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Activism

Premier League goalpost protester: ‘I felt like the most hated man on the planet’

Just Stop Oil activist Louis McKechnie said “we will likely pivot to other tactics” after security wised up to their cable-tie protests.

The protester who delayed the Everton v Newcastle Premier League match by locking himself to a goalpost says he “really hates inconveniencing people” and felt like the “most hated man on the planet” during his stunt.

Student Louis McKechnie, a member of Just Stop Oil who has been to prison and been hit by motorists while protesting with Insulate Britain, told The Big Issue stopping the match was “without a doubt the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Viewers on Amazon Prime, along with tens of thousands inside Goodison Park, were treated to a pitch invasion par excellence on Thursday when McKechnie locked himself to a goalpost, causing a long delay to the game while stewards attempted to free him with bolt cutters.

McKechnie, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering student, told The Big Issue: “Knowing that I’m going to be messing up the day of thousands and thousands of people in that stadium – I really hate inconveniencing people like that, but I’m doing it for them.”

He added: “I felt like the most hated man on the planet while I was there. But it’s not really about how it affects me – if it helps all those people know what’s coming, and helps them act to protect themselves, it doesn’t really matter what happens to me.”

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The protest was one of several Premier League pitch invasions last week heralding the launch of Just Stop Oil, a successor group to Insulate Britain who want an end to new oil projects in the UK.

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Just Stop Oil describes itself as a “coalition of groups working together to demand the government immediately halts all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”

Explicitly focused on young people, it wants the UK to transition to a zero-carbon economy within eight years.

Since the first Just Stop Oil lock-on, stadium security has stepped up its game, McKechnie said – leaving the future of the tactic in doubt.

“We’ll continue if there’s energy for it but since I did it security has been increased 20 times or more.

“The numbers required are now far higher to stand a chance of attaching so we will likely pivot to other tactics.”

Instead, the next weeks and months will see the group attempt to grind fossil fuel infrastructure to a halt.

While other protesters were thwarted before managing to lock on, McKechnie was by far the most successful, causing a delay so big some Everton fans credit him with buying time for a late winner.

His secret was meticulous practice, echoing the preparation of Formula 1 pit crews. Before the game, him and a friend found a local park. Having looked up the dimensions of a goalpost, they took to running at a similarly girthy lamppost and working on their technique.

“My friend Kai, who went the day before, security was on him in a couple of seconds, so I assumed I’d have two or three seconds. I got it down to about one and a half in the end,” McKechnie said.

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The reason security took so long to free McKechnie was because he used a cable tie with metal reinforcement inside.

Anticipating searches, he snuck his cable ties in behind a belt buckle.

His nerves before the protest were so bad that he threw up before running on to the pitch.

“All that other stuff felt like child’s play compared to this. There’s so many eyes on you. On the roads with Insulate Britain I got hit a few times by angry motorists, but that’s not really as bad as this,” he said.

“With this, going into it, I know there’s quite a good chance I get beaten up badly for this.”

On the pitch, he feared being set upon by the angry crowd as he was dragged away.

“I see half a dozen people trying to get over the barrier, and I’m thinking, Jesus fucking Christ ,I’m going to get jumped by a whole football stadium at once here.”

McKechnie was arrested and released on bail on Friday evening.

Despite claiming to have received friendly treatment from police officers who showed him memes of his exploits, McKechnie said he had been banned from stadiums, and from football matches internationally as a condition of his bail.

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