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Cambridge climate protestor found guilty of trespass for Schlumberger blockade

‘I find arrest really stressful and difficult but I try to remember that what we’re doing is part of a much bigger resistance around the world’


Last week, three members of the climate campaign group Schlumberger Out were tried in Cambridge for aggravated trespass, after a blockade at the Schlumberger (SLB) research site last March.

The campaign, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge, demands that the university cut all ties with the oil services company, and that they “stop profiting off planetary destruction and commit to climate reparations.”

Ahead of the trial, one of the accused, Cambridge PhD student Peach Rose, spoke to The Tab about the arrest, the blockade, and why they believe such action is necessary.

After speaking to The Cambridge Tab, Peach was found guilty of section 68 aggravated trespass, given a 12-month conditional discharge and £600 fine.

All three denied the charges against them, but 33-year-old charity worker and activist Jamie Goodland was found guilty of criminal damage, and 45-year-old Chris Ford, a nursery teaching assistant and father, was found guilty of criminal damage (which he caused to a fence with pink paint), as well as Section 68 and 69 public order offences. Ford and Goodland each received fines of £200 in total and were given 12-month conditional discharges.

The blockade stood for 36 hours (Image credits: Amelia Halls)

The Schlumberger Cambridge Research Centre, where the blockade was staged last year, hosts more than 100 staff and is run by the university in conjunction with Schlumberger, the world’s largest offshore drilling company.

The demonstrators set up around the Gould Research building on the Schlumberger Cambridge Research centre, which specialises in “drilling, chemistry, fluid mechanics, and seismics,” and houses a test drill, which Peach believes specifically implicates the centre in fossil fuel expansion. The company works in 120 countries, the firm is linked to 36,000 patented technologies for oil and gas extraction, and XR Youth Cambridge says it is “complicit in the exploitation of oil reserves in pristine Arctic land.”

The activists erected the blockade from 6am on a Monday morning in March 2022, and it stayed in place for the rest of the day, until late the next morning when it was broken up by a heavy police presence. The blockade consisted of various tripod structures, as well as the iconic Extinction Rebellion pink boat.

The XR pink boat (Image credits: Derek Langley)

Peach describes how blockading galvanises community, as protestors draw strength from engaging in such a direct action, with others around them. Once fastened into a lock-on tube beneath a tripod structure Peach, along with the other blockaders, heard workshops from various contributors, on subjects from sustainable textiles to corporate law, and the environment was “peaceful and wholesome.” Being on the West Cambridge site, says Peach, the blockades often attract attention from scientists in the nearby buildings, who thank and praise the demonstrators for their action.

Peach describes how blockading galvanises community, as protestors draw strength from engaging in such a direct action, with others around them. Once fastened into a lock-on tube beneath a tripod structure Peach, along with the other blockaders, heard workshops from various contributors, on subjects from sustainable textiles to corporate law, and the environment was “peaceful and wholesome.” Being on the West Cambridge site, says Peach, the blockades often attract attention from scientists in the nearby buildings, who thank and praise the demonstrators for their action.

Peach does describe a moment of happiness just as they were being taken away, however, when their friend, who had been struggling to get to the blockade due to mobility, arrived to see Peach just as they went into the police van, using a wheelchair for the first time.

A protestor being removed from their fastenings (Image credits: Jez Pete)

Peach feels that the strengths of blockading lie in the the ability to directly hinder practices carried out by companies such as Schlumberger, as they said of the blockade: “We know that we were successful in delaying some of their research, costing them a lot of money as well.” Such a direct action is specifically merited in this case, believes Peach, as the goal of Schlumberger Out is “making it difficult for them to work here in Cambridge; it’s about kicking them out and getting that very prestigious research centre shut down.”

Peach drew attention to Schlumberger’s actions far across the world, as they identify all of their actions with solidarity for people worldwide. “Personally a lot of why I do any of this is because of the harm being done to people through fossil fuel extraction. I find arrest really stressful and difficult but I try to remember that what we’re doing is part of a much bigger resistance around the world.”

Peach cites Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa when asked to explain their actions: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

SLB (Schlumberger) provided The Tab with the following statement: “We are committed to playing our  part in addressing climate change by reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting our customers reduce theirs, through targets aligned with climate science and by meeting the demand for energy sustainably. SLB invests in a range of initiatives to achieve this.

“Our transition technologies are deployed for customers to support their climate ambitions and we have made a public commitment to achieving Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In addition SLB created a New Energy business, developing solutions for the future that are carbon neutral which we intend to expand as part of our strategic ambitions addressing climate change. The Cambridge Research centre is heavily involved in supporting the company’s commitment to Net Zero emissions, with many projects in new energy activities.”

The University of Cambridge has also been contacted for comment.