Eco-activists cost taxpayer £3.5million in four weeks as senior Met cop urges public not to take matters into own hands

24 May 2023, 15:03 | Updated: 25 May 2023, 03:10

11,000 officer shifts have been lost to policing Just Stop Oil protests
11,000 officer shifts have been lost to policing Just Stop Oil protests. Picture: Met Police/JustStopOil
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Just Stop Oil protests have cost the taxpayer £3.5million in four weeks, new Metropolitan Police figures show.

The environmental activist group began three months of planned protest activity on April 24, predominantly using a new 'slow marching' tactic.

This tactic sees activists walk slowly along the streets in order to cause major traffic delays, causing severe disruption to the public. Policing the protests have taken officers away from the equivalent of 11,000 shifts.

On Tuesday, Just Stop Oil protestors caused temporary closures to Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge in central London.

During protests on Blackfriars Bridge, one frustrated commuter - a builder - got out of his car and tried to move the protestors out of the road, pushing one to the ground.

Two police officers quickly step in to stop the commuter in his tracks and handcuff him as the protestors remain on the road.

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According to Metropolitan Police figures, 78 slow marches have taken place in London. In 60 instances, "serious disruption" was determined to have taken place.

This crosses the legal threshold which allows police officers to intervene, primarily through Section 12 of the Public Order Act.

Some 45 people have been arrested from the 78 protests, including eight on Wednesday.

Read More: Furious builder tackled and handcuffed by police after he tries to shove Just Stop Oil protestors off the road

Read More: Just Stop Oil thrown out of Parliament for trying to disrupt inquiry into Coronation policing

The Met has come under fire after footage emerged online showing officers standing by as Just Stop Oil activists 'slow marched' through the streets but intervening when a frustrated commuter pushed one to the ground.

One onlooker posted: "A builder trying to get to work attempts to physically move Just Stop Oil protestors.

"The police only move in when he gets physical, if they had removed the selfish protesters then these predictable, physical altercations wouldn’t happen."

Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: "We absolutely understand why those who are caught up in traffic delays will be frustrated.

"I would urge the public not to intervene or take matters into their own hands, but to call the police, let us know where the incident is and we will get there quickly.

"I know that a widely shared video of a member of the public confronting protestors on 23 May has reignited the strongly held public feelings about this protest tactic and how we are responding to it.

"But we must recognise that short clips of individual incidents don't tell the whole story of a much larger policing operation which, as we have shown, is ensuring that our response times are effective and that our interventions are seeing roads cleared with minimal delays."

Just Stop Oil protest at Tower Bridge

In a separate incident on Tuesday, a biker tried to slowly break through the group of Just Stop Oil protestors blocking commuters on Blackfriars bridge.

One biker attempted his own 'go-slow' protest by moving through the activists' banners.

He initially managed to succeed - and was eventually let through by police - but a number of other bikers were prevented from doing the same after a group of officers stood in the way.

Read More: 'That is climate catastrophisation': Just Stop Oil rep and Andrew Castle have a heated debate

Mr Twist continued: "I understand that many Londoners are concerned and frustrated by the deliberate disruption caused by Just Stop Oil.

"For the past four weeks we have deployed significant numbers of officers in central London specifically to respond to these protests – so far the amount of time lost to other policing priorities and to communities across the city stands at 10,677 shifts.

"Officers will respond as soon as we are aware of actions causing serious disruption. The time from disruption starting to officers imposing conditions and removing protestors has typically been between 13 and 19 minutes."

He added that the policing of protest "is not straightforward" and that officers have to "balance the rights of those protesting with the rights of those who are impacted by the protest".

"Londoners can be assured that we are taking these issues seriously and it is clear from the number of times conditions have been imposed and arrests made, that there is no right to seriously disrupt others," he added.

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