Just Stop Oil: Met Police say cost of protests nearing £20 million - but climate group says it won't comply
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The Metropolitan Police have asked Just Stop Oil to “reach out and speak to us”, as it revealed policing the activists has cost nearly £20 million - but the group says it will not comply until they focus on the "real criminals".
Since the protest group’s first campaign in October 2022, Just Stop Oil has “refused to engage” with police when planning its protests, the force said. Scotland Yard said time spent on the group equated to about 300 officers per day being taken out of frontline policing across London. Some £19.9 million has been spent on the climate protests to date, with £3.5 million spent since October this year.
Now Commander Kyle Gordon, the officer responsible for planning the Met’s response to the latest Just Stop Oil protests, has called on the group to engage with them. He told PA: “When it comes to Just Stop Oil, we know when they talk about slow marches it is in everything other than name an attempt to block the road and cause maximum disruption to people right across London.
“Our desire is that Just Stop Oil come forward and speak with us, so we can actually work with them," he continued. “Twenty million pounds from the public purse is a lot of money. I would much, much prefer to be using that within communities."
The officers attending should be dealing with local issues instead of being taken away to police Just Stop Oil protests, Commander Gordon said. “We absolutely understand and support the fundamental right to protest within a democratic society, but what we’ve got to do is balance that right with the rights of everybody else who is using this city.”
The senior officer said new policing powers granted under Public Order Act 2023 had allowed the Met to be more proactive in dealing with activists who block roads in the capital. Police can arrest those who commit an act “which interferes with the use or operation of any key national infrastructure in England and Wales”.
Since the powers were first used in October, 657 Just Stop Oil activists have been arrested, some multiple times, Scotland Yard said. Some, however, including a United Nations representative, have raised concerns that the new rules lowering the bar for what counted as a disruptive protest could be in breach of international human rights law.
A Just Stop Oil spokesperson told NationalWorld the Met Police "should do their job" and arrest those who were putting the future of the planet at risk. "But they would rather lock up young people for spending 30 seconds marching in the road than help secure them a liveable future," they continued.
"The police must know that unless steps are taken to prevent the extraction of new oil and gas, they will be on the frontlines of dealing with social breakdown and mass civil unrest. The cost to Londoners of the coming flood, fire and famine is going to be everything they cherish and love. Ending new oil and gas is so much cheaper."
Just Stop Oil wrote to Sir Mark Rowley on 26 October to inform him of the overwhelming evidence that new oil and gas licensing will kill hundreds of millions of people, "and that those encouraging new oil and gas are guilty of the crime of genocide by oblique intent".
He has yet to respond, the group said. "Just Stop Oil supporters will continue to act in non-compliance with the police and the courts until they hold the real criminals to account."
This comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that at least a hundred new oil and gas exploration licences would be granted, in a bid to improve the UK's energy independence, but critics have said the new licences were "pouring new fuel on the fire" as the country battles to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change.