Climate activist Greta Thunberg is on trial in London on charges of obstructing the oil and gas conference

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is on trial accused of protesting outside a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year

LONDON – Climate activist Greta Thunberg went on trial Thursday for refusing to leave a protest that blocked the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year.

Thunberg, 21, was among more than two dozen protesters arrested on October 17 after being denied access to a hotel during the Energy Intelligence Forum, which was attended by some of the industry's top executives.

The Swedish environmentalist, who has inspired a global youth movement demanding stronger efforts to combat climate change, and four other protesters face a two-day trial at Westminster Magistrates' Court on charges of violating a section of the public order law that allows police to enforce restrictions on public gatherings. She and four protesters in Fossil-Free London have pleaded not guilty.

Thunberg sat in court, wearing a black shirt and black pants, and took notes as a police officer testified about efforts to disperse protesters who blocked several exits and entrances for hours outside the luxury InterContinental hotel in central London.

Superintendent Matthew Cox said: “It appears to be a very deliberate attempt…to prevent most delegates and guests from accessing the hotel.” “People were really blocked from accessing the hotel.”

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Cox said that the demonstrators were lighting colorful torches and drummers were making a deafening noise outside the hotel while some demonstrators were sitting on the ground. As officers began arresting people, other protesters quickly took their places, creating a “perpetual cycle” that found police running out of officers to make arrests.

Cox said the protest continued for about five hours when police issued an order for demonstrators to move to a nearby street.

Prosecutor Luke Staton said Thunberg was outside the front entrance when she was warned that she would be arrested if she did not comply. She intended to stay where she was.

If convicted, protesters could receive fines of up to 2,500 pounds ($3,170).

Outside the courthouse, demonstrators carried signs reading: “Make polluters pay” and “Protesting climate is not a crime.”

Thunberg rose to prominence after organizing weekly protests outside the Swedish Parliament starting in 2018.

Last summer, a Swedish court fined her for disobeying police and blocking traffic during an environmental protest at an oil facility. She had already been fined for the same offense previously in Sweden.

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