “The outcome of the campaign was great, but those who were brave enough to take action are now being tried in the courts. Why is their conscientious protection of the planet being treated as a crime? To be honest, it seems that the criminal justice system is increasingly intent on silencing people who tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency by threatening them with greater sentences.”

Of the nine XR activists arrested,  two will be tried next week, a further three will appear in court subsequently and one has had their charges dropped.  

The University of Cambridge has been approached for comment.

Feature image credit: Ams Hall and Extinction Rebellion Cambridge