Just Stop Oil protestor charged with criminal damage to Leeds Uni’s Great Hall

Sam Holland, 21, sprayed the building with orange paint at a demonstration last Thursday

A Just Stop Oil activist who sprayed orange paint onto the exterior of Leeds University’s Great Hall last Thursday has been charged with criminal damage.

Sam Holland, 21, and a recent Leeds graduate, defaced the Grade II listed building shortly after 12:30pm on 12th October,  in protest of the university’s complicity in the global climate crisis and its ongoing graduate schemes with energy company, Equinor.

Leeds University’s Great Hall was painted orange in protest

He was immediately arrested and taken into custody, whilst fellow campaigners in the crowd chanted “just stop oil” and held up the environmental group’s banner.

West Yorkshire Police have since confirmed that Holland, of Rye Lane, London, appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court on Friday, charged with criminal damage.

The incident occurred as part of a wider series of coordinated demonstrations at universities across the UK during the week commencing 9th October. University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, UCL, University of Sussex, University of Falmouth, University of Manchester and University of Cambridge were all also hit.

Speaking to The Tab on the day, one protestor said: “I’m here today with Just Stop Oil students. We are challenging the university on their complicity in the climate crisis. This is a university that regularly sends delegates to COP26, to Glasgow, and they’re furthering the lie that there are governments around the world taking proportionate action on the climate crisis, which they’re not. That kind of complacency kills.

“We’re here today to ask university students to come with us to London in November, to protest the government’s hundred new oil and gas licenses. This is going to be a mass civil resistance that hasn’t been known for generations and we’re doing it because we’re trying to save our lives, because we know the devastating effects of the climate crisis.”

When approached for comment, a University of Leeds spokesperson said: “While we support the right to legal protest, we are hugely disappointed that (the) demonstration led to the vandalism of a university building.

“We are taking a robust approach to tackling the existential challenge of climate change, with a £174 million climate plan which includes our target of delivering net zero emissions by 2030.

“Our policy on responsible investment is to invest in companies that are sustainable and that purposefully set out to solve the problems of people and the planet profitably, without benefiting from causing harm to the world.

“We avoid companies that are materially engaged in certain sectors, including thermal coal, the extraction of fossil fuel from tar sands, oil and gas extraction, production and refining.

“Working collaboratively with our staff and students we will continue to gear our curriculum, research and campus activity to lead climate action locally, nationally and globally.”

Following a week of activism, Just Stop Oil’s national student demonstration is set to happen in London on 12th November.

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Featured image via Just Stop Oil.