Snooker protest: Photos show chaos following Just Stop Oil demonstration at world championship in Sheffield

An audience member has told how a protest by Just Stop Oil at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield last night 'happened in slow motion’.
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Security staff and those in the audience were shocked when climate activists disrupted play at The Crucible yesterday by bursting out of their seats in the front row, dumping orange powder paint onto the green felt tables and climbing on top to await their arrest.

The intervention at around 7.20pm, 10 minutes into the match between Robert Milkins and Joe Perry, brought play to a stop and ended with a 24-hour suspension of the game. Videos show how it took 12 seconds for security guards to reach the protestors and bundle them away.

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One of the demonstrators was successful in spoiling the fabric on one table, while a second tried and failed to glue themselves to the other table.

An audience member at The Crucible during the World Snooker Championship has described how a protest by Just Stop Oil happened "in slow motion". Mike Egerton/PA Wire.An audience member at The Crucible during the World Snooker Championship has described how a protest by Just Stop Oil happened "in slow motion". Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
An audience member at The Crucible during the World Snooker Championship has described how a protest by Just Stop Oil happened "in slow motion". Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Now, an audience member has told The Star how the chaotic scenes played out “in stunned silence”.

Mark Watterson, nephew of the late great Mike Watterson and lifelong fan of the sport, was in Row B and watched the baffling incident unfold.

"It was crazy,” said Mark. “You think you’ve seen everything. I’ve seen play disrupted by a streaker and one time a bird but I never thought I’d see a police officer standing in the arena and watching Rob Walker [master of ceremonies] cleaning up a mess.

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“I was right in line with the table in the second row and saw it all. It was almost like it was in slow motion. You just saw the guy jump up on the table. The security and the rest of us were transfixed think ‘what’s happening here?’.

A protestor, Eddie Whittingham, from Just Stop Oil brought play to a halt at the World Snooker Championship on April 17 in Sheffield when they climbed onto the table and dumped out a bag of orange powder paint. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.A protestor, Eddie Whittingham, from Just Stop Oil brought play to a halt at the World Snooker Championship on April 17 in Sheffield when they climbed onto the table and dumped out a bag of orange powder paint. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
A protestor, Eddie Whittingham, from Just Stop Oil brought play to a halt at the World Snooker Championship on April 17 in Sheffield when they climbed onto the table and dumped out a bag of orange powder paint. Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

“When I look back at my photos from the night I can see the two protestors ahead of time. They must have been texting each other to say ‘do it now’ or something. And they must have paid for VIP seats too as they were right next to the tables in the front row.

“I’ve nothing against peaceful protest but you can’t go around disrupting people’s lives and ruining their evenings they paid for.

“It was the talk of the evening of course. People were in total shock, like in total silence. We were trying to take in the snooker and then the mood totally changes.”

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Officials attempted to hoover the fabric before it was decided it was beyond repair and needed to be replaced overnight. The Milkins-Perry match will resume on Thursday evening at 7pm. The match on the other table between Mark Allen and Fan Zhengyi resumed within 45 minutes of the interuption.

“You think you’ve seen everything," said audience member Mark Watterson. "I’ve seen play disrupted by a streaker and one time a bird but I never thought I’d see a police officer standing in the arena and watching Rob Walker [master of ceremonies] cleaning up a mess." Mike Egerton/PA Wire.“You think you’ve seen everything," said audience member Mark Watterson. "I’ve seen play disrupted by a streaker and one time a bird but I never thought I’d see a police officer standing in the arena and watching Rob Walker [master of ceremonies] cleaning up a mess." Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
“You think you’ve seen everything," said audience member Mark Watterson. "I’ve seen play disrupted by a streaker and one time a bird but I never thought I’d see a police officer standing in the arena and watching Rob Walker [master of ceremonies] cleaning up a mess." Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Just Stop Oil, a climate activist group, said in a subsequent statement the two activists were Margaret Reid, 52, and Eddie Whittingham, 25. Mr Whittingham, the man with the orange powder, said: “I don’t want to be disrupting something that people enjoy, but we’re facing an extremely grave situation. Europe is experiencing its worst drought in 500 years. We’re seeing mass crop failure right now. We’re facing mass starvation, billions of refugees and civilisational collapse if this continues.

“We can’t continue to sit back and act as if everything’s OK.”

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