The Daily Telegraph
Police ‘too slow’ to clear M25 climate protest
Motorists furious at being stranded for up to four hours on motorway after sit-down demonstration
FRUSTRATED motorists have accused the police of being slow to respond after a small group of climate change demonstrators brought chaos to Britain’s busiest motorway with a sit-down protest at rush hour.
Drivers on the M25 found themselves trapped for more than four hours in miles of tailbacks as a group including leading Extinction Rebellion figures carried out a series of co-ordinated strikes blocking five key locations just after 8am.
The activists, from a newly formed group called Insulate Britain, sat across the carriageway and refused to move.
Five police forces from across the South-east responded and almost 100 protesters were eventually arrested with all roads fully reopened by around lunchtime. But some of those caught up in the chaos expressed anger that the police took so long to remove those blocking the roads.
The protests began just after 8am as tens of thousands of drivers were on their way to work. Wearing orange tabards and carrying banners, the protesters – many of whom were middle aged, including at least one member of the clergy – blocked five junctions around the London Orbital.
There was disruption at Junction 3 for Swanley in Kent, Junction 6 for Godstone in Surrey, Junction 14 for Heathrow Terminal 5, Junction 20 for Kings Langley in Hertfordshire, and Junction 31 for Purfleet in Essex.
In Hertfordshire, drivers tried to drag the protesters out of the way but were prevented from doing so by police.
Writing on social media, one road user said: “If the police won’t enforce the law then that leaves no choice but to do it ourselves. These climate change imbeciles have no legal basis upon which to block the highway especially as such nonsense could potentially hold up emergency services and cost lives.”
Another motorist, caught up in the chaos, said he had been stuck for more than three hours with his two children aged two and six months.
He said: “I am seething at how irresponsible and selfish their demonstration is. It is ill-considered and poorly executed. I am all for change and reducing
‘I am seething … it is ill-considered and poorly thought out’
fuel poverty but there are more sensible ways to lobby and protest.”
A spokesman for Hertfordshire Police insisted they had responded swiftly to the protests with the first arrests taking place at 9.20am and the road reopening an hour later. Chief Insp Paul Austin, of Essex Police, said: “This incident caused significant disruption and our officers worked to resolve it as quickly and safely as possible.”
Edmund King, AA president, said: “This action is not only incredibly dangerous in potentially putting lives at risk but it also backfires in environmental terms by causing more delays and more vehicle emissions.
“These are some of the busiest sections of the M25 where tens of thousands of drivers will have been affected and has a negative knock-on effect on economic activity.”
Those behind the demonstration have vowed to continue targeting the M25 until the Government promises to insulate every home in the country. And when challenged on the extra pollution their actions were causing by holding up miles of traffic a spokesman for the group simply suggested motorists who were stuck switched off their engines.
Zoe Cohen, of Insulate Britain, said: “Boris needs to stop making things worse – with all their road building, airport expansion, HS2 white elephant and new oil fields – and get on with the obvious stuff like insulating the 29 million homes that need to come off fossil fuels.
“We’re making those really reasonable demands, and when we get statements from the Government that we can trust, that they’re going to take some action, we’ll get off the roads.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “People have the right to protest freely but clearly they shouldn’t be doing anything which is either illegal or endangers the public.”