More than 30 young climate activists occupied the Science Museum overnight in protest against the charity’s fossil fuel sponsors.
The group of activists, scientists and campaigners from the London branch of the UK Student Climate Network were still in the building as the doors opened to the public this morning.
The protest followed increased pressure on the museum after it announced last week that Adani, which owns the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, Australia, would sponsor the museum’s new Energy Revolution gallery.
Sleeping bags, foil blankets and leaflets were confiscated by museum security, but the activists unfurled a number of banners and hosted livestreams on social media.
UKSCN London member Izzy, who participated in the occupation, said: “We chose to take this action because the Science Museum has consistently refused to engage with any other tactics. We’ve tried petitions, letters, boycotts and protests, all of which have been met with silence.
“The Science Museum’s director [Ian Blatchford] is failing to do his job by sacrificing the museum's reputation and credibility for his own admiration of fossil fuel companies.
“He repeatedly emphasises the importance of engaging with the oil and coal industry while the legitimate concerns of young people, scientists and impacted communities have been ignored, diminished and sidelined.”
Alongside the occupation, a simultaneous vigil took place outside the museum that focused on remembering both the victims of the climate crisis and the activists and environmental defenders whose deaths the museum’s four fossil fuel sponsors are complicit in, the group said.
Adrian Burragubba, an indigenous leader based in Australia, received an apology from Queensland police in July this year after he was pressured by officers to leave traditional lands at the request of Adani.
He said: “The British Science Museum should be respecting the fundamental human rights of Indigenous peoples. Instead, director Ian Blatchford has dismissed us and chosen to support Adani, a company that is destroying our land and violating our rights.”
Sarah Dry, a former trustee at the museum, said on Twitter: “When I was still a trustee, I argued against taking [funding] from Adani for a new energy gallery.
“I was not listened to. Now that the announcement is public, many others are making the same case. It takes strength to admit you've made a mistake. Will Ian Blatchford?
“I'm not sure. But I know the reputation of the museum is at stake at a time when it's more important than ever to have trust in how our museums engage with their visitors on climate change.”
A spokesperson for the Science Museum said: "While dealing professionally and calmly with a small group of protesters, our team’s focus remains on the tens of thousands of people heading for an inspiring half term day out at the Science Museum, where visitors can explore two exhibitions addressing aspects of climate change, the most urgent challenge facing humanity."