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Activism

Just Stop Oil: Who are the protesters storming race tracks and oil refineries?

Just Stop Oil has been back in the headlines after a group of protesters stormed the track at the British Grand Prix

As the British Grand Prix got underway on Sunday July 3, a group of orange-clad protesters from Just Stop Oil stormed the track.

Their stunt drew the respect of six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who said “big up those guys”, as well as fellow driver Sebastian Vettel, who said: “I very much sympathise with their fears and their anxieties.”

They were part of the same group who had, earlier that week, glued themselves to a Van Gogh painting in a London gallery.

It wasn’t the first time the group had attempted to disrupt a sporting event. Viewers watching Everton beat Newcastle on Thursday March 17 were treated to some top-class pitch invasion, as a protester cable-tied himself to a goalpost while wearing a bright orange t-shirt saying “Just Stop Oil.”

Footage of a groundsman battling to cut through the zip tie captured the imagination, and shot the group to prominence. But the stunt also raised some obvious questions: who are these people, and why are they doing this?

The Big Issue explains everything you need to know about the new protest movement.

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Who are Just Stop Oil?

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

A total of 14 of Insulate Britain’s activists were jailed – and a further 74 are facing criminal charges.

One of those jailed was 21-year-old student Louis McKechnie. In January, he told the Big Issue Insulate Britain would be wrapping things up.

“I’m not sure we’ll be returning to the roads as Insulate Britain. However, there will be something new on the cards,” he said on his release from prison.

And, as it happens, there is something new – Just Stop Oil. McKechnie himself, is the activist who managed to briefly stop the Everton v Newcastle match.

The organisation 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 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.”

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What have their protests been so far?

McKechnie was not the first Just Stop Oil activist to disrupt a football match.

Earlier this week, another activist locked himself to a goalpost while Arsenal played Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium.

The group also stormed the BAFTAs, with 30 of its supporters managing to get on to the red carpet for a sit down protest.

Just Stop Oil
A Just Stop Oil supporter during a school strike. Image: Just Stop Oil

In line with the group’s focus on youth, students from London and Liverpool have staged school strikes, sitting outside their schools for a few minutes.

In the Spring, the group staged a mass campaign of storming oil refineries, which led to a string of arrests for members,

Since then, members have glued themselves to paintings in London and Manchester (a Van Gogh and a Turner respectively)

Just Stop Oil’s decision to storm the track during the British Grand Prix drew criticism from some who said it endangered lives, but was staunchly defended by Gary Lineker.

Responding to criticism, Lineker argued there was “way more risk of death with climate change to everyone than there is attempting to delay a motor race.”

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