This is the first week of Extinction Rebellion's divestment campaignJane carpenter

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge (XRC) and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) carried out a range of direct action this week as part of their campaign, which commenced at the beginning of August, demanding that the University and its constituent colleges divest from fossil fuels. 

The protests which have taken place this week have been varied and dramatic involving everything from activists dressing up as dinosaurs to a game of croquet between Mother Earth and the University on Senate House Lawn. 

None of these protests have been announced in advance. Only the “Oily Handed March”, scheduled to take place on the 28th August, and involving activists from across the East of England as part of ‘Fossil Fuels Day’, has been preannounced. 

The current wave of action against the University and non-divested colleges was announced on Sunday 2nd August after a July deadline for full divestment was missed. 

Oily spectres leading Mother Earth through CambridgeAnna Oakes

The first event of the week on Saturday (8/08) saw three protesters dressed as ‘oily spectres’ leading a chained figure of Mother Earth through the streets of Cambridge. Trailing from the ‘oily spectres’ were models of rubbish and dead animals. 

The protesters lamented at “St. John's, Trinity, and Corpus Christi colleges, and the University of Cambridge itself” because “they hold millions of pounds in fossil fuels and arms.”

The next day (9/08) XR activists proved that political activism and theatrical ability are not mutually exclusive: activists staged a short play outside Darwin College. The play depicted Charles Darwin chasing dinosaurs in an attempt to find the golden divestment scroll which had been hidden by a dinosaur. The audience seemed to enjoy it - some stopping for selfies with the dinosaurs - even if critical reception was mixed.

Also on Sunday, and continuing the jurassic theme, dinosaurs marched between St Catherine’s and Sidney Sussex holding signs demanding that the University ‘divest from fossil fuels’. 

Dinosaurs outside Christ'sAmy Batley

The dinosaurs, a commonly occurring sight in XR protests, are a reference to the stagnant approach of the University towards divestment. A tweet by XRYC described Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope’s management of the University’s finances as “criminal” because “he’s endorsing an industry [the fossil fuel industry] that condemns millions of people on the climate front line to losing their homes and their livelihoods.” The tweet continues by labelling Toope as a “deny-o-sauras”.

Dinosaurs combined with Charles Darwin again on Monday (10/08) as protesters - one dressed as a dinosaur - held signs saying ‘Christ’s: college of Charles Darwin evolve! from funding fossil fuel industries’ and ‘Cambridge University divest from fossil fuels.’ 

Later in the week (11/08) ‘divest now, no more excuses’ was spray painted on signs at the Sidgwick Site and Mill Lane.  

Cambridge University and Mother Earth battle it out over croquetLUCAS ANTHONY MADDALENA

On Wednesday (13/08), in the most publicised piece of action, activists battled it out in a croquet match on Senate House Lawn. This protest was directed at the University itself who were told to “stop playing games with our future.”

XR’s first week of action ended today (16/08) with activists stripping on King’s College lawns to “expose the naked truth” of “our vulnerability to the climate and biodiversity emergency”, according to a press release from the climate justice group. 

XR activists were covered in white sheets for thedie inOrsolya Petocz

The XR activists revealed slogans on their naked bodies, such as “fossil fuels kill” and “divest now.” One described the protest as an attempt “to embarrass the University which should be the extent to which it is investing in fossil fuels.”


Mountain View

Extinction Rebellion commit to ‘fresh wave’ of direct action against ‘non-divested colleges’

The protest ended with a die-in, in which the naked activists lay on the ground and were covered in white sheets, in order to illustrate “the deadly consequences of continued inaction on the University's part.”  

Elsewhere today (16/08) an open letter was read outside Magdalene College by XR activists demanding that the college divest. The master of Magdalene, Rowan Williams, has long been in favour of divestment  but the decision must be taken by the 43 trustees, to whom the letter was addressed.