Just Stop Oil 'joked' about Home Secretary being possible target for next 'paint strike'
CAMPAIGNERS Just Stop Oil 'joked' Home Secretary Suella Braverman could be a potential target for a 'paint attack' as the group urged Twitter users to choose where it strikes next.
The group later said the Twitter post was a "clearly a joke" and it would never advocate throwing paint at people.
It came after weeks of road blockades and attacks on buildings and artworks with paint.
Yesterday (Saturday October 29) four 24-hour polls the group ran on Twitter, which asked users to select its next targets, ended.
One of the Twitter polls said: "Help choose our next paint job: Vote on whether we should continue to highlight the obscene inequality that the climate crisis is exacerbating... or."
It listed four options - banks, which was favoured by more than 7,000 voters, followed by private members clubs, luxury brands and department stores.
A second poll was captioned "should we paint politics?" Ms Braverman was one of four choices, but she came a close second to the Houses of Parliament, which also beat embassies and Government departments.
Two other polls offered petrol stations, car showrooms, fossil fuel HQs, police vans, media offices, statues and poor-quality and great artworks as other possibles.
A JustStopOil spokeswoman said: "The tweet thread in question was very clearly a joke. The actions are chosen to be disruptive, but we are resolutely nonviolent. We would never advocate for throwing paint over an individual, however much we disagree with them."
Philip Grindell, a former Met Police officer, who was involved in Parliamentary protection, warned against encouraging such action.
He said: "The Home Secretary is a protected person and any attempt to get close or any perceived threat may invoke a lethal response."
A Met Police spokesman said: "We wouldn’t comment on a speculative Twitter thread. Officers will continue to respond to any further protests."
Yet, police fear disruptive Just Stop Oil protests could continue into November after the defiant campaign group warned it will "not stop until the government agrees to end new fossil fuel consents." The group's pledge came yesterday<Sat> as furious motorists took the law into their own hands and dragged protestors from roads they blocked, only for many to return. A top officer involved in policing the protests, seen across London throughout October, fears the action will continue, Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist criticised the group for failing to forewarn the Met about where demos were taking place so emergency vehicles could be rerouted and disruption minimised. Mr Twist said that by today<Sunday>about 8,000 police officer shifts had been expended on policing the month-long protests and about 200 officers a day were being diverted from crime-fighting duties.
By yesterday a total of 651 people had been arrested since October 1, he said. He called on the group to pre-advise the force of its activities so it could make better use of police officer time. He said: "I am worried it is going to continue into November. The public are sick of it and just want to go about their lives without serious disruption. The reality is this is disrupting the lives of ordinary people on their way to work and picking up children. "Just Stop Oil doesn't engage with us in advance, so is this a legitimate protest or is it criminal damage to cause disruption? "We need to have significant resources to respond irrespective of whether significant action takes place that day or not. "I would ask them to engage with us so the protests can take place with minimum disruption. "This action is unusual in the number of days it has lasted and that we have had no engagement throughout, so do not know where the protests are going to take place, and there has been evidence of criminal damage and serious disruption almost daily since October 1." Yesterday the group said 61 supporters walked onto Charing Cross Road, Kensington High Street, Harleyford Street, just off Kennington Park Road, and Blackfriars Road, in London and sat down holding banners, causing traffic delays, at 12pm. Some of the scenes turned ugly with members of the public dragging them away, while they persistently returned, but no police were initially in sight in video footage posted online. One driver was seen to accelerate his truck towards them before stopping while another driver mounted the road to get around them. A motorist said: "We've asked you nicely, you are doing the wrong thing by blocking innocent people going about their business.
"Can you please move before we pick you up and move you? "We can't help you, go to Westminster." The Metropolitan Police later tweeted: "Police were immediately on scene and a number of arrests have been made. "Protesters have used 'lock-ons' and glued themselves to the road." In the face of criticism that police have taken long to react to roadblocks, Mr Twist defended officers. He said they had to assess through a legal framework if there was an obstruction, if it was deliberate and if it was unlawful, meaning officers had to balance the right to protest against the disruption caused to the wider community. Only then would arrests be made or they risked a case being thrown out of court, he said. He added: "It does not take terribly long to unglue people and we are getting very good at it but some people are locked on with metal bats and chains and that takes more time to cut them off and it must be done sensitively and carefully." He said all reports of criminal damage had been dealt with swiftly. Theresa Norton, 64, a Labour councillor in Scarborough who was supporting the protest, said: "We all have to undergo non-violence training, so that's a day's training with exactly this scenario, people being dragged out, dragged away, violently sometimes, and just calmly not reacting, calmly moving back into place if and when is possible. "We are trained for this situation and we know there's a lot of anger, which is regrettable, nobody enjoys it, but we are here to make a point." Asked if protests would continue into November a JSO spokeswoman said: "We will continue until the government agrees to end new oil and gas licences and consents. "Against a background of an increasingly authoritarian government and its criminalisation of all forms of protest, we have taken the decision not to pre-liaise our actions with the police. We always have people at our actions who are able to carry out liaison with the police on location. Our approach is to remain polite, compliant and accountable for our actions."