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Exclusive: UoA Student who doused Barclay's Bank HQ in orange paint responds to critics

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

'We can't keep burying our heads in the sand', says Politics & IR student Lee Matthews


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Just Stop Oil Twitter

On Monday afternoon, the typically all-grey Granite Mile gained a bit of colour.


Activists from the controversial climate change pressure group Just Stop Oil doused Union Street's Silver Fin building with bright orange paint shortly after noon. The building, home to the Aberdeen headquarters of Barclay's Bank and Shell, was targeted as part of a nationwide protest against Barclay's investments in the oil and gas industry.


Speaking to The Gaudie Tuesday evening, UoA Politics and IR student Lee Matthews, who threw the paint, said that they first became involved with Just Stop Oil in February after encountering one of their posters whilst on their way to class.


'I started volunteering a bit but got much more involved when classes ended for the summer,' Matthews said. 'My first time taking action with Just Stop Oil in a capacity that risked arrest was in August when I took part in an oil terminal occupation.'


Just Stop Oil is not without its critics, many of whom see its protests, such as blocking traffic on the M25 or throwing soup at a Van Gough painting, as disruptive and dangerous. Indeed, a video of Matthews' protest posted to Just Stop Oil's Twitter account garnered thousands of quote tweets and comments, the majority of them negative, with many being derogatory.


However, Matthews is not fazed by claims of 'vandalism': 'We have tried the petitions, we have voted, we have done the legally sanctioned marches, and we have tried asking nicely. However, the fact is that global carbon emissions are still rising, and people are dying in the here and now.'


'We can't keep burying our heads in the sand and pretending we've got decades to fix this problem. We have to start acting like this is the emergency it is. Would you accuse a firefighter of vandalism for breaking down a door to put out a fire in a house?'


Matthews continued: 'We must be looking at the science to get to grips with just how bad things will get if we don't start making drastic changes now. There are vast amounts of research out there, all broadly indicating the same thing. If we keep putting this off, we're f***ed.'


'At the end of the day, we have to do something to prevent this sooner rather than later. The longer we leave it, the worse it'll be. We have the solutions, and we need to be implementing them now. Renewable energy and technology is getting cheaper and cheaper, better and better, every year. Imagine how much more affordable and efficient it would be if, instead of continuing to invest in new fossil fuels, we used that money to revolutionise the renewable energy sector.


'There's so much more that could be said about this, and as one individual, I don't have all of the answers, but the evidence is plain to see. Something has to change and fast.'


In a statement Monday afternoon, Just Stop Oil commented: 'Today’s action follows six weeks of disruption and civil resistance by supporters of Just Stop Oil during which the police have made over 700 arrests. Since the campaign began on April 1st, Just Stop Oil supporters have been arrested over 2,000 times, with 35 supporters currently in prison.'


The rhetorically-charged statement went on to label Monday's protest as part of ongoing action against 'a criminal government and their genocidal death project.'


Despite public critics and legal challenges, Just Stop Oil says they will not back down.

'Our supporters will be returning – today, tomorrow and the next day – and the next day after that – and every day until our demand is met: no new oil and gas in the UK.'


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