Trinity College lawn: Police 'stood and watched' in Cambridge

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Trinity College lawn
Image caption,
Trinity College, which was founded in the mid-16th Century, has produced several British prime ministers

Police "stood by and watched" as climate activists dug up a Cambridge University college lawn, an MP said.

Extinction Rebellion members said the action at Trinity College last month was taken in protest against the "destruction of nature".

South Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne told Parliament police "did not intervene to stop the criminal acts and no arrests were made at the time".

Nine people have since been charged in relation to protests in the city.

The action on 17 February was in relation to Innocence Farm in Suffolk, which has been part of plans, involving Trinity, for a lorry park.

It formed part of a week-long set of protests in Cambridge by the group, which also included blockading a city centre road.

Cambridgeshire Police used emergency powers to shut off roads as a result of the blockade, and Mr Browne said the force "did not uphold the law and open the road" and gave "protection to the blockades".

Image caption,
Extinction Rebellion activists set up camp between Fen Causeway and Trumpington Street in the centre of Cambridge

Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative member Mr Browne said the "lack of police action against the law-breaking protesters caused public fury".

"The public were also annoyed by perceived double standards. Many said, 'if I blockaded the road or committed criminal damage, I would be arrested on the spot. Why aren't the protestors?'," he added.

He said that police who mentioned Trinity College only complained about the protesters later that day and that arrests came afterwards.

But Mr Browne said "the police would not stand by and watch a burglar rob a jewellery shop just because the owner was not there formally complaining about it".

He added he "strongly support(s) the ultimate objective of Extinction Rebellion in terms of climate change but I do not support their means".

Mr Browne asked for a public review "to stop a repeat of the unfortunate events in Cambridge in other locations in the coming months and years".

Nine people charged in relation to the protests will appear at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on 30 March.

The BBC has contacted Extinction Rebellion for comment.

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