University College London’s iconic Portico pillars painted orange in Just Stop Oil protest

The protest managed to dupe campus security which was on high alert after a tip-off

UCL’s iconic Portico Building was painted orange today by a member of climate activist group Just Stop Oil.

Arthur Clifton, an English Literature graduate from Exeter University, used a fire extinguisher to paint the landmark UCL pillars orange.

The move was heavily anticipated by UCL, which increased security measures on campus today following a tip-off. Security officers were seen checking students’ IDs and searching their bags in a failed attempt to thwart the protest.

The move was part of a larger series of coordinated protests at five universities across the UK, including Birmingham, Sussex, Falmouth and Exeter.

Just Stop Oil is demanding that the UK Government immediately halt planned new oil and gas projects and is calling on students and staff to march in London this November.

Via Just Stop Oil

Speaking ahead of the action, Arthur explained his motivation: “I cannot stand by in terror and do nothing as my entire generation is sold out for short-term profit.

“I wonder how long it is before my 10-year-old sister has to face the food shortages and violence that so many across the globe are already facing in the wake of social breakdown brought on through climate collapse?”

In a memo seen by The London Tab, staff on campus were informed that there were planned protests today.

The email read: “We have been informed by UCL that Just Stop Oil (JSO) may be planning to target UCL’s Bloomsbury campus… from around lunchtime tomorrow.”

It also noted: “UCL are putting in place additional security measures on campus to help to keep everyone safe.”

A UCL security officer told The London Tab about these measures. They reported instructions to search bags and check IDs for students entering via the Student Centre and Portico entrances on campus between 11am and 5pm.

Further measures included gates to campus being partially closed and the Portico steps being fenced off.

via Just Stop Oil

Alfie Hall, a UCL student and local coordinator of sustainable catering campaign group Plant-Based Universities, expressed his support for the move.

He said: “Universities are social and cultural leaders and have a duty to step up and lead the way in a just and sustainable transition. I can completely understand the frustration of Just Stop Oil’s student supporters and support their common-sense demand.”

The UK-wide protests come amid news this week that UK universities accepted almost £41m from fossil fuel companies since 2022, despite widespread pledges to divest from these industries.

Members of UCL vs Oil, JSO’s UCL branch, were also seen handing out flyers on campus.

Questions remain about how the protest was able to happen in spite of the heightened security measures and the barrier erected in front of the Portico Building.

In response, a UCL spokesperson told The London Tab: “The Police have arrested one person in connection with the incident at the Wilkins Building. We condemn this act of vandalism which caused some disruption at our Bloomsbury campus.”

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Featured image via Just Stop Oil