What it Feels Like to be Arrested for Trying to Save the Planet
Novelist and author Alice Jolly reports from the frontline of the Just Stop Oil protests
I was arrested recently on the Cromwell Road in London. I was part of a group of 28 protesters who, in October 2022, walked out into that busy road, unfurled ‘Just Stop Oil’ (JSO) banners, sat down, and refused to move. Depending on who you ask, I might be a ‘tree-hugger’ or an eco-terrorist, a zealot or a saint. In fact, I am a novelist and a university lecturer.
The human mind is not equipped to spend all day feeling frightened. We all need strategies for avoiding thinking about the reality of climate change. Asking questions about ‘who these protesters are’ is one such strategy. The truth is that the people involved in civil resistance are you, me, anyone.
I know myself to be an unlikely sort of protester. I am too quiet, conventional, ambivalent. Too steeped in environmental sin. I am not the type of person who protests. I think back to an early JSO meeting where a man wore a T-shirt which said - When the introverts are out on the streets, you know you are in trouble.
Now, sitting on the Cromwell Road, with horns blaring and sirens wailing, I try to remember why I am doing this, but my mind is paralysed, blank. Crowds gather on the pavement, taking films and photos. A group of men have jumped out of their cars and are yelling. Soon they will probably start trying to pull us off the road.
We have seen films of it happening to friends. We know it can get rough. Other white-van men and Range-Rover-driving-women are now yelling w***er, c**t, get a f***ing job. These people don’t bother me. What I do find difficult is the man who carries a soft leather briefcase and wears a good wool coat, chinos, stylish horn-rimmed glasses.
He lectures us in a loud and self-important voice.
“What I cannot understand is why you people are doing something so utterly pointless. Use your brains. Just think, think, think! Find some better way of making your point. Utterly pointless!”