This week we have seen another spate of protests mostly by Just Stop Oil, a coalition of groups working together to ensure that the government commits to ending all new licences and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK. It’s demands are clear:
FOSSIL FUELS ARE KILLING US
TOGETHER, WE CAN DEMAND CHANGE.
NO NEW OIL & GAS PROJECTS.
Soup has been thrown over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, though no damage was done to the painting and traffic has been brought to a standstill on the Dartford crossing. Again, no damage was done other than to disrupt people’s lives. The purpose of these demonstrations, if it is not obvious, is to get the topic on the agenda. When it comes to this objective they have had some success.
You can see a good example here Video
Reaction from the public has been mixed, with some support and the inevitable backlash. The anti-sentiment tends to come in three flavours: claims that they are hypocrites in that their clothes etc. are made from oil (even though their aim is to stop new oil exploration); puerile comments that the writers are going to burn more oil such as driving their SUVs; that the demonstrators are disrupting normal people’s lives.
The fact that the protests are disruptive is the point. Very little meaningful societal change takes place without protest. Many of the things we take for granted, such as weekends off, sick pay, parental leave, holidays and the right to vote have been hard earned. All of these were won through demonstration and inconvenience to the general public.
Of course the government’s response was predictable. Ban protests! This would allow them to impose whatever conditions they would like upon us and send many people to jail just for complaining about injustice.
The truth is that our global response to climate change is far too little and far too late. People are angry at government inertia and short termism. Action is needed which is why the protests are taking place.
Whether you like it or not, whether you agree with their aims or not, the right to protest is fundamental to our democracy. Ask yourself how you feel about the headscarf protests in Iran or anti-war protests in Russia. Then ask who is being hypocritical.