Just Stop Oil strikes at Exeter University as activist arrested after climbing building doorway in three-hour paint protest

10 October 2023, 16:22

A protester occupied the university main building entrance.
A protester occupied the university main building entrance. Picture: Ben

By Jenny Medlicott

The University of Exeter has become the latest target of Just Stop Oil after an activist climbed and occupied the university's entrance and painted the glass exterior.

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A mechanical engineering graduate climbed the doorway of the Exeter University ‘Forum’ building on Tuesday, occupying the area for three hours in what marks the latest string of Just Stop Oil action.

George Simonson, 23, a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Edinburgh, used buckets of paint and spray cans to paint the glass facade on the university campus.

Perched on the lobby entrance, Mr Simonson held a Just Stop Oil banner in front of the activist group name also painted on the glass.

Swathes of students gathered outside the building as police cordoned off the area and the “heights” team and attempted to bring him down.

After occupying the Forum doorway for almost three hours, Mr Simonson was arrested by police at around 3:30pm.

Devon and Cornwall police said in a statement: "Officers attended and arrested a male on suspicion of criminal damage. He is currently in police custody.

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The protester occupied the doorway for three hours.
The protester occupied the doorway for three hours. Picture: Ben

"Police were called to Exeter University this afternoon following reports of a male on the roof of a building, which was believed to be as part of a protest."

Speaking ahead of his demonstration, Mr Simonson, who lives in London, said: “Studying engineering taught me that we already already have the solutions to address the climate crisis, what we lack is the political will.

“The politicians have been bought, and educational institutions are absolutely complicit in allowing them to continue this genocide.

“Universities are accepting tens of millions in dirty money and letting the fossil fuel companies come to careers fairs to give out free pens! Students have a duty to step up and show teaching institutions we won't stand for it anymore.”

Mr Simonson called on Exeter students and staff to march alongside the activists in November.

He continued: “Taking action gives me hope. One person has the power to put shockwaves through the system and challenge the status quo.

“If you feel powerless and terrified by what's happening across the world right now, it only takes a small number of people taking action to show them that this can't continue. This is what students across the country are doing, step up and march with us in November.”

The activist held up a banner and painted the glass exterior of the building.
The activist held up a banner and painted the glass exterior of the building. Picture: Ben

It comes after recent reports revealed that UK universities have accepted funding from major fossil fuel companies.

The University of Exeter has received the most from fossil fuel firms since 2022, having signed a £14.7m, five-year deal with Shell in November for a project on “carbon storage and sequestration”.

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson said of Mr Simonson: "Police and campus security are still attempting to bring him down from where he currently sits on top of the Forum lobby. People on the ground have reported that a large crowd has gathered to watch."

Oxford University was also reportedly targeted by Just Stop Oil on Tuesday after two recent A-Level graduates used a fire extinguisher to paint the historic Radcliffe Camera building.

Oxford University was found to have received £1,209,221 in fossil fuel financial commitments since 2022.

It comes after Sir Keir was accosted this afternoon by a protester belonging to a Just Stop Oil-affiliated group called People Demand Democracy.

The heckler threw glitter over the Labour leader, before was removed from the stage by security guards.