Members of the public should not “directly intervene” and dish out vigilante justice on disruptive Just Stop Oil protesters, a Metropolitan Police boss said.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist has urged people not to take the law into their own hands after activists blocking roads in London were dragged out of the way in heated scenes on Saturday.
Activists demanding the Government halts all new oil and gas licences and consents have blocked roads in various locations as part of a month-long campaign of direct action, causing what Mr Twist called “significant disruption and frustration among the public in London”.
🚨 BREAKING: FOUR KEY LONDON ROADS BLOCKED 🚨
🚧 At noon today, 61 Just Stop Oil supporters stopped traffic on Charing Cross Road, Kensington High Street, Kennington Road and Blackfriars Road, demanding that the Government halts all new oil and gas consents and licences. pic.twitter.com/ANjWdyUiYB
— Just Stop Oil ⚖️💀🛢 (@JustStop_Oil) October 29, 2022
He said the force has arrested 651 people while responding to Just Stop Oil stunts since October 1, accounting for more than 7,900 officer shifts.
Mr Twist suggested this has diverted police away from dealing with knife crime, burglaries and safeguarding.
He said police are “committed to providing a quick and effective response” to activists “significantly disrupting people’s daily lives”, but urged people to call the police rather than physically intervening.
He said: “I completely understand the frustration and anger felt by the public who are seriously disrupted by a relatively small number of protesters and their deliberate tactics.
“They are affecting people’s businesses, their lives, whether they are on their way to a doctor, a long-awaited hospital appointment, on their way to work, to interviews, or to collect children; I know communities and the public of London have had enough of a very small number of people disrupting them.
“When notified of any activists committing offences, or causing disruption by blocking roads, our priority is to get there quickly.
“I would urge the public not to directly intervene, but to call us, and we will deal.”
He said police need to collect evidence of offences before making arrests and moving protesters, stressing this is key for successful prosecutions.
He added: “We are determined to bring to justice all of those who have caused significant and unreasonable disruption to London, or caused damage to buildings, property or valuables.”
He said police will “always provide a proportionate policing response to protest and try to work with organisers so that protests can go ahead safely”, but said Just Stop Oil does not notify them in advance which drains resources.
Mr Twist added: “We are determined to bring those who have caused chaos and disruption to justice, and additional officers will continue to be needed into the medium term to process these cases successfully to court.
“The Met is a large and resilient organisation and despite the abstraction of officers to support this operation, we are still able to deal with our core business in communities, however this continuing action increases pressure on our systems and our officers.”