Extinction Rebellion Protester Sentenced for Scaling Big Ben in Leotard

November 26, 2020 Updated: November 26, 2020

An Extinction Rebellion (XR) protester has been sentenced to 250 hours of community work and a £865 ($1,155) fine, the Metropolitan Police (Met) said on Thursday.

A London court on Wednesday convicted Benjamin Atkinson for trespassing on a protected site, gave him a community order to carry out unpaid work for 250 hours, and ordered him to pay a £90 ($120) surcharge to fund victim services and the £775 ($1,035) cost to the Crown Prosecution Service.

At around 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 last year, the then 43-year-old climate protester climbed over the fences and scaled the scaffolding of the Queen Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as the Big Ben, while dressed up as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a green leotard, a jacket, and a wig.

The tree surgeon hung two XR banners on the scaffolding, with a rainbow coloured one reading “No pride on a dead planet.”

“He was up on the scaffolding for a number of hours while specialist police units from the protest removal team negotiated his removal,” the Met said in a statement.

“He had intended to do a live radio broadcast whilst up on the tower, while wearing fancy dress.”

Atkinson was arrested upon coming down the tower.

Scaffolding Big Ben
Scaffolding surrounds the newly revealed restored spire of the Elizabeth Tower, commonly known by the name of the bell Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, in London on Oct. 6, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Police Constable Samantha Lloyd from the Public Order Command said, “This was a dangerous and reckless act which could have ended very differently both for the individual but also for the officers who responded to the trespass call.”

“They are specially trained for situations such as this and it was their skills that brought the safe end to this incident, I would like to thank them for their work in bring him down.”

On Jan. 22, 2020, Atkinson appeared barefoot at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and denied trespassing that was charged against him.

According to Daily Mail, Atkinson’s solicitor indicated that he intended to argue necessity in his defence, because Atkinson was suffering from “climate change anxiety.”

But Chief Magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot rejected the argument.

“No, no, no, this is about climbing a tower, necessity is saving life or preventing immediate injury, necessity is a very narrow defence. The court may not allow you to rely on it.”

Arbuthnot said Atkinson was suffering from “Extinction Rebellion psychosis” rather than “climate change anxiety.”

Another protester scaled the scaffolding near Big Ben on Oct. 22 this year, and unfurled banners on issues including Tier 3 CCP virus lockdowns and Black Lives Matter. The elderly man was wearing a spiderman costume, and the look was completed with a vest that read “EXTINCTION REBELLION,” and a hat with the XR logo on it.