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Shock as Met Police 'completely understand the frustration and anger' of man filmed attacking Just Stop Oil protesters

A video shows a man pushing a Just Stop Oil activist to the floor and throwing another protester’s phone across the road

The man appears to throw an activist's phone across the road. Image: Just Stop Oil

London’s Met Police have said they “completely understand the frustration and anger” after a man was filmed attacking Just Stop Oil activists in the capital on Friday, to the shock of many on social media.

The man was filmed hurling Just Stop Oil protesters to the floor during a march in central London, grabbing their banners, and repeatedly flinging one activist’s phone away during the “slow-walking” protest.

In response, the Met said “we completely understand the frustration and anger of London’s communities when protesters walked slowly in the roads.” A spokesperson urged the public not to intervene, but said no allegations had been made.

Jamie Klingler, co-founder of the Reclaim These Streets group which formed in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, said the response came as no surprise.

“I am not surprised at the Met’s statement apparently offering a response that was sympathetic to the assailant in this case while what appears to be two women are seen on video to be assaulted,” Klingler told The Big Issue. “It is the pervasive, dare I say it institutional misogyny that women experience daily from the Met Police when reporting our assaults and rapes.”

A video shows at least 17 protesters clad in high-vis orange jackets and blocking traffic as they walked slowly along Mansell Street, near the Tower of London. As horns honked, the man stormed into the road, seized the banners, sent an activist’s phone flying, shoved one protester to the ground, then pushed at least two others.

Presenter Chris Packham said the incident had been enabled by rhetoric against Just Stop Oil.

“Shooting the messengers…ugly hatred and intolerance fuelled by ignorance and the corrupt agenda of the billionaire press,” Packham wrote on Twitter.

Environmental worker and former councillor Jon Burke said on Twitter: “Violent, middle-aged men egged on by parliamentarians to assault peaceful protestors trying to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

“If it were anywhere else, we’d call it fascism.”

Minnie Rahman, the former chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, wrote  on Twitter: “This is what happens when politicians demonise peaceful protest and whip up hatred of dissenting voices.”

“This man has had the tacit encouragement of politicians and pundits who’ve turned Just Stop Oil into a tabloid hate figure,” said Novara Media journalist Ash Sarkar.

“Violently assaulting women isn’t a reasonable or proportionate response to being inconvenienced!”

Many others commented on the police statement itself, with one declaring the Met had “declared assault to be legal”.

“Literally just a green light for petrolhead vigilantism, disgraceful,” wrote another.

The video was also posted with a crying laughing emoji by Britain First leader Paul Golding, and a number of Twitter users reacted approvingly to the video, with one saying: “There should be legal protections for vigilantes.”

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It is the second time in recent days members of the public have taken matters into their own hands with Just Stop Oil protesters, after a motorist pushed the protesters out of the road in south London on Tuesday.

The group has been on a campaign of “slow walking” protests in recent weeks which have led to a spate of arrests, as police use new and existing laws to crack down on protests.

Just Stop Oil also disrupted an evidence session of the Home Affairs select committee, during evidence given by the Met on policing of protests in the wake of the coronation. Proceedings were suspended after activists, who were not invited to speak, stood up and started speaking into a microphone.

Reacting to the incident, Just Stop Oil said the inconvenience for motorists paled in comparison to the upheaval caused by recent floods in Italy.

“We understand how frustrating it can be to be disrupted, however, as of this morning 13 people are dead and 13,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes in Italy, due to 6 months worth of rain falling in a day and a half. 

“A quarter of a million people are currently homeless in Somalia due to extreme flooding, despite the country experiencing its worst drought in 40 years,” a spokesperson told The Big Issue

“The disruption we are seeing on British streets is nothing compared to the disruption wrought if we do not stop licensing new oil, gas and coal.”

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A spokesperson for the Met told The Big Issue: “The Met and City of London Police are aware of an incident shown on social media in which a member of the public appears to have an altercation with Just Stop Oil protesters on Mansell Street E1 this morning, Friday, 19 May, shortly before the arrival of police.

“At this stage, we are not aware that any allegations have been made in regard to this matter, however, at this stage we are in contact with the organisers of the demonstration.

“We completely understand the frustration and anger of London’s communities when protesters walk slowly in the roads. We urge people not to intervene and to wait for the arrival of police, who will attend the scene promptly. We thank people for their patience.”

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