Credit: Odhran Gallagher

Just Stop Oil campaigners disrupt lecture

Members of the climate action group Just Stop Oil entered a lecture theatre at the University of Glasgow to stage a demonstration.

During the afternoon of Tuesday 27 September, members of the climate action group Just Stop Oil staged a demonstration at the University of Glasgow’s James McCune Smith Learning Hub (JMS) in which they delivered speeches and disrupted lectures. 

The action follows a similar on-campus demonstration by another climate action group, Extinction Rebellion, during the previous academic year.

As a post on Just Stop Oil’s official instagram read: “We are occupying the James McCune building!!!…Come to the ground, 4th and 6th floor to get involved !”. The building, one of the busiest on campus, opened in 2021 and operates as a multi-purpose study and lecture space.

The demonstration was preempted by a subtle post on Just Stop Oil Scotland’s instagram page and by handwritten notes taped to walls are various locations within the university campus advertising a “occupation and teach-in on the climate crisis”.

The demonstration began around 2:30pm when members of the group staged talks on various floors of the multiple-story building. Staff at the building became aware of this and campus security could be seen around the building, but staff didn’t intervene or break up the talks. 

However, at approximately 3:30pm, a group of demonstrators moved into a lecture theatre on the 6th floor of the building where a first-year Business Studies lecture was ongoing. 

Four members of the group entered the lecture theatre. Two were carrying a banner reading “UofG is complicit in the climate crisis and exploitation” while one spoke through a megaphone and another filmed the proceedings. Staff didn’t break up this demonstration, although it is unclear if they were aware that it was ongoing. 

Speaking through a megaphone, the member of Just Stop Oil discussed the impact of climate change: “We’ve just seen the world on fire, we’ve just seen Pakistan underwater, and now we see Japan facing a deadly record-breaking super-typhoon. This isn’t okay. We need to take action.

“This is our time to act, it’s out futures that are going to be fucked. It’s us that are facing the billions of people being displaced, the billions of people starving.”

The speaker went on to criticise what they perceived as the university’s investment in fossil fuels, as well as the arms trade.

At this point the lecturer invited the speaker to the front to speak and this invitation was met with cheering and applause from some students. At the end of their talk, the speaker urged students to scan the QR code stickers which the group had placed at the exits of the lecture theatre for more information on how to join their movement. However, these stickers were removed by staff before the lecture ended

The response from students was mostly positive, with many saying that they sympathised with Just Stop Oil because of the importance of the issue, but some said that they felt their method was somewhat of an imposition.

Caitlin McDermott, a first-year Business Studies student, was present at the lecture where the demonstration took place. When asked what she thought of the demonstration she said: “I think it was quite good because it was related to what we were studying. I don’t think it’s particularly harmful because it didn’t cause anyone any harm and it got the message across.”

And when asked what she thought about the demonstrators being invited up by the lecturer to speak she said “I think that was good because it showed everyone that [they were making] a valid point and that they weren’t disrupting the lecture.”.

The Glasgow Guardian also spoke with Dr Aleksandra Bavdaz, who delivered the lecture. When asked why she chose to invite the demonstrators up to speak she said: “I wanted to avoid chaos and an incident. So it was from the perspective that I wanted to avoid that…it was kind of a bit like wanting to ask them to leave, but letting them speak their opinion first.”

Dr Bavdaz was somewhat critical of Just Stop Oil’s methods, stating: “I think it’s a little bit intrusive, I must admit. I don’t really find it right to just enter a lecture theatre and start speaking on a megaphone.

“But it really depends on how you, as a lecturer, react or how students react. I mean, that worked out okay but maybe it could have been a different outcome or a different situation”.

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