The climate activist group said “approximately 15” of its supporters climbed onto overhead gantries in “multiple locations” on the UK’s busiest motorway from 7am, causing police to halt traffic.
Essex Police said officers are on the northbound carriageway of the M25 near the Dartford Crossing, where a demonstrator believed to be from Just Stop Oil, has climbed the gantry at junction 31. This has closed the Dartford Tunnel, and National Highways has announced there are currently delays of 60 minutes, with congestion for five miles.
Meanwhile, Hertfordshire Police said they are responding to a protest at junction 20 of the M25 near Kings Langley and urged motorists to seek alternative routes.
Surrey Police said two protesters have climbed motorway gantries between junctions 8 and 9 and junctions 12 and 13, stopping traffic in both directions on that part of the motorway.
Eight people have now been charged with conspiracy to cause a public nuisance following their protest action on the M25. They are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (8 November), the Met Police said.
The police force had arrested seven people before the protest took place on Monday (7 November) on suspicion of “conspiracy to intentionally or recklessly cause public nuisance”. This is a new offence under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Despite this, the protest from climate campaigners still went ahead, with forces including Kent, Essex, Surrey and Hertfordshire facing demonstrators in 13 locations.
Police also believe some of those involved in the demonstrations could have breached a High Court injunction obtained by National Highways.
The Met is conducting an operation to foil the protests in conjunction with the National Police Coordination Centre.
‘We will not be stopped’
Just Stop Oil said it “will not be stopped” by private injunctions and its actions are to fight “against a criminal government and their genocidal death project”.
In a statement, the group said: “This is not a one day event, expect us every day and anywhere. This is an act of resistance against a criminal government and their genocidal death project.
“Our supporters will be returning – today, tomorrow and the next day – and the next day after that – and every day until our demand is met: no new oil and gas in the UK.
“We will not be intimidated by changes to the law, we will not be stopped by private injunctions sought to silence peaceful people. Our supporters understand that these are irrelevant when set against mass starvation, slaughter, the loss of our rights, freedoms and communities.”
Just Stop Oil has said that the government’s refusal to halt North Sea oil and gas extraction will contribute to global warming, which “will result in the collapse of ordered civil society, the loss of our rights and freedoms and the death of countless millions of people”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said Just Stop Oil protesters do have a point “in (a) sense” and stressed that the government “above all else is absolutely determined to bear down on the use of fossil fuels”.
He told Sky News: “I do think there’s a major issue when individuals can go on to motorways or even just outside Parliament, in fact, periodically, at will, just sit down in the middle of the road and disrupt the traffic – sometimes, indeed, emergency services get caught up in that as well.”
He added: “Second point I would make is that we do have to strike the right balance between the right of individuals to express their opinion and protest, which is absolutely fundamental to a civilised democracy – which is what we have in our country – and, at the other time, making sure that we don’t inconvenience the public or indeed endanger the public in some circumstances.”
Just Stop Oil staged 32 days of disruption from the end of September and throughout October, which the Met said resulted in 677 arrests with 111 people charged, and officers working a total of 9,438 additional shifts.
Since its campaign began on 1 April, Just Stop Oil supporters have been arrested nearly 2,000 times, and five are currently in prison.