Greta Thunberg was detained by British police on Tuesday alongside other climate activists who gathered outside a central London hotel to disrupt a major oil and gas industry conference. Thunberg was among dozens of protesters who chanted “oily money out” and sought to block access to the luxury InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane, which is hosting the Energy Intelligence Forum. The conference features speakers including the chief executives of Shell, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and Norway’s Equinor, as well as the U.K.’s energy security minister.
An Associated Press photographer saw Thunberg being led away by officers and taken into a police vehicle, along with about 10 other activists. Protesters attempted to block access to the conference venue by sitting on the sidewalk by the entrance. They held aloft banners and chanted “oily money out” and “cancel the conference,” while some lit yellow and pink smoke flares.
Two Greenpeace activists abseiled down from the roof of the hotel to unfurl a giant banner reading “Make Big Oil Pay.” London’s Metropolitan Police said six people were initially arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway during the protest. The force said a further 14 were detained on suspicion of disrupting public order, and one other person was detained for criminal damage.
Police said they engaged in conversations with the protesters on allowing people to access the venue safely and prevent serious disruption to the hotel and guests, but some of the activists refused to move from the road. No charges have been issued yet.
The protesters accuse fossil fuel companies of deliberately slowing the global energy transition to renewables in order to make more profit. “The world is drowning in fossil fuels. Our hopes and dreams and lives are being washed away by a flood of greenwashing and lies,” Thunberg told reporters before she was detained. “It has been clear for decades that the fossil fuel industries were well aware of the consequences of their business models, and yet they have done nothing.”
“We cannot let this continue. The elite of the oil and money conference, they have no intention of transition,” she added. “We have no other option but to put our bodies outside this conference and to physically disrupt. And we have to do that every time, we have to continue showing them that they are not going to get away with this.”
Police said those detained were taken into custody and that officers remained on site. Environmental groups say they will continue to protest throughout the planned forum, which is expected to last three days.
Thunberg inspired a global youth movement demanding stronger efforts to fight climate change after staging weekly protests outside the Swedish Parliament starting in 2018. She was recently fined by a Swedish court for disobeying police during an environmental protest in Sweden.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition