“I don’t feel guilty about stopping people going to work.”
“I think stopping somebody from going to hospital is one of the most important things. But all the other things – taking people to school and going to work, I think the cause is more important.”
Those were the thoughts of two potential Just Stop Oil recruits when asked if they would feel guilty about disrupting ordinary people.
We were sitting in a circle, during a seven-hour “non-violence” training session in central London.
I’d been invited to capture on camera, for the first time, Just Stop Oil’s training day for all potential recruits.
Anyone who wants to join the climate protest group must attend a day of training, with sessions run across the country.
We experienced a much lower-than-normal turnout – while 12 people had signed up, just five arrived in the morning.
The day was split into two halves.
The first included introductions, meditation, a discussion on entrants’ hopes and fears, and the theory of “non-violence activism”.
Practical techniques were taught after lunch, along with role-plays.
Potential recruits took it in turns to play an angry driver, screaming and swearing into each other’s faces, while practising “de-escalation techniques”.
Some gave it more gusto than others, but it was clear they all understood the public’s rage and frustration.
“We don’t have an ethical right to stop someone going to school,” said Heidi, who ran the session.
“But the government also shouldn’t have the right to issue new oil and gas licences, when it’s going to cause billions of deaths.”
Trainers repeatedly denied that all they are doing is putting people off climate activism.
“People feel threatened by us, but they should be threatened by the government’s inaction about the climate crisis,” said potential recruit Max.
Heidi told the group to “remember their humanity”, adding that they should listen, empathise and watch their body language if accosted on real-life protests.
She told me later that the scenarios were an “extreme” version, but that it’s important they prepare new people for what could face them on the streets.
Later on, they practised “going floppy”, a technique of non-compliance during arrest, where protesters lie down and go limp, forcing several police officers to pick them up and carry them.
The group have been a huge drain on the Metropolitan Police’s already over-stretched resources.
On Wednesday night 16 Just Stop Oil protesters were arrested during a demonstration outside the prime minister’s London home in Kensington.
In the summer, then Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed the group had cost police more than £18.5m.
Just Stop Oil plan all their actions around the core value of “non-violence”.
Key to that mantra is a refusal to fight back; they can be verbally abused and even beaten on the road, and they won’t respond.
After showing trainees a video of one activist getting kicked on the ground, trainer Paul curled into a ball on the floor, demonstrating how to best protect the internal organs.
He was adamant these training sessions work: “Maybe the proof is that we’ve done hundreds of actions, with thousands of people and they’ve remained peaceful.”
However, there was an implicit recognition throughout the day that their actions could, in a worst-case scenario, result in serious harm, or even death.
Conversations about the policy of letting ambulances pass roadblocks, or the risk of mistakenly causing a traffic accident, got perilously close to an ethical debate of how one death could be balanced against the need to “save billions of lives”.
Read more from Sky News:
Just Stop Oil activists target National Gallery painting
Protester who was carried off field by England cricketer is sentenced
So, how do they justify themselves?
“If non-disruptive protest worked we would be doing that,” Heidi said.
“It’s not because it’s fun, it’s not because we want to disrupt people’s days. We’re doing it because the government desperately needs to change its policy.
“And if they don’t change their policy we’re going to see even more disruption.
“The government can end this now by saying they won’t issue any more oil and gas licences.”
Since Just Stop Oil started its disruptive protests, the only laws that have changed have been to strengthen police powers around demonstrations.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the government announced plans for a new annual system for awarding oil and gas licences in the North Sea.
Just Stop Oil says that this won’t stop them.
From the end of this week, the group will pause its demonstrations for a period of planning, but say they will be back with more protests next year.
#training #sessions #Stop #Oils #recruits #taught #protest #News,