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Just Stop Oil: Everything you need to know about the fossil fuel protest group

Just Stop Oil activists have been making headlines for months with their protests. But who are they? And what do they want?

Just Stop Oil

Just Stop Oil began protesting in February 2022. Since then over 2,000 of its activists have been arrested. Image: Just Stop Oil

Keir Starmer reckons Just Stop Oil’s demands are ‘contemptible’. Conservative ministers say Labour is their ‘political wing’. In just over a year, the orange-clad climate campaigners have gone from being a disruptive environmental protest group to a battleground for the nation’s politicians. Their impact can also be measured another way: it’s now really funny for stag dos to dress the groom up in one of Just Stop Oil’s orange t-shirts.

Yet polling suggests half of Brits have an unfavourable view of the group, and after a year of roadblocks and protests at sporting events and art galleries, Rishi Sunak has announced over 100 new oil and gas drilling licences for the North Sea.

But who are they actually, and what do they want?

The Big Issue has explained everything you need to know about Just Stop Oil.

What is Just Stop Oil?

Just Stop Oil is a successor group to Insulate Britain, who spent the autumn of 2021 blocking Britain’s roads to highlight the need for home insulation.

The organisation, founded in February 2022, describes itself as a “coalition of groups working together to demand that the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK”.

It’s explicitly focused on young people taking action.The group is also linked to Extinction Rebellion – with veteran activist Roger Hallam cited as the mastermind behind all three.

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What do Just Stop Oil protesters want?

The clue’s in the name. The group’s mission statement reads: “We must urgently end our reliance on fossil fuels to avoid irreversible changes in the earth’s climate system. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels in the belief that future developments in carbon capture and storage and other so-called ‘unicorn technologies’ will allow us to suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

It wants the UK to begin this immediately, by stopping new fossil fuel projects – giving the country eight years to transition to a zero-carbon economy.

The group continues: “Everyone knows we have to engage in massive changes. Just Stop Oil is a coalition of groups demanding the no-brainer things be done immediately – actions that will reduce the demand for fossil fuel energy dramatically such as insulating our homes, rethinking how we travel, getting on with renewable energy and making sure no-one is left behind.”

Protest

What have their protests been so far?

Just Stop Oil grabbed national attention when its members tied themselves to goalposts during Premier League games.

The group’s most famous protest was perhaps when a pair of Just Stop Oil activists threw tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery. The painting was unharmed.

Activists have also sprayed Harrods, think-tank hub 55 Tufton Street, and the Home Office with orange paint.

And in tactics common with Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil has undertaken mass roadblocks – including on the M25.

The activists’ disruption of major public events also includes the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in April 2023, the 2022 Baftas, the 2022 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and the first day of the 2023 Ashes cricket test at Lords.More recently, the group has undertaken a campaign of ‘slow walking’ protests in London, marching nearly every day since April. Its activists have also targeted the headquarters of oil companies.

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Who funds Just Stop Oil?

The group says it is “non-hierarchical” and without formal leadership – instead sharing common resources. It is part of a wider international network of climate activists called the A22 network. Describing itself as “a group of connected projects engaged in a mad dash to try and save humanity”, the A22 network includes Letzte Generation in Germany and Declare Emergency in the USA.

Just Stop Oil says the majority of its funding comes from the Climate Emergency Fund. The fund, founded by fossil fuel heiress Aileen Getty, says it gave $4.5million (£3.5million) in grants to different organisations in 2022.Getty said that when her family sold its fossil fuel business: “I instead vowed to use my resources to take every means to protect life on Earth.”Donations also come from individuals, including British clean energy entrepreneur Dale Vince – who has also donated to Keir Starmer – and film director Adam McKay.

Why can’t police stop Just Stop Oil?

From motorists dragging protesters out of the road to irate online comments, Just Stop Oil’s intentionally disruptive tactics have left many members of the public asking why the police are not doing more to stop them.

However, police have been acting, and have arrested over 2,000 of the group’s activists. Policing Just Stop Oil’s protests has cost £18.5 million, home secretary Suella Braverman told the House of Commons.

A pair of protesters were jailed for three years after scaling a bridge on the Dartford crossing in October 2022,  and Just Stop Oil says three of its supporters are currently in prison.

The government has also given police further powers to tackle protests like Just Stop Oil’s.

The Public Order Act, which passed this year, includes a number of new protest-related offences – such as criminalising locking on and obstructing major transport works.

It then changed the definition of ‘serious disruption’ to allow police to stop slow walking protests, in the face of warnings from the UN that such protests are “important and legitimate”.

How many Just Stop Oil arrests have there been?

According to Just Stop Oil, there have been 2,300 arrests since it launched in 2022, with 138 people spending time in prison.

Have Just Stop Oil killed anyone?

As a peaceful protest group, Just Stop Oil’s tactics do not involve violence and there is no evidence their protests have claimed any lives. The group has a ‘Blue Lights’ policy to let emergency service vehicles past their protests.

However, critics have accused the group’s tactics of putting lives in danger.

There has been controversy over one incident which happened during the group’s Dartford Crossing protest in October 2022

Two women were killed by a car on the hard shoulder of the M20 in Kent, and the protesters were blamed for increased traffic on the motorway miles from their stunt

One of those injured in the incident said Just Stop Oil had “blood on their hands”. It was alleged motorists were using the M20 to avoid the M25, and that the women killed may not have been there were it not for this.

“Without the protest the emergency services might have been able to get there in time to save the women,” the man told The Sun.

But there is no evidence to support this claim. The incident took place between junctions one and two – around 10 miles away from the Dartford crossing.

Kent Police told The Big Issue they have made no arrests and enquiries are ongoing. Appealing for information on the incident – reported to involve a grey Infiniti Q30 Sport, a black BMW X5, a black VW Golf and a white Iveco Daily van, and taking place between 8.15am and 8.20am on 17 October 2022.

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