An activist digs a hole in Trinity's front lawn during XR's latest action this morningTom Dorrington

Trinity College have said they are “liaising with the Police” following an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest this morning which saw activists dig up the College’s front lawn, and tie themselves to its commemorative apple tree.

Speaking to Varsity, a spokesperson for Trinity said the College “regrets the criminal damage done to its property beside Great Gate”. They further stressed while the College “respects the right to freedom of speech and non-violent protest [it] draws the line at criminal damage, and asked the protestors to leave.”

The action marks the second day XR’s week-long shutdown of Cambridge, with around 70 protesters blockading three roads yesterday morning. Unless their demands are met, the group plans to keep the roads shut round-the-clock until this Sunday, 23rd February.

In full What are XR's demands, and who are they directed at?

1. The University of Cambridge - "must cut ties with the fossil fuel industry"

2. Cambridge County Council - "must work with other relevant regional authorities to provide a plan for a just transition away from an inadequate transport system reliant on fossil fuels"

3. Cambridge City Council - "must hold a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Justice"

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The activists said they dug up the lawn and were “symbolically protect[ing] the famous apple tree” - commemorating the moment Newton discovered gravity - to highlight the college’s “collusion in the destruction of nature at Innocence Farm”.

XR emphasised protesters were “careful to ensure that the digging took place a safe distance from the tree so as not to cause any damage to it.”

The activists then proceeded to carry soil in wheelbarrows taken from the lawn, and dump it inside the hallway of Barclays bank on St. Andrew’s Street. A spokesperson for the bank said they would keep the branch open and “try and manage it as best they can”.

Trinity College owns Innocence Farm, in Suffolk, and has allegedly held discussions with the Port of Felixstowe about creating a lorry park on the site which would house 3000 vehicles. XR claim that upon facing opposition by planning officials, the College’s focus is now on allowing housing development on the land of around 300 properties.

Wider damage to the lawn can be seen here, as one protester chains himself to the commemorative treeTom Dorrington

“We are in the middle of a climate and environmental emergency,” said one XR activist at the protest, Derek Langley.

“The idea that a rich institution like Trinity College, which tells the world it is serious about tackling this crisis, is looking for profit from environmental destruction is quite simply astonishing.”

“I take part in actions like this because I want to protect the world for my grandchildren and Trinity College is putting their future at risk,” he added.

But XR’s recent actions have drawn criticism, with an online petition directed at Cambridgeshire’s Chief Constable and Chief Commissioner receiving over 3000 signatures. It calls for the police to ‘Stop the Extinction Rebellion Roadblock in Cambridge’.

Cambridgeshire’s Acting Police and Crime Commissioner Ray Bisby today responded saying he is “aware” of the petition and “appreciates the depth of feeling and the impact the current action being taken by Extinction Rebellion may have.”

But Bisby emphasised acting is beyond his legal remit, as the “response to the protest is one that the Chief Constable is responsible for”.


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Extinction Rebellion begin week-long roadblock

He further noted he is in close contact with the constabulary, which he said was “in a challenging position” as it endeavours “to provide a proportionate policing response to the protest, balancing the needs and rights of protestors with those impacted by the protest.”

One twitter user claimed that in light of no police response they themselves washed XR graffiti off the pavement outside Trinity this morning.

Last April, locals from nearby town Trimley Saint Martin launched a crowdfunding initiative to help fund a legal challenge against the College’s plans at Innocence Farm.

On their website, activist collective Kirton and Trimley Community Action Group (KATCAG) argue consultation with locals about the development has been minimal and a “sham”.

“One suspects Trinity College wish to be granted any form of planning consent for Innocence Farm, as long as it’s not for the purpose of farming,” it continues.

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