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Just Stop Oil ‘slow marches’ cost Scotland Yard £3.5m in a month

Just Stop Oil protesters on Tower Bridge   (PA)
Just Stop Oil protesters on Tower Bridge (PA)

Just Stop Oil’s new tactic of “slow marching” on the roads of London has cost the Metropolitan Police more than £3.5million, the force said on Wednesday.

The eco-warriors have brought streets to a standstill more than 78 times since it launched the three-month campaign on April 24. The tactic has sparked furious reactions from motorists, some of whom have been filmed shoving protesters out of the road.

Scotland Yard has urged the public not to take “matters into their own hands”, claiming it takes officers between 13 and 19 minutes to impose Section 12 of the Public Order Act conditions and start clearing protesters out of the way.

In some 60 cases, officers determined that “serious disruption” was being caused by the slow marches demanding an end to all new oil, gas and coal projects in the UK. The force have so far arrested 45 people including eight on Wednesday morning.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: “I understand that many Londoners are concerned and frustrated by the deliberate disruption caused by Just Stop Oil.

“The policing of protest is not straightforward. Officers are constantly required to balance the rights of those protesting with the rights of those who are impacted by the protest.

“Our officers are responding quickly and effectively to what is a new tactic of slow walking to cause maximum disruption.

“A short period of engagement and assessment after officers first arrive at each scene is unavoidable, but where we conclude that serious disruption is occurring we are intervening without delay to get traffic moving again.”

Officers have urged Just Stop Oil to engage with police ahead of protests so they can be “present to assess impact and prevent a breach of the peace”.

Wednesday’s arrests followed heated scenes on Tuesday when one man was handcuffed by police after appearing to push two JSO supporters out of the road on Blackfriars Bridge.

The group said a motorcyclist tried to drive through the demonstrators, and in a separate incident a van crashed into a bus stop as the driver tried to get past the activists.

AC Twist added: “We absolutely understand why those who are caught up in traffic delays will be frustrated. I would urge the public not to intervene or take matters into their own hands, but to call the police, let us know where the incident is and we will get there quickly.

“I know that a widely shared video of a member of the public confronting protestors on 23 May has reignited the strongly held public feelings about this protest tactic and how we are responding to it.

“But we must recognise that short clips of individual incidents don’t tell the whole story of a much larger policing operation which, as we have shown, is ensuring that our response times are effective and that our interventions are seeing roads cleared with minimal delays.”

Just Stop Oil supporter Tommy Burnett, 30, a taxi driver from Kendal, said he was marching on Wednesday to get the “government to stop licensing new fossil fuel projects”.

“It makes me very uncomfortable disrupting people’s journeys, but I know we all need to disrupt business as usual in order to get the change desperately needed.”