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Oily protests theatricalise University of Cambridge as ‘climate change dinosaurs’

Cambridge hosted three protests over the weekend - Saturday saw the first ‘oily’protesters, an NHS march for fair pay, while Sunday saw Extinction Rebellion pursuing its case against the University’s apparent reluctance to divest from fossil fuel investment - and an Israeli protest against ‘crime-minister’ Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Oily Spectres event on Saturday morning kicked off proceedings from the Round Church, with a mini-theatre comprising a trio in black and a woman in tow behind them, signifying the relationship between the oil industry and humanity.

The Oily Spectres dragged models of dead sea birds and fish, plastic rubbish and other debris commonly washed up in an oil spill behind them in nets, illustrating an actual disaster that is occurring in Mauritius - a ship ran aground on July 25 on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean, leaving locals scrambling to contain the inevitable environmental disaster.

Three oily rebels stalked the city centre: behind them, and bound to them with a black cord round her neck, followed a woman in green with flowers in her hair and carrying a representation of the world, representing Mother Earth as a fossil fuel industry captive (curiously, the oily spectre who had tethered Mother Earth was her actual son).

A short address called on “the leaders of the colleges, as seats of great learning, to accept their responsibility of true education, meaning that they should be at the forefront of leading people out of of the catastrophic activity that continued use of fossil fuel will inflict on the future of their students and on our Mother Earth”.

Oily protest rebels make their way through Cambridge. Picture: Caitlin Fay
Oily protest rebels make their way through Cambridge. Picture: Caitlin Fay

The message, says XR activist Linda Richardson, was to divest fully and at pace.

“It reminded the university that the root of the word ‘education’ comes from the Latin ‘educare’, meaning to lead out, and quoted the German philosopher Goethe who put it this way: ‘There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give to our children. One of these is roots, the other is wings’.

“The University must be rooted in the truth and take a flight of imagination that will be at the forefront of creating clean energy.”

Extinction Rebellion divestment protest. Picture: Caitlin Fay
Extinction Rebellion divestment protest. Picture: Caitlin Fay

On Sunday Extinction Rebellion activists staged a five-minute play outside Darwin College.

Darwin’s approach to divestment was clarified in its 2019 statement of principles, where it said: “The College will maintain its existing position in not investing in the most carbon intensive fossil fuels - thermal coal and tar sands. It will progressively divest from its holdings in other fossil fuel companies, on a timescale which is based on a robust evaluation of the companies’ financial prospects, transition risk, and progress in shifting to renewables and work to enable carbon reduction, and which seeks to manage any diminution in income to the College.” However Extinction Rebellion (XR) claims that this divestment is only for direct investments in fossil fuel companies, not indirect investments.

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said: “The play was about Charles Darwin chasing dinosaurs, one of which has the divestment scroll,which is the golden scroll, and he’s hiding it and Charles Darwin has to find him and the scroll. For a major university, how it’s protecting fossilfuels is very backwards and the idea is to get Darwin to announce their policy because they’re still being secretive.

“The play got an audience, and people had fun taking selfies with the dinosaurs.”

Israelis in Cambridge demand the resignation of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Jack Myhre
Israelis in Cambridge demand the resignation of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Jack Myhre

Sunday also saw an XR ‘die-in’ outside Sidney Sussex and St Catharine’s, two non-divested colleges.

“The University of Cambridge is managed by dinosaurs,” the group said in a tweet. “They’re paving our way to extinction by okaying huge investments in highly destructive industries such as fossil fuels and arms. They have the largest endowment [of any university] outside of the US - and they manage it just for profit.”

Meanwhile around 50 people attended the protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose premiership is mired in accusations of corruption. A spokesperson for the group, which is demanding Netanyahu’s resignation, said: “When you’re facing criminal justice, you can’t run a country at the same time.

“Every decision you make is questionable as it has underlined motives to help yourself stay out of jail. And Netanyahu is undermining democracy, passing laws that go against the basic checks and balances that are supposed to be between the government and parliament, stripping slowly all the power parliament had to monitor the governments actions.

“He is undermining the country’s democracy, ploughing hatred and violence while proving incompetent to deal with the pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused.

“We’ll probably back again next week - until he resigns.”

Anti-Netanyahu protest in Cambridge. Picture: Jack Myhre
Anti-Netanyahu protest in Cambridge. Picture: Jack Myhre

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