he Open at Royal Liverpool has become the latest high-profile sporting event to be interrupted by Just Stop Oil protesters.
A smoke flare was set off and familiar powdered orange paint thrown amid an invasion of the 17th green shortly after midday during day two of the prestigious British golf major on Friday afternoon.
The protesters were quickly led away from the course by police and greenkeeping staff were swiftly sent out to remove the paint using leaf blowers, with no delay to play caused.
In one clip that soon went viral on social media, American golfer Billy Horschel could be seen escorting a protester off the course and handing them over to police, drawing cheers from the nearby crowd.
Merseyside Police subsequently confirmed that four people, two men and two women, had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage and public nuisance. They have been taken into custody for questioning.
“Merseyside Police respects the right to protest and expression of views but antisocial, criminal behaviour or disorder will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly,” the police said in a statement.
“Police and R&A management will be looking to ensure the activities of anyone who wants to protest don’t disrupt the event itself and if necessary we will used relevant legislation to deal those people involved in it.
“Contingency plans are in place to visitors enjoy these events in safety and with minimal disruption.”
Addressing their latest protest on social media, Just Stop Oil said: “Three Just Stop Oil Supporters have disrupted the The British Open – they demand that the UK government halts all new oil and gas projects.
“More crop failures are expected as climate scientists warn us of the impact successive heatwaves cause. By 2040, heatwaves will become 12 times more frequent.
“There will be no more holes in one when our society collapses. We must stop our government’s 100 new oil and gas licenses before they go on to cause more harm.”
Just Stop Oil protests have already targeted a number of other major sporting events over recent months, including Wimbledon, the Premiership Rugby final and the World Snooker Championship, while they also attempted to disrupt several Premier League matches last season.
During a protest at the second men’s Ashes Test at Lord’s last month, one Just Stop Oil member was lifted off the ground and carried off the pitch by England’s Jonny Bairstow, with England captain Ben Stokes and Australia’s David Warner also intervening in a similar fashion to Horschel, who did not speak to the media after the conclusion of his round on Friday.
In an unrelated incident at The Open earlier on Friday, police seized a drone that had flown into restricted airspace above the Hoylake course.
A Merseyside Police statement read: “We were made aware of a drone being flown in the restricted airspace and officers were able to locate the operator and subsequently seize the drone and remind them of the restrictions.”
Chief Superintendent Mark Wiggins warned: “If you commit an offence and fly a drone within the restricted area without permission, your equipment may be seized and you may render yourself liable to prosecution.”