XR protestors on King's lawn last Saturday Sophie Huskisson

Protestors from Extinction Rebellion (XR) blockaded the University’s BP institute on Madingley road last Friday and held a picnic and occupation of King’s lawns the following day in preparation for their longest action yet, which begins this Sunday.

The blockade is part of XR’s ′Rebel for Justice′ campaign, a series of protests with three demands of the three Cambridge institutions, including the University, which they urge to “cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.”XR’s other demands are levelled at Cambridge City Council, calling for it to hold a Citizen’s Assembly on climate justice, and at Cambridgeshire County Council, asking it to work with other authorities to provide “a plan for a just transition away from an inadequate transport system reliant on fossil fuels.”

At the time of publishing, these demands have not been met, and so the group is set to shut down the city of Cambridge in a week-long roadblock, which will begin at 8am on Sunday.

Last Friday, the group arrived at the BP institute at 8am, and one protester secured himself to a door knocker with a bike lock around his neck. Others taped themselves together in front of entrances.

XR urges the University to shut down the Institute, and to replace it with a “transparent, ethically-funded research centre with a focus on sustainability and renewable energy.”

Protestors defaced the BP Institute building last FridayTom Dorrington

In a Facebook post, the group accused the University of “allowing companies to present themselves in a positive light through connections with the prestigious academic institution,” leading to “a ‘greenwashing’ of the fossil fuel industry.”

“If they truly understood how disgusting BP’s exploitation of human and natural resources is, they would refuse to be associated with the name,” said Annie, a member of XR Youth Cambridge, who condemned the university for its continued association with the group.“We are showing that this connection has consequences.”

Last Saturday, 8th February, XR staged a mass picnic and occupation of King’s College lawn, which they did in solidarity with Oxford student activists, who recently staged an occupation of St. John’s College, Oxford.

The protestors set up tents on King’s front lawn and held up signs including one which read ‘Cambridge: would you care if it was your lawn burning?’


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At the time, an XR spokesperson told The Cambridge Independent that “it is shameful that the University of Cambridge still won’t cut its ties with fossil fuel companies, even after over half of UK universities have divested, and yet still curates this concerned, ‘green’ image in the public eye.”

“The image of this university is as manicured as its lawns, but we will not be placated with tokenistic changes and greenwashing.”

In their last action before the week-long shutdown, XR plan to protest – and hold an interactive installation – in front of Senate House tomorrow, from 1-5pm.

A University spokesperson has previously told Varsity in response to XR's comments that it “holds no direct investments in fossil fuels. Only 5% of the University’s indirect investments are in the energy sector, and only a portion of these will be in fossil fuel companies,” and highlighted its membership of the Responsible Investment Network and recent Cambridge Zero initiative.

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