Just Stop Oil’s disruptive tactics risk scoring an own goal of disapproval even among supporters - Steve Cardownie

As a veteran of many marches and rallies from anti-apartheid and the Anti-Nazi League to support for striking nurses and Scottish independence, I take a keen interest in the tactics of today’s protest movements and their prospects of achieving their goals.

This brings me to the activists who have been campaigning under the banner “Just Stop Oil.”

Founded in February 2022, this environmental activist’s website tells us that “ Just Stop Oil is a nonviolent civil resistance group demanding that the UK Government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects.”

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As part of an attempt to achieve this they have disrupted major televised sporting events, including scattering orange powder over snooker tables at the World Snooker Championships last April to more recently invading the field at Lords during the England versus Australia Ashes cricket match last month and Wimbledon last week.

In defence of that particular action the group posted on its Twitter account that “Lord’s Cricket Ground boasts about being powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, yet their principal partner is JP Morgan, the world’s worst fossil bank that contributed $317m in fossil fuel financing from 2016 to 2020.”

A spokesperson for the group said that “Cricket is an important part of our national heritage, but how can we enjoy England vs Australia when much of the cricketing world is becoming unfit for humans to live in? We can no longer afford to distract ourselves when the sports we play, the food we eat and the culture we cherish is at risk.”

All very laudable, but Rishi Sunak and his pals are not likely to be moved by this kind of action and will blithely ignore such tactics and plough on regardless.

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Mass public support is what is needed if politicians are to be forced to address this issue but there is a fear, shared by me, that such stunts could result in alienating the very people “Just Stop Oil” needs to attract.

The reaction of the crowds at the disrupted sports events should surely ring alarm bells within the movement - there was no cheering or applauding from the spectators, instead the protestors were met by a cacophony of jeers and catcalls clearly signalling the public’s disapproval.

Closing major thoroughfares resulting in huge traffic jams, forcing people to sit in their vehicles for an inordinate amount of time, holding up emergency vehicles and causing people to miss appointments also makes a dubious contribution to their cause.

I am in no doubt that we are facing an unprecedented environmental crisis and that it is essential to take on board alternative energy sources and desist from using oil as our primary energy provider. Only by doing so can we mitigate the harmful effects of oil and look forward to a more sustainable future.

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I am also in no doubt that “Just Stop Oil” has a great number of sincere, well-meaning people intent on doing their bit to avert the impending crisis, but I have some concern that disrupting sports events could backfire.

The new football season will soon be upon us, and if there is not a tactical rethink, I fear that any such attempts to disturb the forthcoming games will result in a massive own goal!