Just Stop Oil protests continue: Power play as police introduce bans for slow walking in traffic
Chelsey Stanborough – 19 June 2023
From attaching themselves to the Dartford Tunnel to throwing soup over Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Just Stop Oil continue to pursue a range of avenues in order to raise awareness of their campaign. In the past month, protestors have consecutively conducted slow marches on busy roads across London to draw public attention to their quest to halt new fossil fuel licensing and production. Home Secretary Suella Braverman has reacted by pushing the public order bill through its final stages to allow extra police powers to stop these disruptions occurring. It is expected that the new bill will create new protest offences (including a 12-month potential sentence for interference with key national infrastructure) and grant more power to police over demonstrations.
The fallout surrounding the move revolves around one word: rights. As it stands, the right to protest peacefully through meetings and demonstrations is protected under Section 11 of the Human Rights Act. The act only allows public authority to act against such protests to protect national security, public safety, health, morals, and the freedom of others (and to prevent any crime). Yet with the introduction of the new public order bill, there has been disgruntlement from the UN over the introduction of more restrictive powers through stop and search, alongside bans from involvement in protest groups in certain areas and at certain times.
A major movement in this process was the sentencing of the protestors who climbed the Dartford Tunnel, with one receiving three years in prison for their actions. This was identified as the longest sentences for peaceful climate protest in British history, with the judge acknowledging that the harsh sentence was intended to deter copycats from conducting similar activities. Despite the sentence, the group claim they will continue in their campaign and will not be deterred by new police powers.