Great Britain

One arrest after Extinction Rebellion activists dig up Cambridge college lawn

A woman has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after Extinction Rebellion activists dug up a lawn outside a Cambridge University college.

The lawn outside the 16th-century Trinity College was targeted on Monday, with the group saying the protest was “to draw attention to the fact Trinity College has the most amount of money invested in fossil fuels of any of the 40 Oxbridge colleges”, and cited its involvement with a major industrial development in Suffolk on land it owns.

Cambridgeshire Police said a 19-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and remains in custody.

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“Investigations are ongoing and Trinity College are assisting the police in this matter,” the force said.

On Monday the Ipswich Star reported the development plans for the farmland on the Felixstowe peninsula had been rejected by a public inquiry inspector.

Innocence Farm, owned by Trinity College, was earmarked for the development of a huge 165-acre business park as part of a larger project to expand Felixstowe port. 

Extinction Rebellion said it understood the plans were to turn the farm into a 3,200-a-day lorry park which would serve the expanded shipping hub.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson in Cambridge told The Independent the protest at Trinity was “also to make a more symbolic statement about the relevant silence in comparison to the vitriol and anger that this action seems to have attracted, when compared to large scale environmental destruction in this country – whether that’s ancient woodlands being chopped down for HS2, a new coal mine being opened in Cumbria, or the world’s largest potash mine being opened on the North York Moors.

“This was intended to draw attention to what in some senses is a level of hypocrisy within our national debate, when it comes to the things we consider sacred and the things we shrug our shoulders about.”

On Twitter, the Extinction Rebellion UK account retweeted a news article published last month by the BBC in which the nearby King’s College Cambridge head gardener Steve Coghill explained the lawn at King’s College Chapel was to be turned into meadow for the first time in 300 years.

“Grass lawns are essentially monocultures so it will be incredibly rewarding to instead create a biodiversity-rich ecosystem to cherish and enjoy.”

A spokesperson for Trinity College Cambridge told The Independent: “Trinity College regrets the criminal damage done to its property beside Great Gate. 

“The college respects the right to freedom of speech and non-violent protest but draws the line at criminal damage and asked the protestors to leave. The college is liaising with the police.

“Academics at Trinity are actively engaged in research to understand and develop solutions to climate change, and taking practical steps forward. The college fully supports the university initiative, Cambridge Zero.”