Silverstone on alert for climate change protests at British Grand Prix

The British Grand Prix is on high alert as it looks to avoid joining the list of high-profile sporting events disrupted by climate change protesters this year.

Security at Silverstone has been increased ahead of Sunday’s race with Northamptonshire Police using Live Facial Recognition amid a raft of measures in a bid to stop protesters, who sat down on the Wellington Straight during the opening lap of last year’s race.

Wimbledon, the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, the Premiership rugby final at Twickenham and the World Snooker Championship have already been targeted by Just Stop Oil protesters.

On Saturday, former chancellor George Osborne and his new wife Thea Rogers had orange confetti thrown at them as they left the 14th century St Mary’s Church in the Somerset village of Bruton.

The female protester fled smiling after being approached by security and Just Stop Oil retweeted a video of the incident, saying: “You look good in orange George Osborne — congratulations to the newlyweds.”

Later on Saturday, the organisation tweeted a video showing protesters on the track during last year’s race.

A short time after, they responded to a tweet describing their members as “a bunch of ordinary people – doctors, teachers, councillors, priests – doing what ordinary people are forced to do when faced with a criminal government”.

In a statement on Saturday, Just Stop Oil said: “Scientists are telling us that we are rapidly approaching tipping points that threaten to push hundreds of millions outside the conditions necessary for supporting human life.

“In the face of that threat, Just Stop Oil will continue disrupting sports and cultural events until the Government makes a meaningful statement to halt and new licences or consents for fossil fuel exploration in the UK.”

They welcomed seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton’s statement of support for peaceful protest, calling on him to drop Malaysian energy company Petronas as a sponsor and to call for an end to new fossil fuel licensing in the UK.

They tweeted: “Doing so would allow us to make assurances that we would not disrupt specific events.”

Asked if he would support a protest which did not involve people invading the track, Hamilton said: “Yes. I support peaceful protests.

“From my perspective, and my teams’ perspective, we are focused on sustainability and we believe in what people (the protesters) are fighting for and we are making those changes as a sport.

“But safety is key. We don’t want to put them in harm’s way and we don’t want to put anyone else in harm’s way.

“If there was to be one (a protest) we hope it is not on track.”

Silverstone has worked alongside Northamptonshire Police to beef up security with 150,000 fans expected to be in place for the race.

Specialist teams, including armed officers, search teams, disruption officers and Automatic Number Plate Recognition units, are in place alongside Live Facial Recognition which works by scanning faces with a camera to match biometrics against those held on a watchlist.

Police said the watchlist includes suspects who are wanted for offences or have an outstanding warrant for an arrest issued by the courts, those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others and vulnerable missing people.

Speaking to the PA news agency earlier this month, Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said: “The fundamental difference here is that you are not putting your life in danger when you run on the pitch at Lord’s.

“You are not putting your life in danger when you sit on a snooker table or protest at a flower show.

“A motor racing track is not the place to go.

“It is extraordinarily dangerous and people will be putting lives at risk if they go there, and any sensible, right-thinking person can extrapolate what the ultimate risk here is.”


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