Climate protesters gathering outside the Excel centre in east London ahead of oil giant Shell's annual general meeting

Just Stop Oil protesters block London bridges; Shell’s AGM also disrupted

Image credit: Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA Wire

Climate change protestors have slowed London traffic and crashed Shell's shareholder AGM to highlight the frustrations felt by many people at the huge profits being made by fossil fuel companies and their inaction on critical climate mitigation measures.

Climate change protesters have again clashed with drivers as they staged marches on three bridges in central London.

Around 45 Just Stop Oil (JSO) activists blocked the roads on Blackfriars, London and Tower bridges this morning (Tuesday) by walking slowly in the road, restricting traffic movement.

One onlooking man was handcuffed by police after he appeared to push two JSO supporters in a bid to clear the road. He was detained on suspicion of common assault but ultimately not arrested, the Metropolitan Police said.

A motorcyclist also tried to drive through the group of demonstrators (see photo below) and there were a number of clashes at the other protest sites with members of the public snatching banners, according to JSO.

Handout photo issued by Just Stop Oil of their activists their slow walk protest in central London.

Image credit: Just Stop Oil/PA Wire

The group posted footage of the Blackfriars Bridge confrontation on Twitter, saying: “This is an impossible situation. That’s where our government has left us. More and more people are realising taking action is the right thing to do.

“Do we disrupt other ordinary people, like this man, arrested for lashing out today, or just sit back and watch everything burn?”

Tuesday’s clashes came after footage of another confrontation in the City of London was posted on social media on Friday.

In that incident, a man approached JSO protesters as they marched slowly in front of traffic on Mansell Street, near the Tower of London, before snatching their banners and pushing a woman to the ground. He also grabbed a phone from one of the campaigners and threw it away, before trying to push other activists out of the road.

Handout photo issued by Just Stop Oil of their activists their slow walk protest in central London.

Image credit: Just Stop Oil/PA Wire

Police now have powers under the Public Order Act to force protesters out of the road and onto the pavement. These orders were used at all three bridges on Tuesday by 8.55am, JSO said.

The Metropolitan Police urged the public not to intervene in protest action.

A police spokesman said: “At around 8.25am, Met police officers detained a male member of the public for common assault after an altercation between him and two Just Stop Oil protesters on Blackfriars Bridge. There have been no arrests and police are investigating the matter.

"We completely understand the frustration and anger of London’s communities when protesters walk slowly in the roads. We urge people not to intervene and to let police deal with the situation who, if not already there, will arrive promptly.”

Meanwhile, over at the Excel conference centre in London's Docklands, climate change protesters from a coalition of pressure groups disrupted oil giant Shell’s annual shareholder meeting, with some people attempting to storm the stage.

In a tense moment in the meeting, which had already been delayed for nearly an hour, security stepped in to prevent a protester reaching chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie and other board members on stage.

Dozens of protesters were escorted out by members of the security team at London’s Excel conference centre.

“Obviously that last incident went a stage further than we experienced in the first part of today,” Sir Andrew said after protesters had been escorted out. He added that people would be removed if they tried to get onto the stage again.

Some shareholders grew increasingly frustrated at the delay, shouting such edifying comments as “Shut up” and “Get a job” at the protestors.

The stage confrontation happened around 50 minutes into Shell’s annual general meeting (AGM). Before this denouement, protesters had consistently got up to chant songs and slogans against the major producer of polluting oil and gas.

“Shut down Shell,” protesters repeatedly chanted, interrupting Sir Andrew and other board members as they were speaking to other shareholders in the room.

Security repeatedly escorted protesters out one at a time; however, one protester was instantly replaced by another.

In the confusion, Sir Andrew also mistakenly asked security to remove a non-protesting shareholder who had got up to ask for the meeting to push ahead.

“Are you asking us to start the meeting? I apologise,” he said, to laughter from the room.

Early in the meeting, a group of protesters sang: “Go to Hell, Shell, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more” to the tune of the Ray Charles song 'Hit The Road, Jack'. There was also a chorus of "We will, we will stop you” to the tune of Queen's 'We Will Rock You'.

The first protester to get up shouted: “Welcome to Shell - complicit in the destruction of people’s homes, livelihoods and lives. Welcome to Hell.”

He added: “I refuse to accept your Hell on Earth. Board members, directors and shareholders, I’m here to demand that you shut down Shell. The sea levels are rising and so are the people.”

Climate protesters gathering outside the Excel centre in east London ahead of oil giant Shell's annual general meeting.

Image credit: Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA Wire

The AGM proceedings appeared to finally start as planned after a little over an hour. One final protester was escorted out after 72 minutes, after which Sir Andrew was able to start his speech to shareholders.

Responding to the shareholder resolution called by activist investor group Follow This, Sir Andrew said pursing such a path “would reduce our ability to help the world”.

He said: “It [the resolution] asks us for absolute Scope 3 targets, which we believe would weaken our business. It would force us to reduce the numbers of customers we serve and most important who we hope to decarbonise.

“It would reduce our ability to help the world through our decarbonised products to cut carbon emissions.

“With strong businesses that can scale-up using innovation and collaboration, we feel we’re on the right path to deliver our 'Powering Progress' strategy, while we work to become a net-zero emissions energy company.”

Sir Andrew concluded: “I urge you to support the progress we have made in the last 12 months and not to vote for the damaging change to our strategy which Follow This have called for.”

Outside the Excel venue, climate protesters continued to hold a rally featuring drums, banners and speeches. Two demonstrators greeted AGM attendees with a makeshift archway decorated with flames in Shell's corporate colours and the words 'Welcome to Hell' (pictured below).

Climate protesters gathering outside the Excel centre in east London ahead of oil giant Shell's annual general meeting

Image credit: Rebecca Speare-Cole/PA Wire

Protest groups present include Christian Climate Action, a branch of Extinction Rebellion; the Catholic protest group Laudato Si’ Movement, and Quakers for Climate Justice.

Magda Pittaro, in London from her home near Venice, Italy, with the Laudato Si’ Movement, told the PA news agency: “The Pope is really concerned about what is happening to humanity because the poor are dying and the rich are getting richer.

“We are destroying our home and because of that the Catholic Church are really concerned. We are destroying the Earth, we are destroying ourselves and we are destroying God.”

Members of Fossil Free London and Greenpeace have also joined protesters outside the Shell AGM venue. Nuri Syed Corser, an organiser for Fossil Fuel London, told the PA news agency: “We are protesting because we need to shut down Shell.

“We are facing a climate crisis. Shell are one of the companies driving it and are making record profits even as people are facing devastating floods and wildfires.

“Meanwhile, people in the UK are struggling to pay their energy bills. Shell are sacrificing the wellbeing of millions to protect their obscene profits.

“If we want a safe, secure and prosperous future, then we have to stop the oil and gas drilling. That means taking on the oil and gas giants like Shell who are determined to stonewall climate action and to string out oil and gas drilling for as long as they possibly can.”

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