On Friday, a jury at Southwark Crown Court acquitted two members of ScientistRebellion who in September 2020 daubed the doorway of the Royal Society in London with green paint. Both waited at the scene until their arrest, along with two observers who were later released without charge.

Dr. Tim Hewlett (pictured here) is a post-doctoral researcher in astrophysics. Mike Lynch-White trained as a theoretical physicist. Although acquitted on Friday, Mike remains in custody over a separate climate action.

Credit: Twitter/@ScientistRebellion

Their non-violent action at the Royal Society in 2020 was the first by the new group, which set out to highlight the growing calls for academics and universities to expand their traditional roles and directly pressure policy-makers through action and advocacy.

As per so many trials of climate and civil rights activists over the past few months, the defences available to them in law were whittled down to just one – ‘belief in consent’.  In other words, they had to convince the jury that, had the decision-makers at the Royal Society known all the circumstances around climate and ecological breakdown and the science of how through the use of non-violent direct action, social movements can bring about the kind of rapid systemic change required, then they WOULD have consented.

Here is the video from September 2020 where Mike and Tim explain the reasoning behind their action. Members of the Royal Society, the UK’s foremost scientific body, have stated clearly that urgent systemic change is needed to avert disastrous consequences within decades, but Tim says that they are not then acting as if that’s true. As Mike puts it:
If I tell you the room’s on fire and then sit down calmly and drink a cup of tea, you’re not going to believe me are you?