The right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law, a vitally important piece of legislation that makes us a free democratic country.
It is a right that is sometimes overused by people who are simply not getting their own way, but it needs to exist or it changes the fabric of who we are as a nation.
However, not all protests are held ‘peacefully’ or legally, and Just Stop Oil are one particular activist group who like to do things the illegal way.
Their latest stunt was to interrupt the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in an utterly incoherent protest about… oil, I think?
The link is hard to find and Just Stop Oil themselves haven’t really come up with much of an explanation either, but here’s what happened.
Protestors Stop World Championship of Snooker
Two first round matches were interrupted by a man and a woman wearing t-shirts in support of Just Stop Oil.
The man ran up to table 1 where Robert Milkins and Joe Perry were playing, climbed onto it and knelt down before emptying a bag of orange powder paint all over the cloth, not to mention scattering the balls everywhere.
Meanwhile, Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi were interrupted at table 2 by the female who had planned to glue herself to the table (I thought they didn’t like chemicals?) but was stopped by the referee, Olivier Marteel, before she had a chance.
Both games were stopped, and although Allen and Zhengyi were able to continue after a 40 minute break, Milkins and Perry had their match postponed until the next day so the table could be re-clothed.
There were groans from the crowd as the events unfolded, and both protestors were arrested.
What has Oil got to do with Snooker?
I just… I have no idea.
The Just Stop Oil Twitter account claimed responsibility for the action, but apart from a funny gag about fossil fuels ‘snookering’ us all, the best they could come up with was:
“They are demanding that the Government immediately stop all new UK fossil fuel projects and are calling on UK sporting institutions to step into in civil resistance against the Government’s genocidal policies.”
That’s word for word, which is why it doesn’t quite make sense, but it seems like they randomly want major sports institutions to suddenly join their cause and lobby the government in some way.
Why sports? The only rational thing I can think of (and a rational approach might not be suitable considering who we are dealing with) is because sport reaches a large audience, so their ‘message’ is widely seen.
The thing is, I can’t imagine anyone seeing these protests and being anything other than irritated. Just Stop Oil are isolating themselves and pushing the public away from their cause.
The only comments in support of their actions that I have seen after researching, are from other climate activists… the general public just think they’re annoying.
Are These Protests Legal?
No. In fact supporters of the group have been arrested over 2,000 times for things like vandalism, being a public nuisance, and the like.
The right to protest peacefully on public property exists, and the police must even help to ensure these rights are not taken away from the protestors, but you cannot protest on private property.
Furthermore, peaceful protest should not in any way cause a threat to public health, cause disorder, crime, or damage to property, or impinge on the rights and freedoms of others.
There are some grey areas and technicalities in amongst all of this though.
For example, Just Stop Oil have sent activists to interfere with football matches in the past, such as the case of Louis McKechnie who cable tied his own neck to the goal post during an Everton vs Newcastle game.
This was on private property and so was illegal.
Yet another example of this was in February of this year, when a handful of protestors got onto the track at Silverstone during a race and sat down, causing drivers to slow to a crawl as they passed them.
The group do also protest legally though; for instance back in November 2022 when a small group of them walked very slowly in front of traffic in central London, causing tailbacks for miles and making everyone feel murderous rage.
They weren’t actually blocking the traffic, which meant that they weren’t doing anything illegal in this case, so the police could not remove them. Had they been standing still or sitting down it would have been a crime.
Seemingly, Just Stop Oil is quite a minor organisation too, so a very small group of people are forcing their opinions on a very large group of people with disruptive behaviour.
For instance, the formerly mentioned Louis McKechnie was also one of the two clowns who glued their hand to a Van Gogh painting, and his accomplice was one of the Silverstone Sitters, Emily Brocklebank.