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Just Stop Oil Snooker World Championship April 2023
A Just Stop Oil protester jumps on the table and throws orange powder during the first round match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry on day three of the 2023 Cazoo World Championship at Crucible Theatre on April 17, 2023 in Sheffield, EnglandPhotography VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Just Stop Oil protestors disrupt World Snooker Championships

Two protestors interrupted the world championships in Sheffield yesterday, dousing the normally grass-green snooker table with tangerine-orange powder

Last night, Just Stop Oil activists stormed the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. As a visual spectacle, it was one of the group’s most striking actions yet, up there with its soup-throwing antics last year.

During a snooker game, an activist ran into the playing area, jumped onto the table and unleashed a bag of orange powder. He was met with a thunderous roar of booing and shouting (almost instantaneously, an audience member can be heard shouting “you prick!”), while the commentator sadly intoned, “terrible, terrible scenes here at the Crucible.” The table had to be reclothed, with the game rescheduled to resume this morning.

At the same time, a Just Stop Oil activist tried to glue herself to a different table, although she was prevented from doing so by the referee and escorted off by security. This game was able to continue immediately. The two activists – a 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman – have been arrested over the incident by Yorkshire police, and now face charges for criminal damage. Afterwards, Just Stop Oil’s official Twitter account claimed responsibility, saying, “can you blame them for trying? We know that new oil and gas will kill millions, but the UK government is licensing 100+ new fossil fuel projects. Why would not ordinary people not try everything in their power to stop that?”

The reaction to this stunt has been decidedly mixed. For some, it has inspired only horror. Speaking to BBC radio, Snooker champion Stephen Hendry said, “It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens [...] For me, straight away as a snooker player I am thinking: 'Is the table recoverable?” Mark Allen, one of the players whose matches was interrupted, denounced the protestors as “idiots”.

On social media, there were the usual denunciations, but plenty of people thought the protest was positive – or, at the very least, funny. For the haters, a common refrain was, “this isn’t going to gain support for their cause”. (There might be an element of truth to this: there is a phenomenon called ‘the activist’s dilemma’, where disruptive protests can effectively raise awareness and apply pressure to institutions while, at the same time, decreasing public support for social movements).

But when it comes to climate change, the situation is a little more complicated. Even though environmental activists themselves can often be unpopular, some polls have suggested that more people consider the climate a priority after their protests take place. The point of Just Stop Oil is not to win people over to their own group (in fact, they seem relaxed about being disliked) but to make the climate crisis unignorable. In that respect, their protests could still be effective even if every single person in the country hates them and denounces their tactics (which isn’t actually the case). However unpopular they may be, they have succeeded in creating an almost ambient sense of emergency and alarm about the climate.

The righteousness of their cause is undeniable and, as the government introduces draconian new legislation to clamp down on disruptive protests, they deserve our support more than ever.