Protestors in Oxford Rail Against Low Traffic “Climate Lockdown”

From BBC News:

Thousands of people have joined a protest in Oxford against measures where roads are shut off to stop motorists driving through.

Campaigners gathered in Broad Street against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and traffic filters in the city.

Oxfordshire County Council says their aims are to cut congestion and air pollution.

Supporters say they improve safety but those against believe the restrictions threaten the freedom of motorists.

It is not unusual for a traffic flow control proposal to have critics, but they don’t usually attract thousands of protestors, including activists from outside the area. The difference is that the conspiracy crowd claim that the proposals for Oxford are a “climate lockdown“, in which residents will be confined to local areas against their will based on fabricated claims about climate change. This is seen as linked to Oxford’s “15-minute city” urban planning framework, although the two issues are actually distinct. The conspiracy milieu’s framing builds on discontent about lockdowns during the Covid pandemic, as well as beliefs about the World Economic Forum as an all-powerful malign entity directing world affairs under the cloak of concern for the environment. The protest movement seems to be a right-libertarian Mirror Universe version of Reclaim the Streets, with cars and carbon-fuel technology now representing resistance rather than the embodiment of corporate interests.

Rhetoric leading up to the protests has been overheated: Toby Young compared Oxfordshire County Council to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, and more recently an Oxford hotelier named Jeremy Mogford suggested that council members are “the Mengele equivalent”. Last month, the city was leafleted by “Not Our Future“, a group that has has grown out out of Covid conspiracism; echoing QAnon, the leaflet claimed that the group is “project managing” what it calls “the Great Awakening”.

Yesterday’s protest was covered for the Oxford Mail by their journalist Tom Seaward, who interviewed a number of participants and has uploaded clips. Figures with a public profile he encountered included David Kurten, whose Heritage Party contingent apparently represented a distinct separate demo; the ubiquitious Piers Corbyn; Druid leader King Arthur Uther Pendragon; and GB News’s Laurence Fox. One blast from the past was Jeff Marsh, formerly of Casuals United and now with the far-right Patriotic Alternative – he told Seaward that although he’s a white nationalist, this particular protest is not about about and so he couldn’t see why counter-protestors had a problem with his presence (1). Seaward has also uploaded a leaflet he was given.

Also monitoring the protest was the climate journalist Dave Vetter. His uploads show banners and stickers denouncing the WEF and describing Patrick Vallance, Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Matt Hancock as “globalist puppets” who are wanted for “mass murder”, as well as expressing climate change denial. One protestor he spoke to “told me that the Rothschilds control all governments, and told me that ‘Ashkenazi Jews aren’t like us’; ‘no one knows where they’re really from'”; another “says carbon is good because we’re made of carbon. ‘When they talk about reducing carbon they mean they want to reduce you.'” A leaflet he was given made the argument that oil companies actually benefit from “the Climate Change story” due to increased energy prices.

Of course, individual comments and banners are not necessarily representative of the event overall. In particular, too much significance could be read into the presence of Jeff Marsh – there doesn’t appear to have been any evidence of Patriotic Alternative paraphenalia on display, and most people there wouldn’t have recognised him or known anything about him.

Ahead of the protest, a flyer was posted online by Right Said Fred, billing as speakers Peter Ford, Dan Astin-Gregory, Mark Devlin, Paul Burgess and Jonathan Tilt. The flyer also features the logos of four groups: Resist & Act”, “British Lions for Freedom”, “#uniteforfreedom” and “Keep It Cash”.


1. Jeff Marsh’s background is with football hooliganism, and in 2009 he came to wider prominence with the Welsh Defence League, modelled on the English Defence League. At the time, he denounced neo-Nazi “idiots” – a view he must have revised if he’s now part of Mark Collett’s Patriotic Alternative. I previously browsed his hooligan memoir Soul Crew Seasiders, in which he fondly recalls antics such as graffiting pub toilets with human faeces.