Two activists arrested in climate protest at Trinity

A student and former Trinity teacher were arrested yesterday after spray painting the outside of Trinity’s Sport Centre

Two climate change activists from System Change Ireland were arrested yesterday afternoon following a protest action at Trinity as part of the group’s “Mobilise Peace TCD” campaign.

A student and former Trinity teacher were arrested yesterday, following a protest of “civil disobedience” outside of College. They were both members of the climate activist group System Change Ireland. 

The two activists graffitied the outside of Trinity’s Sports Centre, spray painting messages in black and bright green on the building. The slogans included “Mobilise Peace TCD”, “Break the Vicious Cycle” and “Trinity Knows”.  

Security intercepted the group and gardaí were called.

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána confirmed to Trinity News that a female in her 60s and a male in his 20s had been arrested following an act of criminal damage that took place outside Trinity at approximately 4pm.

Investigations regarding the incident are “ongoing”.

The activist group said that the protest was “to recognise the severity of the climate emergency” and Trinity’s “complicity in a system causing climate genocide of the global south”, while also emphasising that the materials used in the protest were eco-friendly. 

Speaking to Trinity News, a protester who was arrested said that the group had already “tried the conventional” and Trinity failed to respond to them.     

The group has previously called on College in an open letter to encourage “civil disobedience” among students, academics and staff protesting government inaction on climate change. They requested a response from College by August 10. 

At the time of yesterday’s protest, College had not responded to the activists group’s request for support from College officials. 

They explained: “We have a duty to the youth of Ireland, and we have a duty to all of Ireland, to change the system. It’s fucking over everyone.”

In a video posted to social media of the protesters spray painting the side of the building, a security guard is seen approaching the group and confiscating stencils used to spray paint the slogans.

The protester said that the activists involved “waited around” for an Garda Síochána to arrive on the site with the security guards and “heard them out”. 

The activists said that they stayed on site voluntarily following the protest while security waited for gardaí to arrive.

“The security was lovely, and they were just doing their job,” the protester explained. “We know their job is to stop exactly those kinds of things. They were very professional and a credit to Trinity.”

The protester moved to emphasize that it was “not an attack on the university” or any of the academic staff or students, as everyone is “trying their best within a broken system”, and the group is simply “reaching out” to the university.

The protester explained then that the Gardaí were called, and two of their members were arrested, and taken to the Garda station “in handcuffs”. 

The group confirmed to Trinity News yesterday that both members involved are well, and they believe they were treated fairly both by Trinity security and An Garda Síochána.

Ronan Browne, who is a co-founder of System Change Ireland said: “Trinity need to put their research into practice. Trinity knows that our climate, economic and social systems are in a state of severe crisis, and that our specific form of economic system is to blame.”

The group had originally planned the protest as a camp-in in Trinity’s Front Square to call on College for support, however these plans were scrapped following the recent rises in Covid-19 cases across the country. 

Another co-founder of the group, Zac Lumley, said: “150 Irish academics have outlined support for Extinction Rebellion’s tactics to avert severe climate injustice.”

He continued: “Furthermore, a recent letter signed by more than 100 economists have argued that our current economic system is to blame for the wide range of injustices we see across the world: they argue our current system ‘begets racial, social and economic inequities, creating a system that is fundamentally incompatible with a stable future’.” 

“It is clear that we need a system change, and we hope that TCD will take this opportunity to lead the way, showing other universities how to do their civic duty,” Lumley added. 

Speaking to Trinity News, one of the protesters arrested emphasised that “their plan for escalation was certain and thought out” and that the group are “coming from a place of calm and love”. 

Speaking about government’s action towards climate change, the protester condemned a lack of radical action: “We as a developed country have a duty to go much, much further and much faster than that.”

“We as a country have incurred a climate debt upon the global stage, with our grotesque per capita consumptions and our 2050 targets. It’s just not okay,” they continued. 

The protester continued to emphasise that the group are “moving calmly” through their escalation, “in love at all times”.

They continued to state that they “must progress through their phases” of escalation, as a result of “Trinity’s duty in stopping the climate genocide” inaction being “simply not acceptable”. 

In July, the Supreme Court ruled against the government’s existing National Mitigation Plan for climate change action, finding that the plan lacked the specificity required to be transparent enough to achieve its aims. 

Calling on students, System Change Ireland asked: “At this pivotal moment of human history, are your university business and law schools, for example, preparing students on how to rapidly and carefully dismantle our insane and inhumane economic system in the name of justice, or, are they preparing white collar facilitators and perpetrators of subjugation and environmental destruction?”

“We hope that our students, whether or not we choose or continue in faith of our third level education, understand the power, potential and responsibility of universities, and ask much more of them, because they can and simply must do much better,” they continued.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.