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Eduard Starkbauer
October 28, 2022, 5:30pm
Reading time: 6:02

From Blocking The F1 Grand Prix To Pouring Soup On A Gogh Painting. The Methods Of Just Stop Oil Activists Arouse Outrage.

The British environmental initiative has partner organizations in a dozen countries around the world.

Eduard Starkbauer
October 28, 2022, 5:30pm
Reading time: 6:02
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From Blocking The F1 Grand Prix To Pouring Soup On A Gogh Painting. The Methods Of Just Stop Oil Activists Arouse Outrage.
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The British environmental initiative Just Stop Oil recently gained wider media attention thanks to a protest that was impressive for some and irritating for others. Just yesterday, activists threw a cake at wax figure of Charles III., while their German fellow pilgrims for a change covered the most expensive painting by Claude Monet in the Postim gallery with mashed potatoes.


The members of the relatively free association want to bring their main agenda as close as possible to the people through shocking manifestations of civil resistance, according to which the British government must immediately stop granting licenses for the construction of new fossil infrastructure and gradually end the production of petroleum products.


Source: Activists from the organization Letzte Generation


What are they about?


Emma Brown from Just Stop Oil says that the situation is extremely critical today, as the UK government has up to 100 new infrastructure projects on the table. "To accept the current state of affairs is obscene. The world will not change if we do not push it to do so. A little soup on a glass or milk on the ground is nothing compared to what we are facing. It is only right that our actions attack people's sensibilities. After all, we all stopped paying attention."


Source: Activists from the Just Stop Oil group are pictured sitting during a protest near Buckingham Palace on October 10, 2022 in London


The Just Stop Oil initiative began as an offshoot of the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion, which experienced peak media relevance thanks to mass protests in 2018. Just Stop Oil is a relatively young initiative. It started operating only in February 2022 and first became widely known when its members disrupted the functioning of 10 English oil terminals in April and even forced the Exxon Mobile refinery to temporarily suspend part of its operations. 



The goal of direct public actions is to create media and social pressure that is impossible for society to completely ignore. He claims that the participants of the actions are based on the belief that the possible violation of the law is negligible compared to the problems they draw attention to.


"The public often turns their anger on activists and ignores the problem itself. However, direct actions are often preceded by various petitions, attempts at communication, drawing attention to problems and presentation of scientific materials, research and studies" explained a Greenpeace activist for Refresher.



The legend of the Slovak conservation scene, environmental geographer, landscape ecologist and civil activist Mikuláš Huba sees the clear positives of direct actions in that they can reach, attract or even mobilize mostly young people. "However, on the other hand, they may be deterred by the risk of endangering the safety and health of participants, as well as misunderstanding on the part of mainstream society."


Source: Marko Erd


The structure of Just Stop Oil is not based on a clear hierarchy, it does not have a chairman and the members of the movement operate in autonomous cells. However, their activities are financed from the common budget. In addition to payments in cryptocurrencies from individuals, the sources of funds mainly include grants from the American non-profit environmental organization Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), which has already invested "several hundred thousand dollars" in Just Stop Oil.



Director Adam McKay, who became famous for his satirical film Don't Look Up, recently donated 250,000 dollars to CEF, which criticises the lack of interest of the mass media and the public in the topic of global climate change.


According to CEF director Margaret Klein Salamon, Just Stop Oil represents the next level of climate campaigning as it acts as a "non-violent army with a high level of discipline, planning and coordination, working with extremely limited resources and a minimum of activists".


Galleries, football stadiums and F1

Perhaps the most attention was garnered by the Just Stop Oil initiative when its members doused the protective glass and frame of Vincent van Gogh's iconic Sunflower painting with tomato soup and later stuck themselves to the gallery wall. The selection of similarly exposed "targets" arouses controversy, but makes it almost impossible for society to ignore their agenda.



At the National Gallery, 21-year-old Phoebe Plummer outlined her motivation immediately after the act: “What is more valuable, art or life? Is art worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more interested in protecting the image or protecting our planet and people? The cost of living crisis is part of the oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable for millions of cold and hungry families.'' She obviously strained and added in a shaky voice, can in hand: 'People can't even afford to heat up a can of soup anymore.'

Her co-protester Anna Holand also spoke: "British families will be forced to choose between heating and food, while fossil fuel companies record record profits. However, the price of oil and gas is not only reflected in our bills. Somalia is facing an apocalyptic famine due to drought caused by the climate crisis. (...) This is the future we have chosen if we continue on the path of gas and oil."



Members of the movement used a similar strategy to van Gogh back in July when they taped to a copy of da Vinci's Last Supper at the Royal Academy of Arts and wrote: "No new oil" on the wall below the painting. Another member just recently poured orange paint over the car dealership of the iconic luxury British brand Aston Martin. While he was pointing out the necessity of rapid changes, he and his co-protesters were taken away by the police.



On July 3, a group of Just Stop Oil activists broke into the Silverstone racing circuit during the F1 Grand Prix. They sat on the track in the very first lap after Chou Kuan-yu's crash and were immediately arrested by the police. However, their agenda was supported in statements after the race by Formula 1 drivers Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and the local Lewis Hamilton, although all three said that they do not approve of a dangerous form of protest.

Mikuláš Huba agrees with that. However, he thinks that it is quite natural for direct actions to arouse emotions. "Activism cannot do without emotions. However, arousing passions can already be counterproductive, if it does not seem authentic and is not well communicated with the environment, in short, if it is 'passions for passions' sake.''


This autumn, Just Stop Oil is extremely active in blocking highways as well as smaller roads in central London. Videos of angry drivers who often violently pull protesters off the road regularly appear on social networks. Activists in London also recently blocked and damaged seven petrol stations. After this action, the police arrested up to 43 people. The total number of arrests is said to be in the thousands.



Just Stop Oil protesters also disrupted the parade and ceremony ahead of the BAFTA Film Awards and, in a related video, called on celebrities to use their exposed social position to raise awareness of the green transition agenda.


Several members of the group tried to disrupt the football matches of the English Premier League, more or less successfully. The protester who got the most attention in March during the match between Everton and Newcastle, wearing a Just Stop Oil T-shirt, attached himself to the goal post with a quick-release tape.



In addition to Great Britain, Just Stop Oil has partner organizations in France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, but also in the USA, Australia and Canada. Gabriel Švec, who was arrested in 2015 during the ascent of Greenpeace activists to the mining tower in Bani Nováky, claims that the results of direct actions can only be evaluated with time. "On the basis of the media boom arousing people's interest, pressure is created under which politicians often promise more than they originally intended."



Activists of Just Stop Oil partially consider the resignation of British Prime Minister Liz Trussova after less than two months in office to be the result of their public pressure. She was criticized for being too tied to the oil industry, having spent part of her career working for the Shell concern.


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