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The Just Stop Oil coalition began a wave of direct actions across the United Kingdom on April 1, 2022. (Photo: Just Stop Oil/Twitter)

'A Disgrace': UK Labour Party Slammed for Seeking Injunction Against Climate Activists

"Absolutely incredible," said British columnist Owen Jones. "Labour is now positioning itself as more authoritarian and right-wing on civil liberties than the Tories."

Jessica Corbett

The United Kingdom's ostensibly leftist Labour Party came under fire Monday after calling for nationwide injunctions to block direct actions by climate campaigners that shut down oil terminals to demand an end to new fossil fuel investments.

"Those protesting against fossil fuel giants should be applauded, not arrested."

"On the Conservatives' watch, drivers are being hammered by rising petrol prices and now millions of motorists can't access fuel," tweeted Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer. "The government must stop standing idly by and immediately impose injunctions to put an end to this disruption."

Steve Reed, Labour's shadow justice secretary, made similar remarks Monday, outraging supporters of the Just Stop Oil (JSO) demonstrations—which started at the beginning of April—along with other leftists within and beyond the U.K.

"The Labour Party has just called for nationwide injunctions against climate protesters who are peacefully demonstrating against fossil fuels for all of our futures," said Joe Ryle, who campaigns for a four-day work week and serves as the media and communications lead for a think tank.

"This is a disgrace, flies in the face of all the climate science, and will be deeply unpopular with Labour members," asserted Ryle, a former press officer for the political party.

Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn made clear he disagrees with the push by Labour to criminalize or further block legitimate climate activism directed at the fossil fuel industry.

"We need a Green New Deal and a sustainable planet for future generations," said Corbyn. "Those protesting against fossil fuel giants should be applauded, not arrested."

"Absolutely incredible," declared British columnist Owen Jones. "In Keir Starmer's game-changing video in the Labour leadership campaign, he was showcased as a crusading lawyer who defended activists from being prosecuted by the state. Now he's calling for environmental protesters to get locked up!"

A spokesperson for the Tory-controlled Downing Street said Monday that "we recognize the strength of feeling and the right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy, but we won't tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business."

"We fully support the police who are putting significant resource into their response to the demonstrations," the spokesperson added.

On Sunday, Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel said of the JSO actions that "hard-working people across our country are seeing their lives brought to a standstill by selfish, fanatical, and frankly dangerous so-called activists."

JSO responded Monday in a series of tweets directed at the secretary, saying that "what is selfish, Priti, is ignoring the rights and needs of today's young people for a liveable future and the needs of the millions that will be tipped into fuel poverty by the current fossil-fueled energy crisis."

With Starmer and Reed urging injunctions, Jones suggested, "Labour is now positioning itself as more authoritarian and right-wing on civil liberties than the Tories—and specifically Priti Patel!"

The JSO coalition said in a statement Monday that "over 400 people have joined actions that have succeeded in stopping operations for up to 24 hours at a time at 11 critical oil terminals that supply fuel to hundreds of petrol stations across the Midlands and South of England."

"As many as one in three petrol stations are being reported as shut in the South of England due to the disruption caused by the actions," the coalition noted. "This is miserable, and our hearts go out to all those who are disrupted."

"No one wants to be doing this, but it's 2022 and right now there is a need to break the law so we are not guilty of greater crime, that of complicity with a great evil," JSO added. "We have no choice but to enter into civil resistance until the government announces an end to new oil and gas projects in the U.K."

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released last week, reiterated the necessity of urgently pursuing systemic reforms on a global scale—including and especially phasing out fossil fuels—to limit planet-heating emissions.

In response to the IPCC report, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres notably said that "climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels."

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