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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Barney Davis

Just Stop Oil: Passers-by cheered as they rip banners from protesters

Just Stop Oil protesters spray paint a Ferrari car showroom on Berkley Square in central London (PA) (Picture: PA Media)

Eco-warriors blocking the streets had their Just Stop Oil signs ripped off them and were dragged out of the road by angry motorists before police arrived to make 13 arrests.

Just Stop Oil activists clashed with tourists with one lady carrying luggage being cheered as she dragged their sign out of their hands outside The Ritz hotel at 1pm on Wednesday.

It came after footage appeared to show an angry taxi driver and others trying in vain to drag the activists out of the road. The protesters go limp and then quickly moved back into position in the middle of Piccadilly.

Just Stop Oil defended their law-breaking protest tactics as it also continued its month-long action by targeting luxury car showrooms in Mayfair.

Indigo Rumbelow, a Just Stop Oil protester, told BBC Radio 4’s today programme on Wednesday that they use stunts and drastic tactics “to disturb everyday life” and “take drastic action against governments who are pursuing new fossil fuel projects”.

It came as Just Stop Oil protesters sprayed orange paint onto Ferrari and Bentley car showrooms in Mayfair and set up a roadblock in Piccadilly on Day 26 of their planned month-long action.

“We need to let everybody know through all walks of life – whether they’re watching a football match, whether they’re attending an art gallery, whether they’re driving their car around the M25 – that this is a very, very serious and very grave threat that threatens humanity,” Ms Rumbelow said.

On whether breaking the law is an acceptable form of protest, Ms Rumbelow argued: “There’s many times when I’m sure you will agree that it’s correct that people break the law.

“If there is a burning house and I want to save a child I will break a window causing criminal damage.

“If there’s a government who’s persecuting a group of peoples, I will hide them in my house no matter what the risk to myself is.

“If there’s a government pursuing new oil and gas despite the warnings of the global scientific gas, then I will stop them.”

Rupert Read, a professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia who helped set up Extinction Rebellion, said the first major wave of protests in April 2019 “achieved something dramatic and extraordinary, a real increase in climate consciousness”.

However, he argued that while he sympathises with Just Stop Oil’s message, he believes a more moderate approach is now needed.

“What we need is masses of people who are prepared to take action in their own lives, in their communities, where they work, to effect the changes that need to be made,” he said.

“What I’d say to people who don’t like Just Stop Oil’s tactic is: ‘Well fine, but don’t waste your energy cursing at them but instead do something that you actually judge to be better, to be more positive, to be more effective.'”

Protesters targeted the premises of high-end dealers Ferrari and Bentley on the corner of Berkeley Square and Bruton Street on Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Police arrested two people on suspicion of criminal damage in relation to the protest.

At midday, 16 Just Stop Oil supporters walked onto Piccadilly by Green Park Tube station and disrupted traffic by sitting in the road with banners.

Some supporters have glued themselves onto the tarmac.

Police tweeted that they removed 11 protesters blocking the road at Piccadilly by 1pm, and arrested all of them on suspicion of wilful obstruction of the highway.

The actions are part of the campaign group’s month-long series of protests where it is calling on the Government to halt all new fossil fuel licences.

The group says police have made 585 arrests since they began their action at the beginning of October.

Seven Just Stop Oil demonstrators were arrested on Tuesday after spraying paint on to the facade of 55 Tufton Street in Westminster as it targeted the headquarters of climate sceptic think tank Global Warming Police Foundation.

On the luxury car showroom protest, Emma Brown, 31, from Glasgow, said: “We have come down from Scotland to demand this toxic Government in Westminster do another U-turn, this time on our broken energy system.

“Get your hands off our North Sea oil and rapidly upscale the renewable energies that will prevent catastrophic climate breakdown and reduce our bills.

“This is the immediate action we need to help the cost of living and the climate crisis.”

Meanwhile, Linda Ahtiainen, 23, a recent graduate from Ruokolahti, Finland, said she is joining the Piccadilly action over the Government’s “completely irresponsible” plan to approve more than 100 new oil and gas projects.

“I hope that people will understand the severity of the situation we are facing,” she said.

“New oil and gas projects are not just unnecessary, but will destroy everything we depend upon and all we hold dear.

“This campaign of civil resistance is not about any individual or groups of people but about ensuring the survival of humanity.”

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