UK: ‘We engage in disruptive protest to keep the climate catastrophe in people’s minds’

MitchRoseCIVICUS speaks with Mitch Rose, a volunteer activist with Just Stop Oil, about climate activism and its criminalisation in the UK. Just Stop Oil is a nonviolent civil resistance group demanding that the UK government stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects. It was founded on the footsteps of Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain and has organisers from both at the helm. It first came under the spotlight in March 2022, following a series of protests that interrupted various high-profile sporting events.

What forms of protest have you undertaken in the past few months, and why?

In the last few months, we have staged a series of high-profile non-violent protests to demand that the UK government immediately stop licensing all new oil, gas and coal projects. We blocked the M25 motorway with non-violent actions, threw orange-coloured confetti to stop a game at Wimbledon and threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, at the National Gallery in London, to name just a few.

We engage in peaceful disruptive civil disobedience to push and maintain the climate catastrophe in people’s minds and in the news cycle. They put pressure on the UK government to fulfil the legally binding promises of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce deadly emissions from burning oil, gas and coal, which they have so far systematically broken.

How has the public reacted to the disruption?

There has been some controversy around our tactics. It seems that those who disapprove are shouting the loudest, whereas those who support us tend to show their support in a quieter and more sincere way. People have come up to us when we are marching to thank us and tell us to keep going. It feels like a reflection of climate crisis generally: those who are suffering the most, in hotter, poorer countries, are heard the least.

How has the government responded?

The government response has been to try to criminalise us by bringing in tougher penalties for protesting. This includes bigger fines and longer prison sentences for peaceful protesters.

Their reaction is indicative of the funding and support – or, I would say, legalised bribes – they receive from the fossil fuel industry, which amounted to £3.5 million (approx. US$4.4 million) last year alone. They have even admitted their anti-protest laws were written by a right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange - also funded by fossil fuel giant, ExxonMobil.

I have taken part in several slow marches over the last few months. I was arrested on 19 July for slow marching in Parliament Square, minutes before Rishi Sunak arrived for Prime Minister’s Questions. I was only on the road for a matter of seconds before my arms were forcibly yanked behind my back, and handcuffs put on. I was detained in a police cell for 13 hours. My right to protest was violated, and the correct procedures for issuing a section 12 notice – a notice imposing conditions on protest under the Public Order Act – were not followed.

The thing is, arresting us won’t make the problem we are denouncing go away. We look forward to watching them try to arrest a wildfire!

On top of imposing new draconian anti-protesting laws that restrict our legal right to take to the streets, the UK legal system is allowing big polluting companies, such as oil giant Valero, to buy the law in the form of high court injunctions. I’m one of several people who face spiralling costs and potential bankruptcy because civil injunctions are being bought to stop peaceful protests at oil terminals and on roads. Many of us have already spent time in prison and paid fines in criminal courts, and now civil courts also want to convict us all over again and get us to pay their legal costs.

How do you connect with the wider global climate movement?

Just Stop Oil is part of the A22 Network. This is a global network of countries including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the USA. We would love your readers to go to and sign up for a talk or training, and join in civil resistance until our demand – no new oil, gas or coal – is met.

Do you have any plans for the forthcoming COP28 climate summit?

Not really. At COP26, there was no mention of oil and gas in the final deal. At COP27, there were 636 fossil fuel lobbyists present. COP28 is being held in the United Arab Emirates and hosted by the head of one of the largest oil companies in the world. How could it possibly get worse for COP29? COP has already failed. Direct action, on the other hand, has been proven to work. We have to stop hoping that others will save us, and start saving ourselves.

Civic space in the UK is rated ‘obstructed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.

Get in touch with Just Stop Oil through its website or its Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or //">Tik Tok accounts, and follow @JustStop_Oil on Twitte



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