What is Just Stop Oil? Climate-change activists protest at Parliament Square

What is Just Stop Oil? Climate-change activists protest at Parliament Square

Just Stop Oil activists who were involved in the M25 protests are waiting to hear the High Court judge’s ruling after being accused of being in contempt.

One protester, who is a 76-year-old grandmother, is accused of breaching a court injunction by climbing onto an M25 gantry.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested at least 15 protesters blocking the road in Parliament Square. On Monday, October 30, the group said around 65 protesters were marching this morning to demand an end to new oil and gas.

Their stunts leave many wondering what the group is about and why their protests are leading to arrests. Here is a comprehensive look at the answers to those questions.

Why are Just Stop Oil members being arrested?

The protest at Parliament Square is not the first time that group members have been arrested for climate activism.

Just Stop Oil has organised several protests since last April, including storming the British Grand Prix track in July 2022, where a protestor cable-tied himself to a goalpost.

Later that year, Just Stop Oil activists blocked Park Lane, the four-lane road alongside Hyde Park. Police said 11 people were arrested for obstruction of the highway and one on suspicion of criminal damage.

Days later, activists from Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting at the National Gallery in London. The two activists, who then glued themselves to a wall in the gallery, were placed under arrest for vandalising the painting, which is covered by glass and worth about £72.5m.

More recently, on October 5, the activist group staged a demonstration during a performance of Les Miserables in the West End, at the Sondheim Theatre.

The climate activists took to the stage and raised a flag, prompting the performance to end early. The audience had to be evacuated. Five people were reportedly arrested for the protest.

Meanwhile, in mid-October, seven different vehicles and more than 20 police officers, some of whom were armed, were dispatched to apprehend a teenager who had spray-painted the University of Manchester’s Alan Gilbert building, before scrawling ‘Just Stop Oil’ on the windows in paint.

In a flurry of recent protest activity, the student arm of the environmental activist group has targeted at least eight universities.

Members have painted structures with orange, including the famed pillars at University College London and the ancient Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University.

The protests come after these universities signed new oil and gas projects, including the University of Leeds. In their statement, Just Stop Oil said: “Students are demanding that university leaders make a public statement calling on the Government to end new oil and gas projects.”

This summer, the Government gave police more power to move protesters who disrupt transport as part of the Public Order Bill. Offenders risked facing jail sentences. The new rules are largely believed to have been introduced in response to climate protestors.

In a statement, Just Stop Oil said it was “calling for the Government to commit to immediately halt new oil and gas licences in the UK and for the directors, employees, and members of art institutions to join the Just Stop Oil coalition in peaceful civil resistance”.

Just Stop Oil Action At Manchester University (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)
Just Stop Oil Action At Manchester University (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

What are Just Stop Oil’s goals?

While the name is a key giveaway, Just Stop Oil has a number of objectives to put an end to new licensing and “consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK”.

The group is also demanding that the Government stop all new oil and gas projects.

The website says: “Allowing the extraction of new oil and gas resources in the UK is an obscene and genocidal policy that will kill our children and condemn humanity to oblivion. It just has to stop.

“If we continue down our current path, it will destroy families and communities. We will face the starvation and the slaughter of billions of the poor — and the utter betrayal of our children and their future.

“Does our government get this? They are actively enabling the fossil-fuel industry through obscene subsidies and tax breaks for new fossil-fuel extraction.

“They are wasting billions supporting unicorn technologies, such as carbon capture and storage projects, which provide a fig leaf for business-as-usual to continue. There has been no rapid and sweeping social change, no widespread adoption of low-carbon technology, no war-style mobilisation.

“The choice: rapid transition to a low-energy and low-carbon world, or social collapse. We can do it now, in an orderly manner — creating millions of proper skilled jobs and protecting the rights of workers in sunset industries — or we wait for the unavoidable collapse.”