Climate activists from the ‘Just Stop Oil’ group were arrested after disrupting the World Snooker Championship on Monday, with one throwing orange powder on the table at the Crucible Theatre.
Joe Perry’s first-round match against Robert Milkins had to be stopped when a man jumped onto the table and emptied a bag of orange powder across the green baize.
Stunned fans watched on as half of the table and many of the balls were covered in the cloud of powder, with the man kneeling on the baize for several seconds before a security guard dragged him away.
The man was wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘Just Stop Oil’ on the back.
On the other table at the Sheffield arena, the match between Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi was interrupted when a woman, also wearing a ‘Just Stop Oil’ t-shirt, tried to get on the baize at the same time as the male protestor.
She was dragged off by referee Olivier Marteel before any powder was thrown.
“Two people were detained after protesters gained entry to The Crucible earlier this evening,” a South Yorkshire Police statement said.
“A 30-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. Both are in police custody.”
In a press release, Just Stop Oil said two supporters had staged the stunt to highlight the group’s demand that the government stop all new UK fossil fuel projects.
It named those responsible as Margaret Reid, a 52-year-old former museum professional from northwest England, and Eddie Whittingham, 30, a student at Exeter university.
“I did not take this action lightly, but I cannot remain a passive spectator while our government knowingly pushes us down a path to destruction,” Reid said in comments provided in the press release.
“I can no longer justify watching from the sidelines.”
‘It is scary’
Play was immediately suspended as vacuum cleaners were brought into the arena, with master of ceremonies Rob Walker among those helping to sweep up the mess.
Allen and Fan were given a standing ovation on their return to the arena later on Monday after the clean-up operation.
Former world champion Stephen Hendry, working as a commentator for the BBC, said: “I have never seen that before at a snooker event. It’s a first.
“It is scary. Wow! You just hope the cloth can be recovered from that. It caught us all by surprise and then this happens.”
Just Stop Oil last year staged a flurry of eye-catching direct-action protests: blocking highways and throwing tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting.
Other collectives, including “Extinction Rebellion” and “Insulate Britain” have held similar disruptive demonstrations.
The protest came just two days after Saturday’s Grand National was delayed by almost 15 minutes when animal-rights protesters attempted to enter the racecourse and tie themselves to fences and railings along the route.
It is not the first time play at the Crucible has been subject to unlikely interventions.
In 2008, a streaker danced around the table prior to the start of the last session of the final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter.
Last year, a pigeon briefly interrupted play midway through the second-round match between Mark Selby and Yan Bingtao.
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