Environmental activists forced Shell’s clean energy pop-up stall to close on Tuesday, as part of a protest against the University’s engagement with the energy company.
Around ten protesters brandished petitions, flyers and a hand-painted banner outside the Shell make-shift stand on Broad Street. Half an hour after the scheduled start of the protest, the stall had to be taped off and police officers were called to the scene.
This resulted in a calm stand-off between the protesters and the police.
One police officer said: “It’s obvious what’s going to happen when you combine protesters with a Shell stall”. He commented that “criminal damage” had forced the stall to close early.
The organiser of the environmental activists, Ruthi Brandt, said: “Apparently someone went in there and broke something.”
Explaining her decision to protest, she said: “We feel that Shell is just trying to whitewash their image here. They are claiming to be interested in renewable technologies when in reality they are pursuing old, non-renewable technologies. We feel such a display is inappropriate here in Oxford and we want the university to divest from fossil-fuel companies.”
Views among Oxford students ranged from full support for the protest to bemusement at the goings-on. Antoine Tharmann, studying for a MPhil in Economics at Lincoln College, was one of those protesting and canvassing support for the cause.
He said: “We want the university to avoid dealings with Shell while it is doing things like engaging in tar sands extraction and abuse in the Niger Delta, because these things are clearly morally wrong.”
Regent’s Park student Tom Wiseman said: “It might be good for Shell’s own image to act more ethically, but to be honest I didn’t know about the protest before I saw it, and I don’t feel sufficiently strongly about the issue to join in.”Shell and the University signed a collaboration agreement in 2012. In May 2013 Shell contributed £5.9m to the Department of Earth Sciences in order to boost research into natural energy resources.