Two activists from the environmental group Just Stop Oil are being prosecuted for “aggravated trespassing” after they burst onto the pitch at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday during the England Rugby Championship final, London police said on Sunday. Samuel Johnson, 40, and Patrick Hart, 37, were held in custody awaiting trial at Wimbledon on Monday, Scotland Yard said.
Twenty minutes after the start of the meeting between the Saracens and Sale – finally won 35-25 by the Saracens – two activists from Just Stop Oil, a group which calls for the cessation of all new oil exploration projects and gas, entered the field before spreading orange powder there, causing a brief interruption of the match.
The police stand on the side of the spectators
Underlining the dissatisfaction of spectators and players, the London police stressed that they would continue to “monitor and intervene quickly” in the face of such actions. “Where protesting turns into serious crime and disruption, we will act strongly to ensure that Londoners and visitors can continue to enjoy this long weekend,” said Commander Kyle Gordon of London Police.
Quoted in a press release issued by Just Stop Oil, the two activists arrested, a doctor and a worker in the construction sector, had invoked the urgency to act in the face of the climate crisis. Known for its spectacular actions which have notably targeted museums and sporting events, Just Stop Oil has been leading demonstrations for five weeks where activists walk slowly on the road, sometimes provoking the fury of motorists.
London police recorded 102 such marches in London, resulting in 51 arrests. Since the launch of its actions in February 2022, Just Stop Oil has counted more than 2,100 arrests and the imprisonment of 138 people. Two activists are currently serving three-year prison sentences for climbing one of the bridge towers in east London, blocking traffic on an axis used by 160,000 vehicles a day.
Faced with the multiplication of spectacular actions, the Conservative government has introduced a legislative toughening, denounced as an obstacle to demonstrating by its opponents, several hundred of whom gathered on Saturday in London.