Just Stop Oil hits out at ‘lies’ as it denies targeting Cenotaph in central London

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Just Stop Oil has hit out at “lies” accusing the group of targeting the Cenotaph after around 100 protesters were arrested when traffic was brought to a halt near Downing Street. A stream of politicians including Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson and London mayor Sadiq Khan accused the group of targeting the war memorial on Monday. But activists said they had been moved to the base of the monument after shutting down traffic on Whitehall, an account supported by an officer at the scene. A mother-of-one lying cuffed on the base of the memorial said: “They arrested us in the road and we were dragged to the pavement and then back over here.” One officer said that the 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.” Scotland Yard later said 100 arrests were made under new powers in the Public Order Act, but made clear “there were no offences linked to the Cenotaph” and no protesters glued themselves to the road. Mr Anderson had said JSO protesters were “now stuck to the Cenotaph” as he shared a picture on social media site X. “Simple solution here. Give them stronger glue and leave them there till Sunday,” the MP added.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police surround Just Stop Oil protesters Credit: PA

Mr Khan, the Labour mayor of the capital, said online that the Metropolitan Police had his “full support in taking action” after the JSO protest. “Targeting the Cenotaph is completely unacceptable and deeply disrespectful towards those who gave their lives for our country,” he wrote. “Tackling climate change is a vital cause but this isn’t the way to go about it.” The tweet was later removed, with a spokeswoman for the mayor saying it had been deleted after he received further details from the Met. She added that they were “very happy to clarify that, contrary to initial reports, the Cenotaph was not being targeted”. Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also removed a tweet saying that “targeting the Cenotaph is totally unacceptable”.

Just Stop Oil protesters are detained by police whilst blocking Whitehall Credit: PA

JSO accused Mr Anderson of “tweeting lies about protesters being glued to the Cenotaph”. “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,” the group said. JSO demanded an apology from Ms Cooper, adding: “These are peaceful protesters marching towards Parliament Square, arrested under anti-protest laws and dragged off the road. Why won’t you speak out about that?” The action from the climate activists came ahead of a protest in support of the Palestinian people during the war with Israel, coinciding with Armistice Day. Scotland Yard is under pressure over the demonstration after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressed concern.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, organiser of the planned demonstration, said it has no intention to go to Whitehall, to avoid the Cenotaph. But Ms Braverman, who has called pro-Palestinian demonstrations “hate marches”, warned that any protesters who vandalise the Cenotaph should be “put into a jail cell faster than their feet can touch the ground”. A JSO spokesman said: “We have not targeted the Cenotaph. The police moved people there when they were being arrested.” Earlier in the day, two of the group’s protesters were arrested for smashing glass covering a painting on display at the National Gallery in London. They used safety hammers to break the glass protecting Diego Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus from the 1960s. The piece was slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in 1914. The Met said activists had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Mr Anderson and Ms Cooper have been contacted for comment.

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