Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

‘You’re killing plants!’ Bemusement at Just Stop Oil’s flower show protest

Just Stop Oil targets Chelsea Flower Show

Just Stop Oil protesters’ targeting of a display at the Chelsea Flower Show has sparked a backlash on social media. Three women climbed over a barrier and smothered the RBC Brewin Dolphin Garden with paint on Thursday. JSO supporter Naomi Goddard, 58, asked in a statement on Twitter which accompanied the protest: “What use is a garden when you can’t grow food?”

She went on to say that she lived in a small town, Hebden Bridge, which has been flooded “five times in the last eight years”.

The eco-warrior added: “Then the heat came, and parched moorland burnt, a stray spark from a barbeque causing huge fires.

“We all know that we can’t carry on like this. We can’t tend the garden and ignore the world on fire. New oil and gas will destroy everything we love.”

But Twitter users blasted her comments and JSO’s protest, with one hitting back saying: “What’s the point of a garden, other than growing food? Pollination, wildlife, beauty, play, sanctuary, mindfulness, motivation, oxygen, socialising…”

A second, who said they had previously donated to JSO, commented: “Are you suggesting gardens be concreted over – with far worse flooding, plus loss of endangered insect species, dire consequences for mental health.

“I regularly donate to Just Stop Oil – but this is a ridiculous target [versus] far more relevant oil profiteering companies.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “And yet [someone] who has spent their life working with gardens thinks it’s acceptable to vandalise someone else’s garden and hard work? And ruin it for the public?

“It doesn’t give off the right [image] at all. You’re not hurting the people you’re targeting, just alienating people.]”

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A fourth Twitter user simply said: “Bees need flowers.”

The protest prompted witnesses at the show to shout abuse at the protesters, with one man heard saying: “Oh no. Oh for god’s – you morons – all you’re doing is ruining them, you prats.”

Meanwhile, others could be heard shouting for security before a woman grabbed a hose and sprayed the protesters with water.

Others shouted out in support for the women – with one saying: “I’ll join.”

Metropolitan Police officers arrested the women, named by JSO as Stephanie Golder, 35, Ms Goddard and Rosa Hicks, 28, for criminal damage.

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The incident comes after activists from the group – which is campaigning to end all new fossil fuel projects in the UK – interrupted the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last month by throwing orange powder paint over a snooker table.

Six protesters were arrested in Marylebone Road, central London, on Wednesday, according to JSO.

Emilia Randall, 23, who saw the protest on Thursday, said: “I just popped in (to see the flower show) this morning. At first a girl walked under the rope. Someone called for security.

“There were three of them. One woman at the back said: ‘Get your head out of the compost’.

“There were some people calling for security and going, ‘Oh, not this’. Some people were cheering them on.”

Former GB News presenter Darren Grimes joined in criticism of the Chelsea Flower Show protest, telling his followers: “I’m obsessed with this woman relentlessly hosing down the green extreme as they throw paint all over a beautiful display like a toddler with a brush.”

His tweet prompted other Twitter users to mock the protesters with one saying: “Should have used a pressure washer.”

Another chimed in: “That hose is not powerful enough!”

While a third said: “Well done to that woman, but never mind a hosepipe. Get the water cannons.”

A spokesperson for JSO said after the protest: “This is not a one-day event, this is an act of resistance against a criminal Government.”

In a statement released after their arrests, Ms Goddard said: “I know that by carrying out this action, I risk losing my job, my livelihood and my reputation, but it is what I have to do right now.

“We all need to do everything in our power to stop this madness continuing. There is a better, cleaner, safer future, but only if we fight for it.”

Ms Golder, from Southend, Essex, said: “I disrupted the Chelsea Flower Show to ask the visitors, exhibitors and the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) to pick a side; to stand for good over evil, life over death, right over wrong; to stand with the young and the billions of people in the global south whose lives are being cut short by climate collapse.

“If you love gardens or growing food, you must join in civil resistance against new oil and gas.”

The Met said on Twitter: “Officers responded to an incident at #ChelseaFlowerShow this morning.

“Three people were arrested at the scene on suspicion of criminal damage in connection with a #JSO protest. Enquiries are ongoing.”

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show began on Monday and is running until Saturday.

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