Climate activist Greta Thunberg was acquitted on Friday of the charge of refusing to comply with a police order during a protest that blocked the entrance to a major oil and gas industry conference in London last year.
The courtroom erupted in applause as Judge John Law informed Thunberg and her four co-defendants that they were cleared of the criminal charge of breaching the Public Order Act.
The judge cited “significant deficiencies in the evidence” presented by the prosecutor and highlighted that the police could have taken less restrictive measures. He also pointed out that the order to disperse was so unclear that it was deemed unlawful, and those who didn’t comply committed no offense.
Judge Law granted the defense lawyer Raj Chada’s request for the government to cover legal fees and Thunberg’s travel costs once the bills were submitted. Outside the court, Chada emphasized, “The conditions imposed on the protest were unclear, uncertain, and unlawful. The government should stop prosecuting peaceful protesters and instead find ways to tackle the climate crisis.”
Thunberg, the 21-year-old Swedish environmentalist who inspired a global youth movement advocating for stronger action against climate change, had faced charges in Westminster Magistrates’ Court under the Public Order Act, which allows police to impose limits on public assemblies. The potential fine for conviction was up to £2,500 ($3,190).
The charges stemmed from an incident on October 17, when Thunberg and over two dozen protesters prevented access to a hotel hosting the Energy Intelligence Forum, attended by top industry executives.
Thunberg and fellow climate activists accuse fossil fuel companies of intentionally hindering the transition to renewable energy for profit. They also oppose the U.K. government’s approval of oil drilling in the North Sea, off the coast of Scotland.
Thunberg left the courthouse on Friday without speaking to journalists. During her departure on Thursday, she emphasized, “We must remember who the real enemy is. What are we defending? Who are our laws meant to protect?”
Metropolitan Police Superintendent Matthew Cox testified that he worked with protesters for about five hours before issuing an order for them to move to an adjacent street due to safety concerns for those inside the hotel. The judge noted that the protest had been “peaceful, civilized, and nonviolent,” highlighting the lack of evidence for vehicles being impeded or interference with emergency services.
Thunberg, known for her weekly protests outside the Swedish Parliament since 2018, was previously fined in Sweden for similar offenses during an environmental protest at an oil facility last summer.