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Activism

Just Stop Oil: What you need to know about the protest group

Just Stop Oil activists have been making headlines for months with their protests. But who are they? And what do they want?

Just Stop Oil has made itself known with orange T-shirts, tomato soup, and roadblocks. Its protests have captured headlines and split opinion.

Since the group began protesting in March, it says there have been over 2,000 arrests, with 20 of its members in prison or on remand. But who are they? And what do they want?

The Big Issue explains everything you need to know about the new protest movement.

Who are Just Stop Oil?

Just Stop Oil are a successor group to Insulate Britain, who spent the autumn of 2021 blocking Britain’s roads to highlight the need for home insulation.

One of those jailed with Insulate Britain was 21-year-old student Louis McKechnie. In January, he told The Big Issue Insulate Britain would be wrapping things up.

“I’m not sure we’ll be returning to the roads as Insulate Britain. However, there will be something new on the cards,” he said on his release from prison. Just Stop Oil proved to be something new – with McKechnie among the first activists to draw attention by tying himself to a goalpost during a Premier League match at Goodison Park.

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The organisation describes itself as a “coalition of groups working together to demand that the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”

It’s explicitly focused on young people taking action.

The group is also linked to Extinction Rebellion – with veteran activist Roger Hallam cited as the mastermind behind all three.

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What do Just Stop Oil protesters want?

The clue’s in the name. The group’s mission statement reads: “We must urgently end our reliance on fossil fuels to avoid irreversible changes in the earth’s climate system. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels in the belief that future developments in carbon capture and storage and other so-called ‘unicorn technologies’ will allow us to suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

It wants the UK to begin this immediately, by stopping new fossil fuel projects – giving the country eight years to transition to a zero-carbon economy.

The group continues: “Everyone knows we have to engage in massive changes. Just Stop Oil is a coalition of groups demanding the no-brainer things be done immediately – actions that will reduce the demand for fossil fuel energy dramatically such as insulating our homes, rethinking how we travel, getting on with renewable energy and making sure no-one is left behind.”

Protest

What have their protests been so far?

The group started off by storming the track at the British Grand Prix, and by tying themselves to goalposts during Premier League games.

But its most notable protests have been in recent weeks – in particular a pair of Just Stop Oil activists throwing tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery. The painting was unharmed.

Activists have also sprayed Harrods, think-tank hub 55 Tufton Street, and the Home Office with orange paint.

And in tactics common with Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain, Just Stop Oil has undertaken mass roadblocks – including recently on the M25.

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Who runs Just Stop Oil?

The group says it is “non-hierarchical” and without formal leadership – instead sharing common resources. It is part of a wider international network of climate activists called the A22 network. Describing itself as “a group of connected projects engaged in a mad dash to try and save humanity”, the A22 network includes Letzte Generation in Germany and Declare Emergency in the USA.

Just Stop Oil says the majority of its funding comes from the Climate Emergency Fund. The fund, founded by fossil fuel heiress Aileen Getty, says it had given $4.5million in grants to different organisations in 2022.Getty said that when her family sold its fossil fuel business: “I instead vowed to use my resources to take every means to protect life on Earth.”

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