Just Stop Oil protesters descended on Whitehall on Monday morning, and were seen obstructing traffic near Downing Street and around the Cenotaph. The group has since hit out at “lies” that they targeted the war memorial, after a number of politicians condemned their actions.
A mother of one lying cuffed on the base of the war memorial said: “They arrested us in the road and we were dragged to the pavement and then back over here.” One officer said the protesters had been moved to the site “to get them off the road”, adding: “It was for their own safety; obviously it’s quite a busy road.”
A spokesman for Just Stop Oil said: “We have not targeted the Cenotaph. The police moved people there when they were being arrested.” The Met said they arrested at least 40 activists who were slow marching in Whitehall under Section 7 of the Public Order Act.
The campaign group said in a social media post that 100 activists had taken to the street in central London to protest against oil and gas deals. In a statement on the group’s website, it said: “At 11.33am this morning, 130 Just Stop Oil supporters from the north and southwest of England began marching down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square.
“A small number of Metropolitan Police arrived at 11.37am. At 11:52 am they began arresting Just Stop Oil supporters for allegedly breaching Section 7 of the Public Order Act 2023, but they were unable to bring the march to a halt at this stage, and the supporters made their way to Parliament.”
The group claimed that by 12.13pm “all Just Stop Oil supporters were arrested, with most peacefully refusing to comply with the police”. This comes shortly after two activists were arrested on Monday morning for smashing the glass protecting a painting at the National Gallery.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that two people had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage after the glass covering the Rokeby Venus, painted by Diego Velazquez, was smashed with safety hammers.
Just Stop Oil recently launched a three-week campaign of protests demanding the government halt new oil, gas and coal projects, promising to cause disruption on an “unprecedented scale”. It comes as Rishi Sunak said the Met Police has the government’s “absolute and total backing” to tackle criminality ahead of a planned pro-Palestinian march on Armistice Day.
The demonstration is due to take place on Saturday, and Suella Braverman had a meeting planned on Monday to discuss the issue. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organisers of the planned demonstration, has pledged to avoid the Whitehall area where the Cenotaph is located.
The planned route will take them from Hyde Park – about a mile from the Cenotaph – to the US embassy in Vauxhall, south of the Thames.
The Festival of Remembrance, which is usually attended by members of the Royal Family, is due to take place on Saturday at the Royal Albert Hall with a two-minute silence observed at 11am. The Remembrance Sunday events take place at the Cenotaph, with royals, senior politicians and veterans in attendance.
In a post on Twitter/X, Mr Sunak said Saturday’s planned protest was “provocative and disrespectful” and there was a “clear and present risk that the Cenotaph and other war memorials could be desecrated”. In a statement, the protest organisers said: “We have made clear that we have no intention of marching on or near Whitehall, in order not to disrupt events at the Cenotaph.”
They added: “We are alarmed by members of the government, including the prime minster, issuing statements suggesting that the march is a direct threat to the Cenotaph and designed to disrupt the Remembrance Day commemorations.”