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Oil-Funded Think Tank Used To Write Up Anti-Protesting Laws
The underhanded and morally corrupt tactics to silence climate protesters.
Climate protests are becoming ever more prevalent across the entire globe. This should come as no surprise. The science is now crystal clear that we aren’t doing enough to halt this disaster, and in a few decades, this planet will be far less hospitable than it once was. These people are protesting for their right to a prosperous future. But, those select few who profit vast sums of money from planet-wrecking industries can’t let this continue. Protesting is far more powerful than you might think. Don’t forget, Gandhi was able to help cripple the world’s most powerful empire with a simple protest. As such, these mass demonstrations pose a significant threat to the fat cats of the fossil fuel sector. So, they funded a think tank that helped draft some of the harshest anti-protesting laws in the developed world, and in doing so, have welcomed in an Orwellian nightmare.
Open Democracy recently broke the news that Rishi Sunak, the UK PM, let Policy Exchange, a right-wing oil-funded think tank, draft the recent changes to the UK’s Public Order Act. To understand why this is such a morally corrupt and dystopian course of action, we first need to understand this new law, how it is being used, how it can be misused, and the implications for modern Western democracy. Get ready because this article will get a little heavy.
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Before the recent change to the Public Order Act, police were allowed to restrict or stop a protest if it caused “serious public disorder, serious damage to property, or significant and prolonged disruption to the life of the community.” Now, this is already a pretty loose definition ripe for misinterpretation. In fact, there have been some high-profile cases of its misuse recently, such as the vigil for Sarah Everard.
However, rather than tightening the definition of this act, the UK government did the exact opposite. Recent changes to the Public Order Act, which came into effect on the 3rd of May, mean that police can now restrict or stop a protest if they believe it could cause “more than minor disruption to the life of the community.” This means UK police now have the power to arrest anyone participating in a protest or encouraging others to participate.
In effect, protesting in the UK is now an arrestable offence, no matter how peaceful, as the law provides no protection against police for protesters.
In fact, the day I am writing this, Greta Thunberg was arrested in London for protesting outside a Hotel, where protesters attempted to block access to the hotel, which has close ties to oil money. Before this policy change, Greta could have got away with this as long as they didn’t block access for too long. But now, police can drag her and her fellow protesters away the instant they start demonstrating.
Okay, so why did the government make this change to the law?
Well, over the past few years, protests in the UK have become far more common. In particular, from Just Stop Oil, who have blocked motorways and bridges, disrupted sporting events and marched en masse. Despite what you might think, they don’t want us to stop using oil immediately; they are, in fact, protesting against the oil industry from expanding into more untapped reserves. Several climate groups have identified that we should have stopped expanding oil infrastructure back in 2022 if we want to reach net-zero by 2050 and mitigate the worst of climate change, which we absolutely haven’t done. In fact, the UK has recently given out dozens of new gas licences and opened a new coal mine! In other words, the group’s motives and message are well-founded.
So, the UK is struggling with rampant protests, which are highlighting how pathetic and dangerous the government’s climate actions are. How do they solve this? Do they listen to the vast number of protesters and climate groups and stop fossil fuel expansion, as they should be doing? HELL NO!
Instead, Rishi Sunak, in his infinite wisdom, decided to get Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank that is funded by ExxonMobil, which is one of the most corrupt and devious oil companies out there, to draft up a new law to quell this problem. Being a right-wing think tank, their first port of call was to expand the control of the police to enable them to make protesting virtually impossible.
Now, the word fascist is used wildly these days, and it is often unfounded. This is partly because fascism is very hard to define. However, government overreach taking away the liberty and rights of civilians, like this act is doing, is, at the very least, getting close to fascism.
Now, Policy Exchange has other backers, such as the European Climate Foundation and the Gates Foundation. However, we don’t know who has funded them the most or which funder has the most sway over the think tanks’ operations. Moreover, the European Climate Foundation and the Gates Foundation both have rocky records.
Either way, their involvement in drafting the changes to the Public Order Act constitutes a significant conflict of interest and corruption in UK law-making.
But, surely, this change had to make it through parliament? That is one of the balances and checks we have in place to stop stuff like this.
Well, it’s easy to see why it managed to make it through. Over 75% of the UK are concerned about climate change and feel the government isn’t doing enough. However, only 40% of the UK supports Just Stop Oil’s protests. As such, most politicians voted to pass a law to curb these profoundly disruptive protests despite their support of their message.
Now, I, personally, don’t support Just Stop Oil’s disruptive protests. The average drivers they are holding up aren’t the ones responsible for climate change; they are also the people they need to support their cause to make any change, and annoying them like this can undermine your argument (as the data shows). Instead, I support protests that target those at the top. The fat cats and politicians that have profited off the destruction of our planet stifled climate action and have hoarded wealth for decades. Targeting them can encourage the general public to get behind you and has by far the most impact. Protests that acted like this are far more powerful, and have topped empires before; just look at the French Revolution and Gandhi.
That being said, I wholeheartedly support Just Stop Oil’s right to protest. Here is why (this is where we get Orwellian).
Just Stop Oil has created a very rare situation where there is public support to create laws to stomp out protests. So, the government and this think tank have seen an opportunity to pass a bill to extend police powers to crack down on protests, no matter how peaceful, which would never be passed under normal circumstances. Why? Well, this gives the government and its backers more ability to control the narrative and crush rising resistance to their actions.
Sure, right now, the government is using this to crack down on Just Stop Oil. But what happens when we want to protest something else? It isn’t inconceivable that the British public will want to protest against wars, government corruption and undemocratic government actions over the next few years. The public should have the right to protest and hold those in power accountable. This is a democracy at the end of the day, and protesting is a crucial part of that process. Yet, this bill now allows those in charge to halt protests and even arrest those supporting protests!
Make no mistake, this bill doesn’t just threaten Britain’s climate actions; it has opened the door to far more fascist tendencies from the government and threatens British democracy. At the end of the day though, this bill doesn’t even solve the core problem at hand. After all, if you thought a few protests were disruptive to society, just wait until you see unbridled man-made climate change. But, this is just symptomatic of modern politics, leaning into ideology rather than genuine pragmatic solutions.
It’s pathetic, isn’t it? Can we really not do better than this?
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