Just Stop Oil: How has the group grown this year and what is in store for 2023?

Who is behind the campaign group, what are their demands and what have they got planned for the year ahead?

31 December 2022

Just Stop Oil made headlines this year for climate demonstrations which caused traffic jams for miles on major motorways, disruption to major events including the Baftas, and blockades at oil facilities.

But who is behind the campaign group, what are their demands and what have they got planned for 2023?

When did Just Stop Oil form and what do they want?

Just Stop Oil formed on February 14 2022 with the aim of forcing the Government to end all new licenses for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.

Just Stop Oil protest
Just Stop Oil activists blocking the road on Commercial Street in east London in October (Lucas Cumiskey/PA)

Many of the campaign’s first members came from Insulate Britain, a group which blocked roads last year to demand the proper insulation of all social housing in Britain by 2025.

Just Stop Oil members have said they have no formal leader, describing the group’s structure as “non-hierarchical” with the aim of being “for everyone”.

What did Just Stop Oil do in 2022?

Members of the group sent a letter to the Government outlining their fossil-fuel demand and threatening peaceful civil disobedience if it did not concede.

British Academy Film Awards 2022
Activists during a protest by Just Stop Oil near the Royal Albert Hall, London, where the 75th British Academy Film Awards were being held (Tom Savage/PA)

When the Government replied saying that oil and gas would continue to play an important role in the UK’s energy supply, the group launched a series of protests.

This began with 30 activists disrupting the Bafta film awards on March 13 by chanting “Just Stop Oil” and banging drums in a noisy demonstration near the red carpet.

Protesters wore T-shirts bearing the group’s name and “Just look up”, in reference to the 2021 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence which gives a satirical perspective on the climate change crisis.

Just Stop Oil protest
Two protesters threw tinned soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 work Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London (Just Stop Oil/PA)

After the Government increased the energy price cap the following month, Just Stop Oil activists launched a two-week campaign blocking oil facilities.

In August, some members of the group also tunnelled beneath roads leading to oil depos in a bid to disrupt them again, while in October up to 60 protesters blocked roads every day.

Several also staged protests at art galleries, including a high-profile stunt which saw two young members of Just Stop Oil throw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, which is displayed behind glass at the National Gallery.

How many people have been involved in the protests?

Thousands of people have joined peaceful climate marches and protests in the streets coordinated by Just Stop Oil.

The group said that of its supporters, around 1,000 are “active members” who are prepared to be arrested for the cause.

How many people have been arrested and imprisoned over the protests?

Over 2,000 arrests have been made during Just Stop Oil protests,  and 138 activists have been held behind bars either awaiting trial or while serving a sentence this year, according to the group.

Just Stop Oil protest
Police officers deal with activists from Just Stop Oil during their protest outside Harrods department store in Knightbridge, London in October (Ian West/PA)

Jan Goodey, 57, from Brighton, east Sussex, is the only member currently serving a jail term over a demonstration, and 15 more protesters are on remand awaiting trial, Just Stop Oil has said.

Mr Goodey was sentenced to six months in prison in November, after a demonstration he was part of forced authorities to close sections of the M25 during morning rush hour.

Who funds Just Stop Oil? 

The group’s website indicates that it is supported by the Climate Emergency Fund, an American network established in 2019 to fund climate activism.

The Climate Emergency Fund was co-founded by Aileen Getty, a US philanthropist whose grandfather was petrol tycoon J Paul Getty.

How has the public responded to Just Stop Oil action? 

The public is generally opposed to the action of Just Stop Oil, according to a YouGov survey of 1,700 adults conducted during the peak of the group’s action in October.

Just Stop Oil protest
A member of the public dragging an activist off the street in October (Just Stop Oil/PA)

Just 21% of respondents said they supported the protester’s actions, compared with 64% who opposed them.

Videos posted online have shown angry motorists clashing with protesters who have disrupted their journeys, and stunts targeting artworks have been greeted with strong criticism on social media.

Just Stop Oil activist Indigo Rumbelow, 28, from Swansea, said that the group is “not here to be popular” but instead acts as an often unwelcome “fire alarm” alerting the public to impending danger.

Has the group achieved anything so far?

Public awareness of the damaging effects of fossil fuels has increased thanks to the group’s activities, according to Ms Rumbelow.

She told the PA news agency: “If we look at public consciousness, we set out with the idea that we wanted to make oil a toxic brand, we wanted everyone to know that it’s the harmful, polluting substance that it is.

“I think that this year has made that really clear, not just with our actions but also with the fossil fuel wars that are raging around the globe, and the energy crisis that we’re seeing shows that it’s just not the way forward.”

The group celebrated the decision by Lloyds Banking Group to end “direct financing of new greenfield oil and gas developments” on October 20 as a victory for their message.

Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to impose a moratorium on new oil and gas projects also puts the Labour Party on track with the demands of Just Stop Oil.

However, the Labour leader has said he would continue with the Tories’ plan to ensure harsher sentences are handed out to protesters who block roads.

How will changes to the policing of protests in 2023 affect the group’s activities going forward?

The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill introduced controversial changes to the way protests are policed earlier this year, making it easier for those causing disruption to be arrested and sentenced.

Just Stop Oil protest
Activists from Just Stop Oil during their protest on Cromwell Road, London, near to the Victoria & Albert Museum in October (Aaron Chown/PA)

This means more protesters are likely to be imprisoned next year.

What does the group have planned for 2023?

Just Stop Oil said it will not be deterred by the new policing powers, and members believe increasing numbers of people will join their movement as the climate crisis worsens.

Ms Rumbelow said: “We will be continuing mobilising, we are going to be continuing with our disruption, and continuing our campaign into a force that is strong enough that will force the Government to concede to our campaign.

“As the climate crisis stops being something that people read about and starts being something that’s impacting their lives, more and more people will join us as the problem gets worse and worse.”

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