Just Stop Oil activists dragged out of road by motorists in London

Videos posted by the group show drivers moving protesters, who keep returning to retake their places

Motorists dragged Just Stop Oil protesters out of the way as activists halted traffic flow across four central London roads on Saturday.

The group said 61 Just Stop Oil supporters stopped traffic on Charing Cross Road, Kensington High Street, Kennington Road and Blackfriars Road, “demanding that the government halts all new oil and gas consents and licences”.

They posted a series of videos on Twitter shortly after midday on Saturday, showing protesters in bright orange vests sitting across some of the city’s major roads.

In several instances, members of the public shouted abuse and dragged the protesters on to the nearby pavement. Drivers dragged protesters out of the road, but they persistently returned to retake their places.

People dragging protesters out of road
Protests by Just Stop Oil in London on Saturday. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

A man hurled a traffic bollard on to the road near where they were sitting and people snatched their signs and threw them on the ground.

The group quoted some of the protest’s participants, including Anna Berrill, a 20-year-old philosophy student from Leeds, who said: “I’m doing this because it breaks my heart to witness the tragedies that are happening and will keep coming because of our actions, and to live in a crumbling world and not do anything is unbearable.”

Helen Redfern, 57, a grandmother of four and social enterprise founder from Gateshead, said: “I’m joining the Just Stop Oil campaign today because for me, taking nonviolent direct action seems to be the only option left to me.”

Another added: “The government are not taking the devastating effects of the climate emergency seriously. They’re still granting new oil and gas licences when it’s clear that oil and gas are the problem, not the solution.

“I cannot sit by and watch people suffering around the world already, knowing that unless we act fast, more and more people will suffer more and more climate-related disasters now and in the future.”

At the time of writing, the videos had been live for one hour and had been watched more than 30,000 times collectively.

Met Police assistant commissioner Matt Twist said: “Just Stop Oil do not engage with police in advance of their demonstrations, which means more resources are needed across the Met to respond, irrespective of whether significant action takes place or not.

“This impacts on policing resources for local communities. Since 1 October, more than 7,900 officer shifts have been needed to respond to this activity to try to keep London moving and minimise serious impact on communities.”

Twist added: “I completely understand the frustration and anger felt by the public who are seriously disrupted by a relatively small number of protesters and their deliberate tactics.

“They are affecting people’s businesses, their lives, whether they are on their way to a doctor, a long-awaited hospital appointment, on their way to work, to interviews, or to collect children; I know communities and the public of London have had enough of a very small number of people disrupting them.

“When notified of any activists committing offences, or causing disruption by blocking roads, our priority is to get there quickly. I would urge the public not to directly intervene, but to call us, and we will deal.

“On arrival, we need to work within the clear legal framework and secure evidence for the offence of highway obstruction, showing clearly that there is an obstruction, that it is deliberate, that it is unlawful, and finally within the context of protest, that it is unreasonable in all of the circumstances.

“Without this evidence, any prosecution may fail and the offenders will not be held to account for their actions. Once we have this evidence, arrests are made and our specialist teams work rapidly to unstick the protesters or remove their complex lock-on devices.”

Earlier this month, the public order bill passed through the Commons, taking aim at “criminal, disruptive and self-defeating guerrilla tactics” used by groups such as Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain.

It would introduce stiff penalties for “lock-on” protests, used regularly by groups such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Just Stop Oil, as well as new offences of interfering with key national infrastructure, obstructing major transport works and causing serious disruption by tunnelling.

It has been met with significant opposition from climate activist groups, civil rights organisations and a number of politicians.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has said he would continue with Tory plans for stiff sentences for climate protesters who block roads, despite reiterating Labour’s pledge for no new oil and gas licences.

Just Stop Oil has vowed to continue its disruptive protests until the government imposes the death penalty for their actions.

In addition to halting traffic in London every day this month, the group has recently attracted headlines for targeting famous works of art in their protests.

Earlier this month, two young people visiting room 43 of the National Gallery in London shed overcoats to reveal T-shirts printed with Just Stop Oil. Then they poured tomato soup across one of Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings, asking “What is worth more: art or life?”

On Thursday, Dutch police arrested three people at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague after a Just Stop Oil protester attempted to glue his ear to Johannes Vermeer’s golden age masterpiece Girl with a Pearl Earring.


Sophie Zeldin-O'Neill

The GuardianTramp

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