St Paul’s Cathedral Thanksgiving Service Disrupted by Octogenarian Just Stop Oil Activists
A peaceful Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London was interrupted by two octogenarian activists from the group Just Stop Oil on Thursday morning. Sue Parfitt, an 81-year-old Anglican priest and retired psychotherapist from Bristol, and Judy Bruce, an 83-year-old biology teacher from Swansea, walked into the congregation, holding banners with environmental messages.
The disruption occurred as the congregation stood singing in a circle. One protester displayed an orange banner questioning the impact on future generations, while the other held a banner with the phrase “Just Stop Oil” in bold black lettering. Despite being slowly escorted out of the church, the congregation continued singing.
Reverend Jennifer Mills-Knutsen of Just Stop Oil stated, “Parade and protest, praise and petition are one and the same,” reflecting on the interconnectedness of advocacy and worship.
City of London police were present at the scene and assisted in escorting the activists out of the cathedral.
St Paul’s Cathedral released a statement, noting, “Earlier today, two members of the public staged a silent protest during the thanksgiving service. They engaged positively with cathedral staff, and they left peacefully after a short while.”
Prior to the action, Parfitt and Bruce issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to environmental activism. They highlighted the disparity between government pledges to reduce carbon emissions eight years ago and the current plans of major oil-producing nations to increase production.
The statement read, “We are two women in our eighties who feel we must do whatever we can before we die to turn this around. Our young people need hope — but hope must be earned by action.”
Simultaneously, in Whitehall, a dozen Just Stop Oil activists were swiftly arrested during a protest around midday on Thursday. Metropolitan Police reported that the arrests were made within two minutes, and Whitehall reopened promptly afterward.
The group, in its fourth week of marching “to the point of arrest,” is calling on the government to cease all future licenses and consents for fossil fuel exploration in the UK.
Just Stop Oil provided details of the recent arrest, stating, “When they arrived at Parliament Square, they stepped onto the road and were immediately arrested.”
Jane Touil, a 57-year-old visually impaired community worker from Rochdale, expressed her perspective, saying, “I am not a criminal. I’m an ordinary person who has worked hard, paid my taxes, and played by the rules all my life. Government policies are driving climate breakdown and keeping energy bills high.”
Touil added, “The Government is acting in the interest of its oil industry donors and seems happy to sacrifice a stable climate that sustains human life for short term profit. Our ‘leaders’ are the criminals, and the police should launch an investigation into their crimes against humanity.”
This incident follows the arrest of nine Just Stop Oil activists during a slow march in Whitehall earlier in the week. Additionally, a court recently heard about damage to a National Gallery painting’s protective glass allegedly caused by Just Stop Oil protesters, with estimated repair costs exceeding £6,000.
As environmental activism takes center stage, these events unfold against the backdrop of global concerns about climate change and the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.