Environment. What is the Just stop Oil movement, adept at punching actions?

The images of the two young women throwing soup on the famous Sunflowers by Van Gogh on Friday at the National Gallery in London have toured the world. The action was meant to be symbolic and aimed to challenge: only the frame of the 84 million dollar work was damaged, the painting being protected by glass.

The two activists behind this action belong to the environmental movement Just Stop Oil, which recently launched a series of demonstrations across the Channel. This Sunday, the collective again caused a stir by spraying orange paint on the window of an Aston Martin dealership in central London.

We explain to you the demands of these activists and the objectives, according to them, of their punching actions.

The end of fossil fuels

Just Stop Oil, which describes itself as a coalition of different groups, was launched in February 2022. Its primary demand is an immediate halt to any new oil or gas projects. Since April, its activists have regularly disrupted oil terminals in the United Kingdom and even service stations.

On his websiteJust Stop Oil says it wants “the UK government to commit now not to grant licenses to any new exploration or any new project development related to fossil fuels in the UK”.

“The cost of living crisis comes from fossil fuels – everyday life has become unaffordable for millions of families who are cold and hungry – they cannot even afford a can of soup”, thus said Phoebe Plummer, 21-year-old activist behind the soup throw on The sunflowers. “At the same time”, “people are dying” because of “fires and droughts caused by climate change”, she argued. “We cannot afford new oil and gas projects”, they will “take everything away”.

Non-violent actions and blockages

Just like their colleagues from Extinction Rebellion, or even Last Renovation in France, the activists of Just Stop Oil are characterized by non-violent actions, mainly blocking roads or disrupting major cultural, sporting, political or economic events.

Last March, dozens of activists disrupted the Bafta ceremony – the British Oscars – wearing “Just Look Up” t-shirts, in reference to the film Don’t Look Up. A few days later, an activist entered the lawn at Goodision Park, Liverpool, in the middle of a match, and tied himself to a goal post.

At the beginning of July, the activists were also invited to the track of the British Formula 1 Grand Prix, before being dislodged. They had, however, been supported by several drivers like Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Works of art referred to several times

With The sunflowersJust Stop Oil was not at its first action related to works of art.

In June, activists glued themselves to a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Peach trees in bloom, at the Courtauld Gallery. “We are glued to this painting, this magnificent painting, because we are terrified for our future,” said one of them.

In July, several members of the movement glued themselves to the painting of John Constable The Hay Wain, again at the National Gallery in London, explaining that the work represented “an apocalyptic vision of the future” close to climate collapse. Activists also glued themselves to a reproduction of The Lord’s Supperby Leonardo da Vinci, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, on July 5.

Actions that upset the British government

Since the beginning of October, Just Stop Oil has accelerated the movement, carrying out numerous actions and blockades of roads, mainly in London. After the arrest of the two activists at the National Gallery, activists notably went to spray orange paint on a sign at the entrance to Scotland Yard.

Faced with these recurrent demonstrations, the government has decided to strengthen the powers of the police. In a column published on Sunday in The Mail on Sunday, Interior Minister Suella Braverman, announced that the security law currently before Parliament will give the police new powers to take more “proactive” action against these groups, which she has already denounced by the past the actions of “guerrilla”. The new law “will strengthen the security of transport networks, oil terminals and printing works”, to protect “capital national infrastructures or access to essential goods and services”, she said.

These actions are not without risk: several members of Just Stop Oil have already received prison sentences.

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Environment. What is the Just stop Oil movement, adept at punching actions?