by Damien Gayle / The Guardian
Environmental activists have sabotaged petrol pumps at two motorway service stations, in what they described as a “significant escalation” in their campaign against fossil fuel distribution in England.
About 35 supporters of the Just Stop Oil campaign staged blockades at the Cobham services in Surrey and the Clacket Lane services in Kent, both on the M25, smashing the display glass on petrol pumps with hammers and defacing them with spray paint.
The action against new fossil fuel targets came after the companies controlling the fuel terminals that had previously been targeted obtained civil injunctions banning protests at their sites.
The activists struck at the two motorway services at 7am. A video from one site showed a campaigner using a small window-breaking hammer to smash the glass on one pump, and spraying the broken dial with orange spray paint.
“Today’s action is a significant escalation after 10 Just Stop Oil supporters were arrested yesterday outside Kingsbury oil terminal [in Warwickshire] whilst standing peacefully on a grass verge with placards,” the campaign said in a statement.
“Since 1 April, when supporters of Just Stop Oil first began blocking oil terminals, there have been over 1,000 arrests. The supporters of Just Stop Oil will continue the disruption until the government makes a statement that it will end new oil and gas projects in the UK.”
The activists arrested at Kingsbury were due to appear in court in Birmingham on Thursday charged with contempt of court, and face up to two years in prison and the possibility of an unlimited fine. More injunction-breaking protests were planned later.
Just Stop Oil’s protests have been blamed for fuel shortages at petrol stations around the Midlands and south-east England, infuriating ministers and some motorists. On Wednesday, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, promised the government would “stop at nothing” to prevent such protests, and said fuel distribution had not been significantly affected.
A spokesperson for Surrey police said: “We are currently dealing with two groups of protesters who turned up earlier this morning at Clacket Lane and Cobham services. Officers were called around 7.02am following reports that a group of protesters had turned up at Clacket Lane and were gluing themselves to pumps and signs on the petrol station forecourts. They were also blocking access to the pumps.
“A further call was received around 7.06am that protesters were on site at Cobham services petrol station and were damaging the pumps. One of the protesters had also glued himself to the top of a lorry. The pumps have all been switched off and motorists are being diverted away from both service stations.”
Despite the disruption, and negative coverage from rightwing papers and broadcasters, Just Stop Oil said their protests were encouraging others to take action over the climate crisis.
According to new polling, the proportion of people in the UK who said they were likely to engage in some form of climate action increased from 8.7% to 11.3% in the first three weeks of their campaign, equivalent to about 1.7 million adults. Climate action included talking to friends and family about the climate crisis, contacting their MP about climate issues or attending a legal protest.
Results also showed that 58% of UK adults supported the demands of Just Stop Oil, with only 23% against and 19% neutral. However, only 18% supported the group itself.
James Ozden, director of Social Change Lab, which commissioned the research, said “We’ve heard many people speculating that the disruptive protests utilised by Just Stop Oil were damaging to the climate movement. Our survey results don’t support this, finding no loss in support for key climate policies and, instead, we find that the likelihood of the UK public taking various forms of climate action has increased in the same period.”