Environmental activists blocking the M25 face possible imprisonment after National Highways was granted an injunction against the protests, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
Campaign group Insulate Britain has shut down parts of the M25 five times in just over a week. It has been reported that many of those taking part in the demonstrations have been arrested and released several times.
The Department for Transport said the injunction means the punishment for taking part in the protests will be tougher as activists will be in contempt of court and could be detained.
SurreyPolice arrested 38 activists from the group on Tuesday (21 September) who had targeted junctions nine and 10 of Britain’s busiest motorway, the fifth time the group has shut down parts of the M25 in just over a week.
The force said “a number” of demonstrators were at the scene, where they had poured blue paint onto the motorway, and urged drivers to avoid the area where possible.
Footage taken at the scene by LBC showed the protesters walking onto the lanes from the lay-bys and sitting down on the ground in front of moving traffic.
Some then held up banners saying “Insulate Britain” before they were dragged off the road by police officers. The carriageways have since reopened.
But who are Insulate Britain, and what do they stand for?
Here is everything you need to know about the group.
Who are Insulate Britain?
Insulate Britain - an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion - describes itself as “a new group demanding that the Government gets on with the job of insulating Britain’s homes”.
The campaigning group confirmed they led the latest demonstration, adding that new people have joined their campaign to improve home insulation in addition to the others who have been involved in similar demonstrations in Hertfordshire, Kent, Essex and Surrey over the past week.
It added that the recent rise in gas and electricity costs has “increased the urgency” for change and they would end their campaign as soon as they hear a “meaningful commitment” to their demands.
Spokesperson Liam Norton said: “The idea that people would suddenly decide insulating our leaky homes is a bad idea as a result of our campaign is frankly laughable. We are simply asking the Government to get on with the job.
“The people of Britain understand that climate change is a severe threat to everything they hold dear. They are looking to the Government for leadership. We have a practical solution and have received encouragement for our aims from many construction industry professionals. ”
Activist Zoe Cohen, from Warrington, Cheshire, 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 can’t get to net zero if they don’t take responsibility for this. Only the Government can make this happen.”
What disruption have they caused?
Climate protesters first caused major delays by blocking five junctions on the UK’s busiest motorway during rush hour on Monday (13 September) morning.
The group staged sit down protests 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.
At least one driver attempted to drag a protester off the road. The protest began at about 8am and took until noon to be cleared.
Insulate Britain’s website warned that 13 September’s disruption was “just the start”, and “action will continue until the Government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate Britain’s 29 million leaky homes”.
On 15 September, Surrey Police officers arrested 15 climate protesters for blocking parts of the M25, causing huge queues of traffic.
On 17 September, Insulate Britain said 79 people attempted to block the London orbital motorway hours after their release from police custody.
On 20 September, a dozen climate protesters were arrested as they tried to obstruct the Dartford River Crossing as part of roadblock demonstrations.
On the same day, 29 protesters were arrested at junctions on the M25 and A1M, Hertfordshire Police said.
Officers were called to junction 18 of the M25 near Chorleywood and near junction 4 of the A1M at Stanborough on Monday as many of the Insulate Britain demonstrators glued themselves to the road.
How has the government responded?
The climate activists behind the M25 road blocks said they “profoundly apologise” for disruption, in an open letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel, asking for “open dialogue”.
The letter read: “We wish to profoundly apologise for the disruption we have caused over past week on the M25 motorway. We cannot imagine undertaking such acts in normal circumstances. But, like you and other Conservatives, we believe that the reality of our situation has to be faced.
We have to move quickly. What we do, I believe, in the next three to four years will determine the future of humanity”.
“The collapse of the climate is happening around us, and will soon get worse unless we immediately reduce carbon emissions. We face economic chaos and the breakdown of law and order within a matter of years.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, protesters who block motorways in demonstrations against the climate crisis detract from the “very important moral mission” widely shared by the nation.
The Prime Minister said on 19 September that activists from the Insulate Britain group do not do “any favours to their cause” after they repeatedly blocked key roads.
“We are taking powers to be able to remove protesters when they are threatening critical national infrastructure, when they are threatening to cause serious economic damage and I think that is entirely right,” he told reporters on board the RAF Voyager.
“And no, I don’t think these people do any favours to their cause. I think that what they do is detract from a very important moral mission that is widely shared now by the people of this country.”
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