The Just Stop Oil Cenotaph 'protest' that isn't what it seems: Here's what really happened

Today's Just Stop Oil protest was not as it seemed, but many critics jumped the gun. Here, Yahoo News explains the confusion.

London, UK. 06th Nov, 2023. Protesters from Just Stop Oil block parts of the road on Whitehall near the cenotaph and Downing Street in a sit in (titled a
A Just Stop Oil protester block parts of the road on Whitehall not far from the Cenotaph (Alamy Live News)

A Just Stop Oil protest was mired in controversy after activists were falsely accused of targeting the Cenotaph, including by the Conservative Party's deputy chairman.

As images emerged online showing a number of protesters sitting or lying down right next to the central London war memorial, some politicians were quick to criticise the environmentalist group.

However, it appears that critics were far too quick to point the finger at Just Stop Oil and that the images of protesters beside the Cenotaph didn't tell the full story.

Some of those who hit out at the group have since deleted their tweets, suggesting they have accepted they jumped the gun by accusing activists of disrespecting those who fought and died for Britain.

Here, Yahoo News explains why there was so much confusion over Monday's protest and what really happened.

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Why were they protesting?

On Monday, Just Stop Oil activists marched slowly through central London, towards Parliament Square, demanding the government stop the future use of coal or gas.

On its website, the group describes itself as "a coalition of groups working together to demand that the government immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK".

Just Stop Oil is far from achieving this goal, with prime minister Rishi Sunak committing to granting more than 100 new licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction in July this year, something which will be set out in this year's King's Speech.

On Sunday the government announced additional plans to bolster the UK's domestic oil and gas industry.

As demonstrators marched through Whitehall, others from Just Stop Oil entered the National Gallery and attacked Diego Velázquez's mid-17th century painting, the Rokeby Venus, with hammers.

0611 JSO tweets
Both Yvette Cooper and John Stevens have since deleted their tweets

Why the confusion?

During Monday's march, many commentators online began stating that Just Stop Oil were deliberately targeting the Cenotaph as images emerged of them sitting or lying by the memorial.

A common tactic of the group is to block roads, sometimes gluing themselves to the ground to cause an obstruction, which some critics thought they were doing in this instance.

The Cenotaph is a particularly sensitive subject at the moment as it is Remembrance Day this Saturday, with some politicians criticising protesters for organising a pro-Palestine rally in London on the same day.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson said: "Just Stop Oil. Now stuck to the Cenotaph. Simple solution here. Give them stronger glue and leave them there till Sunday."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the Metropolitan Police have his “full support in taking action”, writing: “Targeting the Cenotaph is completely unacceptable and deeply disrespectful towards those who gave their lives for our country. Tackling climate change is a vital cause but this isn’t the way to go about it.”

The tweet was later removed, as was another by Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, who wrote that “targeting the Cenotaph is totally unacceptable”.

Lee Anderson JSO tweet
Deputy Conservative Party chairman Lee Anderson has disabled comments but has left his post up

What really happened?

Just Stop Oil has since hit out at those who accused its protesters of targeting the Cenotaph, accusing them of spreading "lies".

Activists said they had been moved to the base of the monument after shutting down traffic on Whitehall. This account was backed up by an officer on the scene, who said 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.”

Lashing out at Anderson for “tweeting lies about protesters being glued to the Cenotaph”, Just Stop Oil said: “The reality is that they were dragged off the road and arrested by police for protesting in the street, under legislation his corrupt party introduced".

Writing on X, the activist group said: "Sadiq Khan and Yvette Cooper have deleted their posts. Others have simply turned off the comments. They know they're lying, and they don't want to be called out.

"This is an appropriation and politicisation of the war dead commemorated by the Cenotaph. This is exactly what our politicians say they are against. And yet, at the first opportunity, they have used a war memorial to smear peaceful protesters."