Furious drivers dragged Just Stop Oil protesters out of the way as activists simultaneously blocked four roads in London.
The campaign group said 61 of its supporters walked onto Charing Cross Road, Kensington High Street, Harleyford Street, just off Kennington Park Road, and Blackfriars Road, and sat down holding banners, causing traffic delays, at 12noon.
Some glued themselves onto the roads, or locked themselves together. They are demanding that the Government halts all new oil and gas licences and consents.
The protest outside Oval Station in Harleyford Street, south London, sparked ugly scenes as drivers remonstrated with activists and forcibly tried to move them. Drivers dragged protesters out of the road but they persistently returned to retake their places.
A man hurled a traffic bollard onto the road near where they were sitting and people snatched their signs and chucked them on the ground. One driver appeared to accelerate towards them before stopping while another mounted the pavement to get around them.
A motorist said: “We’ve asked you nicely, you are doing the wrong thing by blocking innocent people going about their business. Can you please move before we pick you up and move you?
“You are stopping the wrong people, I’ve got to go pick my kids up, I’ve got to get my lorry back to work. We can’t help you, go to Westminster.”
Theresa Norton, 64, a Labour councillor in Scarborough who was supporting the protest, said: “In the grand scheme of things, a half an hour’s disruption is not a massive sacrifice.
“It’s these people that are making the biggest sacrifice, they’ll be arrested, go to a police cell, they might even have to spend 48 hours in the police cell, go to court on Monday.
“These are the real people making the sacrifices even though people may not realise it. We’re doing it for everyone, no people here is doing it out of selfish reasons.”
She added: “We all have to undergo non-violence training, so that’s a day’s training with exactly this scenario, people being dragged out, dragged away, violently sometimes, and just calmly not reacting, calmly moving back into place if and when is possible.
“So, we are trained for this situation and we know there’s a lot of anger, which is regrettable, nobody enjoys it, but we are here to make a point.”
While Jim Green, 66, a dad-of-two from Norwich, said: “I would love to ask the Prime Minister why we followed the science during the pandemic but ignore it in response to the climate crisis? And why we give more in subsidies to the oil and gas companies than to the poorest countries in the world?”
Just Stop Oil said the road blockages follow four weeks of civil resistance by its supporters during which the police have made 626 arrests. The group recently threw cake at the King Charles III waxwork in Madame Tussauds, and they’ve covered Vincent Van Gogh paintings with paint.
When will roads reopen?
The Metropolitan Police said Charing Cross road was reopened shortly afterwards, and the other routes freed up in the afternoon.
A spokesperson said: “We are aware of Just Stop Oil protests in Kensington High Street, Charing Cross Road, Kennington Park Road and Blackfriars Road. Police were immediately on scene and a number of arrests have been made.
“Protesters have used ‘lock-ons’ and glued themselves to the road. Charing Cross Road has now been cleared and is back open to traffic. Work is ongoing to reopen the other roads as soon as possible.”
Sadiq Khan recently applied for a injunction, which would mean Just Stop Oil protesters in London could be arrested more quickly by Scotland Yard.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist added: "The Met is absolutely committed to providing a quick and effective response to activists who have been significantly and deliberately disrupting people’s daily lives. Since 1 October, we have now arrested 651 people.
“Actions by Just Stop Oil have caused a significant amount of disruption and frustration among the public in London. We will always provide a proportionate policing response to protest and try to work with organisers so that protests can go ahead safely. However, the public rightly expects us to respond quickly and effectively where protest crosses the line into criminality.
“Just Stop Oil do not engage with police in advance of their demonstrations, which means more resources are needed across the Met to respond, irrespective of whether significant action takes place or not. This impacts on policing resources from local communities. Since 1 October, more than 7,900 officer shifts have been needed to respond to this activity to try to keep London moving and minimise serious impact on communities.
“We are determined to bring to justice all of those who have caused significant and unreasonable disruption to London, or caused damage to buildings, property or valuables. It's what the public expects, and we'll work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and Courts to make sure this happens.”