We speak to three Just Stop Oil activists who have spent time in jail as a result of their climate activism
Most people spend their 21st surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones. Usually, there are presents, balloons, a cake festooned with a ring of striped wax candles. Maybe a bottle of champagne too, if you’re lucky. But last year, Louis McKechnie spent his 21st birthday alone in a prison cell – and celebrated his 22nd the same way this year, too.
“I didn’t expect to spend this birthday in prison, but I’m comfortable enough,” he said in a statement published on the Just Stop Oil website on his birthday in November 2022. “No matter what the state takes from me, I’ll be glad to have given it to increase my generation’s odds of survival.” Louis, 22, is a Just Stop Oil activist. He’s been incarcerated in HMP Wandsworth since July, following his protest at Silverstone in the summer, and will remain there until next year. He’ll miss Christmas this year too – again, just like he did last year.
When it comes to climate protests, most of the time, we only see one half of the story: activists launching soup at a painting or glueing themselves to a motorway, before being swiftly whisked away in handcuffs by police in high-vis jackets. We rarely pause to think about what happens to these activists after they’ve been arrested and what they sacrifice in the process.
We spoke to three Just Stop Oil activists – McKechnie (via his father), Jesse Prince, who spent eight days in HMP Lewes, and Louise Harris, who has recently been released on bail from HMP Bronzefield – about what it’s really like to have a brush with the law as a climate activist.
Two Just Stop Oil protesters have been found guilty of causing criminal damage to a Vincent Van Gogh painting’s frame after gluing themselves to it.
Louis McKechnie, 22, and Emily Brocklebank, 23, caused about £2,000 of damage to the frame of Peach Trees In Blossom at London’s Courtauld Gallery.
McKechnie was jailed for three weeks while Brocklebank received a suspended sentence.
She had said: “I didn’t think I would cause much damage. Glue comes off.”