The Daily Telegraph
Spotlight on police over motorway protest
Woman airlifted to hospital as Insulate Britain cause chaos, with police failing to stop group’s second protest
Police were facing questions last night over how almost 90 eco-activists arrested two days ago were able to stage a second motorway protest that was blamed for a serious car crash. Climate protesters targeted three stretches of the M25 in a coordinated demonstration at just after 8am yesterday, causing traffic chaos. At one scene, furious motorists tried to take the law into their own hands and drag protesters away but were physically prevented from doing so by police.
POLICE were facing questions last night over how almost 90 eco-activists arrested two days ago were able to stage a second motorway protest that was blamed for a serious car crash.
Climate protesters targeted three stretches of the M25 and adjoining slip roads in a co-ordinated demonstration at just after 8am yesterday, causing traffic chaos during the rush hour.
At one scene, furious motorists tried to take the law into their own hands and drag away protesters glued to the tarmac, but were physically prevented from doing so by police officers.
In a video clip released online, a police officer asked a group of militants “if any of you have any questions or are in any discomfort or need anything, just let us know”, prompting outrage.
A Government source said the public would not tolerate “police standing by”, while a senior Tory accused the protesters of having “blood on their hands” – although police are still investigating the cause of the later crash. One eyewitness account alleged that 15 activists were able to get on to the M25 at junction eight near Reigate in Surrey by calling the police and warning them in advance they were about to assemble in the middle of the road.
It was claimed that the activists had climbed on to the hard shoulder, making the road in the anticlockwise direction so dangerous that police were required to stop traffic to prevent loss of life. Surrey police said last night it had no record of “officers assisting them [protesters] to sit down in the road”. A spokesman added: “We were first made aware at 8.07am when the protesters were already in the road.”
The M25 was also brought to a standstill at junctions 1a and 1b for Dartford in Kent and at junction 23 for South Mimms, in Hertfordshire.
At just after 9am, at junction 9 near to where the protesters had blocked the motorway in Surrey, a crash involving four cars resulted in a 50-year-old woman being airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
Police are investigating whether the crash was a result of the earlier protest that slowed traffic down.
Referring to the car crash, a Tory party source said: “The protesters have blood on their hands.”
Steve Glenn, who was commuting to work clockwise on the M25, said: “The cars ploughed into the back of each other. It was so blatantly obvious what
had happened. The standstill traffic was caused by the protest.”
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, said: “These actions are not only highly disruptive to those going to work and transporting vital goods, but are putting lives at risk on a motorway.”
A senior Government source questioned how protesters were able to bring Britain’s busiest motorway to a standstill for the second time in three days. Insulate Britain, the direct action group behind the protest, said out of 92 activists arrested on Monday, 89 were involved in similar actions yesterday.
The Metropolitan Police, which
assisted regional forces, said last night the roads were cleared as fast as they could and criticised Insulate Britain for diverting valuable resources.
Insulate Britain, an Extinction Rebellion splinter group, had masterminded the disruption yesterday and a nearidentical stunt 48 hours earlier. The group is led by Roger Hallam, a veteran activist who founded Extinction Rebellion but was disowned by the group after being accused of belittling the Holocaust. A spokesman for Insulate Britain said Hallam was arrested before the protest and did not take part.
Police later said three organisers had
been arrested across the country on suspicion of orchestrating the protest.
Yesterday, activists again sat down on the main carriageways and glued themselves to the roads or to each other.
At the South Mimms sit-in, which took three-and-a-half hours to clear, a police officer was filmed telling protesters: “If you have any questions at all, just ask, and if any of you are in any discomfort or need anything just let me know and we will try and sort you out... I couldn’t phrase that any worse, could I?” Smiling, the officer added: “If you need any assistance then let me know.”
The action prompted furious drivers to clash with the activists including one driver who got out of his lorry to tell the group: “We’ll lose our jobs.”
Edmund King, the AA president, said: “Whilst most people understand the need to take action on climate change, these blockade tactics are backfiring as they are alienating the working public.”
Police made at least 71 arrests yesterday, including 32 arrests by Surrey police, 18 in Hertfordshire and 21 in Kent. The 89 people arrested on Monday face charges of blocking a public highway but were not remanded in custody, allowing them to resume the blockade yesterday.
In a statement, Insulate Britain said: “We demand credible action now. Proper jobs for hundreds of thousands of people to start the first real step – to insulate all the homes of this country – which, pound for pound, gives us the biggest reduction in carbon emissions.”
With regard to the crash, the spokesman said: “We understand it took place after police had cleared protesters.”
Asst Chief Constable Chris Noble, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for policing protests, said: “Officers take their role in policing protests seriously and work hard to find the right balance between, what are often seen as, competing rights.
“A number of police forces are responding to live protests on the M25. They are acting proportionately and in a co-ordinated way where appropriate.”