Sunday, 5 Feb 2023

Just Stop Oil 'can't rule out' disrupting King Charles' coronation

Just Stop Oil ‘can’t rule out’ disrupting King Charles’ coronation or local elections and could also target strike days amid plans to ramp up protests this year

  • Group hailed last year ‘success’ that led to ‘significantly increased’ membership
  • Came after a series of stunts that caused widescale disruption across 2022
  • But Just Stop Oil has vowed to go ‘further and faster’ with protests this year
  • Group spokesperson says it is exploring a new tactic of targeting strike days 
  • It has also refused to rule out organising demonstrations to disrupt key events

Just Stop Oil has refused to rule out disrupting King Charles’ coronation and the UK’s local elections later this year – and may target strike days amid plans to ramp up its protests.

The eco-group hailed last year a ‘success’ that has led to a ‘significantly increased’ membership and ‘more active members’ after a series of stunts that caused widescale disruption across 2022.

Eco-zealots brought large parts of London and the south east to a standstill after embarking on more than 30 days of continuous protests that included blocking roads in the capital and scaling gantries over the M25 on multiple occasions.

One pair of protesters also suspended themselves from the Dartford Crossing in October, causing more than 36 hours of chaos on one of the UK’s busiest roads.

Just Stop Oil has refused to rule out disrupting King Charles’ (pictured) coronation in May later this year

Just Stop Oil eco-zealots pictured holding a banner as they block a road in London in October last year

But Just Stop Oil has vowed to go ‘further and faster’ this year.

The group’s spokesperson Alex De Koning told LBC: ‘It is [the plan], indeed]. We are facing the extinction of the human race, why would we slow down now? 

‘If it is not in the public sphere, then it is not in the public conversation. Unfortunately the actions will be disruptive because, as history has shown, that is how change is most likely to happen. 

‘Unfortunately we are going to have to do more because we need more change and we need it faster.’

Asked whether this would mean an increase in the number of days targeted or a rise in the level of disruption, he said ‘potentially both’.

He added: ‘When two people threw soup at the Van Gough painting, that got more people talking about the climate crisis than when 33 million people in Pakistan got displaced because of the floods.’

Mr De Koning also said the group is exploring a new tactic of targeting strike days, adding that the group is in ‘full solidarity’ with workers taking industrial action.

He has also refused to rule out organising demonstrations to disrupt key events.

This includes the UK’s local elections, due to be held on May 4, and King Charles’ coronation two days later.

But Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, former Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, said the plans are ‘completely irresponsible’.

He told LBC: ‘There is no step that is too far for them. They are prepared to really ramp up the misery to make a point. Why do they need to mess up all our lives? Haven’t Just Stop Oil done enough damage? 

Police officers consult a Just Stop Oil protester after he sprayed the MI5 building in London with orange paint

Traffic builds on the M25 after two Just Stop Oil protesters scaled the Dartford Bridge in October

‘I think it is completely irresponsible. We have got the finest public order policing in the world bar none. The motorways are our arteries, the arteries of our economy, and they need to flow in order for this country to thrive, grow and prosper. 

‘Quite frankly, the police should use absolutely every tool in their armamentarium to bring these protesters the book if they cross the line and look to disrupt the lives of others.’

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak will give police new powers to stop protesters from disrupting traffic in a move seemingly targeting the eco-zealot group.

The Prime Minister said the proposals would be set out in the coming weeks to prevent ‘a small minority’ disrupting the lives of the ‘hard-working majority’. 

Mr Sunak had previously promised to give police chiefs ‘whatever they need’ to put an end to the disruptions that have been plaguing the London streets.

Parliament has already passed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and is currently considering the Public Order Bill, which were both intended to restrict disruptive protests.

However, Downing Street suggested there could be additional powers and greater clarity for police.

Plans to target strike days come as the UK is already enduring industrial action by ambulance unions today.

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, former Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, said Just Stop Oil’s plans are ‘completely irresponsible’

Rishi Sunak will give police new powers to stop protesters from disrupting traffic in a move seemingly targeting the eco-zealot group

The public has been urged to avoid calling 999 during today’s strike with health leaders fearing it will leave the health service in an even worse position than the December walkouts.

Up to 25,000 paramedics and support staff – including call handlers – are walking out across the country for the second time this winter in an ongoing dispute over pay.

The GMB union, one of two behind today’s strike, said that lives were being put at risk in the NHS ‘every single day’ by current staffing levels and not just as a result of strike action.

And while major strike action on Britain’s railways has finally wound down, there will be further walkouts in a number of industries in the coming week, with driving examiners and school workers all set to hold industrial action, too.

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