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Just Stop Oil targets think tank over role in protest crackdown

Activists targeted Policy Exchange after openDemocracy revealed it received Big Oil funding and helped draft law

Adam Bychawski
20 July 2023, 3.32pm

Protesters said they targeted the think tank because of its Big Oil funding.


Just Stop Oil

Just Stop Oil activists have targeted a think tank that helped draft “draconian” new laws cracking down on climate protesters.

Two members of the direct action group threw orange paint on the headquarters of Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank that the prime minister last month credited with helping draft a controversial bill that handed new anti-protest powers to police.

The protesters said they took action against Policy Exchange after openDemocracy revealed the think tank secretly received funding from oil giant ExxonMobil prior to recommending restrictions on climate protests. 

One of the protesters, Ella Ward, 20, an environmental science student from Birmingham, said: “We have painted the Policy Exchange because they have been instrumental in implementing laws to restrict climate protesters. 

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“The prime minister praised Policy Exchange for their draconian and anti-democratic lobbying. They criminalise peaceful protesters for exercising their right to march for a liveable future. Meanwhile, the criminals in Parliament and in board rooms are getting away with murder.

“Policy Exchange received thousands of pounds from fossil fuel companies, that is unacceptable.”

Although Policy Exchange does not declare its donors, openDemocracy found ExxonMobil Corporation donated $30,000 to its American fundraising arm in 2017.

Two years later, a report by the influential think tank titled ‘Extremism Rebellion’ said the government should implement new laws to target environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

In June, Sunak confirmed at the think tank’s summer party that its report “helped us draft” what became the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. The prime minister worked at Policy Exchange before becoming an MP, and some of its supporters also donated to his leadership campaign.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which has been condemned by civil rights groups, gave police new powers to restrict the duration and noise level of static protests, or shut them down if they cause a “serious disruption”. 

Policy Exchange, which was co-founded by housing secretary Michael Gove and others in 2007, has also received $1.4m from the National Philanthropic Trust, a funder of climate denial groups in the US, through its US fundraising arm.

Several leading UK oil and energy companies, including the industry lobby group Energy UK, have also given donations to Policy Exchange to sponsor events at the Conservative Party’s annual conferences.

The think tank has been approached for comment.

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