Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg went on trial in a London court on Thursday, charged with a public order offense.
Proceedings at the Westminster Magistrates Court began just after 10:00 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) with Thunberg, wearing a black t-shirt and black trousers, confirming her name and date of birth and taking notes as prosecution witnesses testified against her.
What are the charges against Greta Thunberg?
Thunberg, 21, was arrested in October last year for failing to comply with police requests to leave a protest blocking the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference.
She was one of several activists arrested for disrupting access to the Energy Intelligence Forum, which was hosting industry leaders at the luxury InterContinental Hotel in central London.
She was released on bail but participated in another demonstration the next day with hundreds of protesters.
She is one of five people, aged 19 to 59, on trial under the Public Order Act for allegedly failing to move when asked to by police. They have all pleaded not guilty.
The trial is expected to take two days. If found guilty, Thunberg could face a maximum fine of 2,500 pounds ($3,177 or €2,932).
After Greenpeace and other environmental protesters said they would demonstrate outside the court to express solidarity, protesters held signs outside the courthouse saying “Make Polluters Pay” and “Climate protest is not a crime.”
Maja Darlington, campaigner at Greenpeace UK, told AFP the activists were on trial “for peacefully protesting” while oil executives were “celebrating making billions from selling climate-wrecking fossil fuels.”
She added: “The prosecution of Greta and other peaceful protesters reflects a government that cares more about bolstering the profits of oil bosses than fighting for a liveable future for all of us.”
What has been said so far?
Testifying for the prosecution, police superintendent Matthew Cox said: “It seemed like a very deliberate attempt … to prevent access to the hotel for most delegates and the guests. People were really restricted from having access to the hotel.”
Cox said protesters lit colorful flares and drummers created a deafening din outside the hotel as some demonstrators sat on the ground. When officers began arresting people, he said other protesters quickly took their places, leading to a “perpetual cycle” that saw police running out of officers to make arrests.
According to Superintendent Cox, the protest lasted about five hours when police issued an order for demonstrators to move to an adjacent street.
Prosecutor Luke Staton said Thunberg was outside the front entrance to the hotel when she was warned she would be arrested if she didn’t comply, but that she said she intended to stay where she was.
Has Greta Thunberg been in trouble before?
Thunberg was fined in October for blocking the port of Malmo in Sweden and was forcibly removed by police during a demonstration against the use of coal in Germany before that.
The Swedish activist rose to prominence as a school student after staging protests outside Sweden’s parliament calling for climate action.
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tg/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)