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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

U.K. charges Greta Thunberg as governments crack down on climate protests

By Karla Adam Washington Post

LONDON – Greta Thunberg was among 26 people charged by British police on Wednesday after taking part in a protest outside an oil and gas conference in the capital.

The 20-year-old Swedish climate activist was accused of “failing to comply with a condition imposed under section 14 of the Public Order Act,” according to an emailed statement from London Metropolitan police. She was released on bail and assigned to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Nov. 15, the statement said.

Footage shared on social media showed Thunberg and other activists chanting “oily money out” and blocking entrance to the event venue, a hotel in London’s posh Mayfair neighborhood, before being bundled into the back of a police van on Tuesday.

Getting detained at protests has become somewhat of a regular thing for Thunberg. This year, she has been charged and fined twice in her native Sweden.

She has also been detained by police or removed from protests in Norway and Germany.

People who study the climate movement say those encounters with police partly reflect a change in tactics by Thunberg, who has moved on beyond her Friday school strikes and shown an increased willingness to be detained.

But Thunberg’s arrests also reflect how governments have begun to crack down on climate protests – with Britain leading the way.

In the past two years, the United Kingdom has introduced new – and highly controversial – legislation that has given police new powers to block and disperse protests. When the Public Order Bill went through Parliament, the United Nations human rights chief called it “deeply troubling.”

Britain’s Conservative government has argued that the police needed new powers to respond to protesters – many of them from climate groups – seeking to create mass disruption. Activists from Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil have disrupted major sporting tournaments, blocked roads and shut down large parts of London.

Some groups in Britain have now moved away from disruptive tactics. But there is an enduring segment determined to show they are not deterred by the threat of arrests.

Lochlinn Parker, managing director of Good Law Practice, said there has been a “significant uptick in arrests,” because police have more powers and are willing to use them, but also because people are more willing to be arrested.

Parker said Thunberg could face a maximum fine of 2,500 pounds, about $3,035, if found guilty. In Sweden, the fines have been closer to $200.

He said she that in a case without any question of jail time, her ability to travel to Britain would be unaffected. But British Home Secretary Suella Braverman could separately choose to restrict entry.

Previous Home Secretaries have exercised that power. In 2006, the American rapper Snoop Dogg was banned from entering the U.K. after his entourage was involved in a physical altercation at London’s Heathrow airport. The ban was later overturned in the courts.

Bob Ward, a climate communications expert at the London School of Economics, said that although the British government had changed its laws to try to reduce disruption, “recent decisions by the U.K. Government to slow down the transition away from fossil fuels have probably motivated even more people to take direct action, because they feel conventional political processes have failed.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced a delay of the country’s ban on the sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Thunberg said in a statement before her arrest that the protesters “have no choice but to disrupt” because “our world is being swept away by greenwashing and lies.”

“The fossil fuel industry has actively distracted and delayed. They have created loopholes to allow their business to go on at the expense of the planet. We are choking from their fumes,” she added.