The Just Stop Oil protests that have disrupted the M25 motorway around London over the past four days are to pause, organisers have said, to give the government time to reconsider issuing fresh licences for oil and gas extraction.
The demonstrators said they had chosen Remembrance Day to halt the action to call on Rishi Sunak “to honour all those who served and loved their country” by ensuring a “liveable future”.
Just Stop Oil staged 32 days of disruption from the end of September and throughout October, which the Metropolitan police said resulted in 677 arrests with 111 people charged, and officers working a total of 9,438 additional shifts.
The action on the M25 has provoked outrage all week – and not only for the disruption caused to commuter journeys.
Earlier in the week, Hertfordshire police came under criticism as it emerged they had arrested members of the media including a photographer, documentary filmmaker and the LBC radio journalist Charlotte Lynch.
In Friday’s Daily Mail, the police came under further pressure, with its front page asking “What is the point of these police?”, with images of a protester atop a gantry over the London orbital motorway and several officers looking on.
The protest group said on Friday it would halt its action on the motorway. The statement said: “From today, Just Stop Oil will halt its campaign of civil resistance on the M25. We are giving time to those in government who are in touch with reality to consider their responsibilities to this country at this time.
“We ask that the prime minister consider his statement at Cop27, where he spoke of the catastrophic threat posed by the ravages of global heating, the 33 million people displaced by floods in Pakistan, and the moral and economic imperative to honour our pledges.
“You don’t get to recycle words and promises – you owe it to the British people to act.”
They continued: “Take the necessary first step to ensure a liveable future and halt new oil and gas. The UK government’s failure to do so is a criminal dereliction of its fundamental duty – to protect and safeguard the lives of its citizens, and is an act of utter betrayal of billions of people living in the global south. It is murder, plain and simple.
“The supporters of Just Stop Oil are now the people upholding law and order and protecting civil society. Under British law, people in this country have a right to cause disruption to prevent greater harm – we will not stand by.”
Emma Brown, from Just Stop Oil, did not say whether the group would resume its protests on the M25.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are giving the government another chance to sit down and discuss with us and meet our demand, which is the obvious no-brainer that we all want to see, which is no new oil in the UK.”
She would not say whether campaigners could return to the M25 if their demands were not met, but said: “How can we stop? This is a risk to our lives and to the lives of you and all of your listeners, so we can’t stop.”
According to Just Stop Oil, its supporters have been arrested more than 2,000 times since its campaign began on 1 April.