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Inside Just Stop Oil, the youth activists targeting UK refineries – Mother Jones

Inside Just Stop Oil, the youth activists targeting UK refineries – Mother Jones

Inside Just Stop Oil, the youth activists targeting UK refineries – Mother Jones

After running onto the pitch during Premier League matches at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (London), March 2022), a protester is taken from the stadium. Imago via ZUMA Press.

This story was first published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Louis McKechnie is The face that created a thousand British football memes. In March, the 21 year-old caused a halt in play when he ran onto Goodison Park’s pitch. A match between Everton, Newcastle and zip-tied himself to a goalpost by his neck.

If there was anything that could have upset the 40,000 cheering football fans more than the solemnity in which he did so, it was his act of defiance. Although many will forget about the episode, it was a part of the annals for absurdity. His cause was very serious.

A day earlier, Maddie, 21, and Kai, 20—who did not give their surnames—attempted to stage a similar action at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in north London. Kai took a deep breath and looked around at the crowd before describing his feelings about what he had planned. “Every single second I spend here, I want to do what I’m going to do less, because I can see everyone just trying to have a nice time,” he said. “But I know it’s what is right; I know that it has to happen.”

Kai, Maddie and Louis are all young activists from Just Stop Oil. They have urged the UK government to stop all new fossil fuel projects, in order to prevent the worst consequences of climate change. If they fail to achieve their goals, they will use non-violent direct action to disrupt UK’s oil and gas infrastructure.

The goal is ambitious. “We are mobilizing upwards of 1,000 people,” one JSO activist told the Guardian. “This is going to be a fusion of other large-scale blockade-style actions you have seen in the past.”

Just Stop Oil say they are taking inspiration from UK truck drivers’ protests in 2000, when, furious at a rise in fuel duty, haulers and farmers staged blockades that paralyzed petrol distribution. Hundreds of gas stations were without powerThis led to empty shelves at supermarkets, delays in mail delivery, and schools being shut down. Protests ended after the government said it would order soldiers to secure deliveries, but they won: then-chancellor Gordon Brown announced in that year’s budget that fuel duty would be frozen.

But where 20 years ago those protesters enjoyed public support in their campaign against rising prices, Just Stop Oil’s target is the fossil fuel system itself. While polling shows large majorities regard the climate as one of the most important issues of the moment, it’s unclear whether that understanding would continue if the pumps were empty.

At a recruitment meeting last Thursday in Camden, north London, Larch Maxey, a veteran eco-campaigner, said the aim was “to build a community of civil resistance in response to the climate change science.”

“In 2022 you have got tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers spelling out the climate science,” he said. David Attenborough and David King (the former chief scientist of the government) agreed that there was a limited time frame within which to act. “We are facing the end of civilization if we do not act on the climate emergency. We are heading towards societal collapse.”

“When your house is on fire, you stop pouring petrol on the flames,” he said. “That’s basically the demand—no new licenses. We are in a crisis. Let’s stop digging out new oil and gas.”

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Just Stop Oil doesn’t just share rhetoric with Extinction Rebellion, it sits within an arc of escalation that began with that group’s blockades of five Thames bridges in 2018. Since then, the environmental movement continues to explore non-violent provocations to draw attention.

Many of the participants are, like Maxey XR veterans and HS2 protests veterans; McKechnie, one of a few who took action with Insulate Britain, is one of many. Just Stop Oil is also dominated by Roger Hallam’s silhouette. The Guardian was told by Hallam that it is incorrect to refer to him as the mastermind behind this latest campaign. However, he was prominently covered in the early coverage.

Just Stop Oil’s key shift is what its supporters call a shift from civil disobedience to civil resistance. What that means, as Jess Causby, 25, a supporter of the campaign, told the Guardian last month, “is stopping pointing out what the government should or shouldn’t be doing [and instead] actively stopping government doing what they shouldn’t be.”

The question is how they will pull it off. The record of all actions attended by GuardianReporters have not yet appeared to be opportunistic. Young activists who tried to Storm the red carpet at BAFTAsIt was two weeks ago that Maddie and Kai misjudged the difficulty of reaching it, and ended up blocking its entrance instead. Kai and Maddie were caught before they could become a nuisance at Arsenal. A small group that tried to disrupt Tottenham’s game were also dealt with quickly.

Their next step is to address a bigger target. This can be expected. Already, oil companies have begun to Make preparations. We will not know what happens next.

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