After days of humiliation, police today finally decided to stop eco-extremists blocking a junction of the M25 by arresting them before they could run on - but the mob still managed to block the motorway in Surrey this morning for the third time in five days.
Officers have finally taken a firm stance on the protesters from Insulate Britain who are bent on causing mayhem by shutting down Britain's busiest road in rush hour - with members revealing they even warned officers they would do it again after being released without charge and bail.
The mob turned up to blockade junction 28 at Brentwood at around 8.30am on Friday but officers from Essex Police were waiting for them and arrested them before they could start their protest. A small number broke through but traffic can still pass. Several of the people arrested have been held for the third time.
But Surrey Police failed to stop them doing the same for the third morning today, with a group now sitting on the junction 9 sliproad with long queues already building on the main carriageway. They also dumped blue paint on the highway to cause more delays.
Ms Patel said the police had the Government's full support. But she warned: 'They must uphold the law and take decisive action. This kind of disruption is dangerous and takes police away from communities where they are needed most.'
She also took warned the Government would 'not allow selfish protesters' to disrupt the lives of Britons, adding: 'Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and there will always be space for legitimate groups to make their voices heard.
'But this Government will not stand by and allow a small minority of selfish protesters to cause significant disruption to the lives and livelihoods of the hard-working majority.
'The guerrilla tactics used by Insulate Britain detract from their cause and I know the public will agree that the scenes on the M25 this week were completely unacceptable.'
An Essex Police officer grabs two female protesters and tells them 'not to move' as Essex Police stopped a protest in its tracks after days of humilation for forces serving the M25
Ms Patel also vowed to target disruptive protests such as Insulate Britain's with the Government's new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill.
Under the proposals, which are due to go before the House of Lords next week, police will be given greater powers to impose conditions on protests, allowing officers to close down demonstrations quicker.
Organisers who breach conditions will face up to six months in prison, while fines of up to £2,500 will be handed out to those who take part in 'illegal' protests.
Meanwhile, the Met Police last night told the Telegraph that the decision to facilitate Wednesday's protest came after a 'dynamic risk assessment' to prevent the activists injuring themselves by walking into fast-moving traffic.
Priti Patel last night ordered police to take 'decisive action' against 'selfish' eco-warrior protesters who blocked Britain's busiest road twice in three days
The Home Secretary (pictured yesterday during a visit to the Port of Dover) described the 'guerrilla tactics' of Insulate Britain as 'completely unacceptable' after the group held traffic at four junctions of the busiest junctions of the M25 on Wednesday
Alongside taking aim at protesters, Ms Patel also ordered police to get tough on those involved in the disruptive campaign, after video emerged of officers facilitating a protest
Left taken MONDAY, right WEDNESDAY. Circled are members of the Insulate Britain protest group that shut down motorways on Monday and yesterday, despite being arrested by police
It comes as members of the eco-group warned officers they would do it again after being released the first time and vowed to hold a third protest 'as soon as possible' in another humiliation for soft-touch police.
Insulate Britain also revealed that officers have only bailed 17 of the 181 activists - many of whom have already been arrested on two occasions - meaning that they are free to try to block Britain's busiest motorway again.
In a statement the group, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion demanding Boris Johnson pays for all social housing to be fully insulated, said: 'People from Insulate Britain involved in blocking the M25 on Wednesday and released from custody this morning told the police that they would repeat the protest as soon as possible.
'In the early hours of this morning, 89 people were released from several different custody centres across South East England, despite informing officers of their intent to continue taking action until the government gets on with the job of insulating the nation's leaky homes.
'The majority were released (yesterday) without bail conditions. Some were released despite having broken bail conditions imposed on Monday which prohibited their return to the highway.
'Before being released from custody (yesterday) the campaigners handed the police a clear personal statement of their intent to continue taking action until the government agrees to their demands. They were told by police that the statements would be held 'on their files''.
Among those who shut down the M25 at its busiest junctions twice in 48 hours despite being arrested were Cameron Ford, a 30-year-old carpenter, and climate activist and retired doctor Bing Jones. Other ringleaders included an organic farmer who compares himself to Mahatma Gandhi, a puppeteer, a vegan 'business coach' and a 'rebel' IT project manager.
Police meanwhile have been accused of failing to enforce the law after it was revealed that eco-extremists arrested for shutting down the M25 during the Monday morning rush hour were simply set free without bail conditions and allowed to do the same 48 hours later as officers again 'stood around for hours before doing anything'.
One officer sparked outrage after she addressed a group of activists breaking the law by blocking the road and told them: 'If you have got 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 in a nice way'.
There have 181 arrests in total - for offences including public nuisance, obstructing the highway and conspiracy to cause danger to road users - but that figure includes those held twice in three days.
Surrey Police said officers made 33 arrests at Junctions 8 and 10 for offences including public nuisance, obstructing the highway and conspiracy to cause danger to road users.
Of these arrests, 12 were released under investigation, while 21 were released on conditional bail.
Jerry Westerman, Chief Superintendent with Surrey Police, the force that made the most arrests, appealed for witnesses who may have dashcam footage.
Obstruction of a British road 'without lawful authority or excuse' is an offence under Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980.
Police arrested a large number of the Insulate Britain activists under this law, but no one has been charged.
There were also arrests for the common law offence of public nuisance, and conspiracy to cause danger to road users under section 22A of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
If police had been given the Crown Prosecution Service's go ahead, they could have charged the activists with the obstruction offence and sent them to a magistrates' court where they could be punished with a fine and up to six months in prison.
There would also be the option to arrest or charge them under an alternative law, such as obstructing emergency workers under the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006 - the maximum penalty for which is a £5,000 fine.
Officers were also criticised for taking up to four hours to arrest the protesters even though they were clearly breaking the law under the obstruction of a road offence.
He said: 'I appreciate that these protests have caused considerable inconvenience and frustration for those caught up in the traffic delays and I can assure you that we are continuing to gather evidence and ensure that those who break the law are brought to justice.
'I would like to thank all those motorists who got caught up in the delays, both yesterday and on Monday, while we dealt with the incident, for their co-operation and patience.
'We are continuing to appeal to anyone who witnessed either incident or anyone with any dashcam footage to come forward as you may be able to help us progress our investigation.'
The Met meanwhile said officers arrested 14 people at Junction 25 for obstructing the public highway, following another 17 who were involved in the previous protest on Monday at Junction 14.
The force identified three people they suspect were the organisers as a 55-year-old man at an address in Walworth, a 45-year-old woman at an address in Milton Keynes, and a 49-year-old man at a location in Torquay.
They were arrested for conspiracy to cause public nuisance over the first protest.
Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: 'It is our view that this behaviour is unsafe and irresponsible, creating risk for themselves, other road users and officers.'
Kent Police previously said officers arrested 21 people for obstructing the highway on Wednesday, and Hertfordshire Constabulary said it made 18 arrests.
The Met were asked whether there were any overlaps in arrest figures given by each force, but could not confirm.
Hertfordshire Police said 18 people were arrested for causing disruption on Wednesday - but confirmed they have already released under investigation and subject to community protection notice warnings.
However Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday told LBC's Nick Ferrari that police should have acted 'more swiftly' to remove the assembled eco-mob who caused traffic chaos on one of Britain's busiest motorways.
He said: 'I think that getting a swift resolution to those people sitting in the way of the M25 and not getting in the way of people, many people who are paid by the hour and don't have sympathetic bosses. Why should they lose their livelihood because somebody wants to sit in the middle of the road?'
FREE TO RETURN: Earlier this week a handful of climate zealots had boasted of being released after their arrest and despite demonstrating on Monday they were free to cause chaos for motorists again just two days later. Pictured: A man is pictured protesting on the M25 on Monday (left) and is arrested again on Wednesday (right)
Climate activist and retired doctor Bing Jones was caught on camera on both Monday (left) and Wednesday (right) after he was arrested by police for blockading J23 of the M25
Among those protesting on both days was Cameron Ford, a 30-year-old carpenter (pictured left, on Monday) who obstructed Britain's busiest motorway again on Wednesday (right)
A giggling protester laughs as he sits on the road at junction 3 of the M25 in Swanley, Kent, on Monday, before he is pictured again in a red jacket near a Dartford Crossing roundabout on Wednesday (right)
Earlier this week a handful of climate zealots had boasted of being released after their arrest and despite demonstrating on Monday they were free to cause chaos for motorists again later in the week. One protestor wore the same hat to separate incidents on Monday (left) and Wednesday (right)
One activist involved in Monday's demo even boasted to Nick Ferrari on LBC that he had been released by police and not prevented from protesting on Wednesday, comparing the cause to that of Martin Luther King, the Suffragettes and Mahatma Gandhi.
Furious Conservative MPs Ian Liddell-Grainger and Craig Mackinlay slammed police for 'standing around for hours at a time before doing anything' and urged officers to 'use the powers available to them to clear this protest immediately'. Mr Liddell-Grainger backed 'much tougher sentences' for 'arrogant and stuck-up' climate anarchists who 'cause immense harm to people's lives and livelihoods'.
If you want to complain about the police's handling of the protests, you can contact each of the four forces involved this week by clicking on the links below:
Surrey Police - Chief Constable Gavin Stephens
Complaints link: Click here
Email: [email protected]
Metropolitan Police - Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick
Complaints Link: Click here:
Email: [email protected]
Kent Police - Chief Constable Alan Pughsley
Complaints link: Click here
Email: [email protected]
Hertfordshire Constabulary - Chief Constable Charlie Hall)
Complaints link: Click here
Email: [email protected]
You can also complain directly to the Independent Office for Police Conduct watchdog - click here
'They should have a criminal record and everybody should be made aware of the damage and misery they cause,' Mr Liddell-Grainger raged. 'Their whole plan, of sowing chaos to our lives in this way, just won't fly with the British public because they don't kowtow to bullies.
'They cannot be allowed to hijack the conversation by threatening to destroy livelihoods if they don't get their own way. If they have a grievance, they should take it up with their Member of Parliament in the lawful, peaceful way. They can't just throw a tantrum and sit in the road at whatever cost to other people. If they can't be adults in this conversation, they shouldn't be in the conversation at all.'
On Monday and Wednesday, the same protesters freely blocked motorway junctions and roundabouts across the M25, A3 and Dartford Crossing - and remained free to do so before being arrested, hours later.
In total, more than 165 arrests have been made by Kent, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Met police forces over the two days of action - but every activist appears to have been fallowed to walk free from custody and return to the road.
A group on Twitter called UK Police Pensioners United accused officers of 'aiding and abetting' the M25 protest by 'slow reactions and decisions'. It said: 'None of the M25 forces covered themselves in glory.'
Asked why police had failed to act sooner, the Home Office bizarrely said the chaos was a 'cross-government' matter for both itself and the Department of Business and Energy.
The climate zealots yesterday boasted of being released after their arrest and despite demonstrating on Monday they were free to cause chaos for motorists again yesterday.
Farmer Roger Hallam, 55, who helped found Extinction Rebellion, before leaving to joining protest organiser Insulate Britain, wants to 'bring down all the regimes in the world', starting with Britain, and believes those running society 'should have a bullet through their heads'.
There have been allegations of a 'cult-like' following for the Welshman who compares his tactics to those of heroic activists Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He is said to have been inspired to take up climate activism after his farm in Wales went bust due to bad weather.
Ironically, Mr Hallam owns a farmhouse which was described as 'poorly insulated' in an official energy performance certificate. His 2,000 sq ft farmhouse in Carmarthen, South Wales, was given the lowest possible energy rating on the certificate. It is unclear if Mr Hallam has taken steps to improve the rating since it was issued six years ago.
Asked about the certificate last night, a spokesman for the group said: 'This is the point – UK homes are the leakiest in Europe, with many millions of families being unable to afford the advice and help needed to insulate the building they live in.'
Joining Mr Hallam was David McKenny, 38, from Cambridge, who was one of six XR protesters who 'doorstepped' TV wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough, 95, at the height of pandemic after he criticised their tactics. The group posted a letter through Sir David's door as he isolated due to his age last year.
Vegan business coach Zoe Cohen, 51, from Lymm, Cheshire, said she joined yesterday's action to demand 'real action' from ministers. She was involved in XR's takeover of central London last month.
Ms Cohen said then: 'We are more scared of the reality of what this system is doing to ending life on Earth and ending our future and our children's future than we are of spending a night in a cell.' She describes herself as a 'carbon literate coach' and 'XR catalyser' on social media.
Janine Eagling, 60, from London, helped to block the M25 and A13 junction yesterday. She has been involved with XR since 2018, helping to form blockades across Waltham Forest.
The IT project manager describes herself online as a 'world citizen' and 'rebel' as well as a cyclist, walker and gardener. She has overseen IT projects at top universities and was part of a campaign to improve safety for cyclists in the capital.
Liam Norton, 36, a London electrician who helped organise the protest, said he was 'shocked at the lack of significant action from our Government'.
He became involved in climate activism in 2018 when he helped blockade five bridges in the capital and went on to join XR's 'actions team', which is responsible for planning civil disobedience. He was convicted over blocking printing presses last year.
He delayed court proceedings by gluing himself to a table. It took three hours for police to remove him and the stunt is thought to have cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds.
He told Good Morning Britain: 'The government is not looking after their citizens. We are.
'We've got a plan to insulate Britain that gives you the best value for money in terms of reducing emissions. Hundreds of thousands of meaningful jobs will be created.'
Another protester, Steve Gower, 54, from Gloucester, is unemployed but describes himself as a volunteer advocate for the homeless and is an active Unite union campaigner.
Last summer Gower was ordered to pay £267 by a magistrate after he dropped a cigarette in the street while visiting a Jobcentre. He said that the fine spiralled because he couldn't afford the reduced fine of £75 and was told there was no opportunity to pay in instalments.
He was joined at the M25 road blockage by Eli Rose, 26, who spent 16 days in a tree last September to protest the HS2 rail link.
Ms Rose lived in the tree in Parliament Square because she 'cannot bear' knowing her potential future children will be born 'into a world where they will have to battle through food shortages and drought.'
It comes as officers took more than two-and-a-half hours to clear off climate protesters who were obstructing Britain's busiest motorway yesterday in videos that sparked fury online.
In one clip, a female officer politely tells activists: 'If any of you have any questions, or are in any discomfort or need anything, just let us know' - while stricken motorists couldn't get to work, hospitals and appointments.
Another video showed an officer standing with his hands in his pockets on his own and being met with silence after asking the demonstrators which of them had organised Wednesday's protest.
He then told them, 'I'm going to have to ask you to move' before awkwardly leaving.
Meanwhile, police had to restrain incensed truck drivers who desperately tried to move eco-warriors who had glued their hands to the road.
Chief Superintendent Richard Liversidge, of Herts Police, said: 'Police received calls alerting us to a protest near junction 1 (South Mimms) of the A1M shortly after 8am on Wednesday. Patrolling officers were at the scene by 8.08am and were faced with a challenging situation in which protestors had blocked the carriageway and glued themselves to the tarmac.
Mastermind: Organic farmer and activist Roger Hallam, 55, who helped found Extinction Rebellion
Steve Gower, 54, pictured in a 'Team Corbyn' T-shirt from Gloucester, is one of the ringleaders of yesterday's protests
Liam Norton (left), 36, an electrician; and Zoe Cohen (right), 51, a self-employed mother, are both part of Insulate Britain
Video shared on Twitter showed one police officer arriving at the sit-down on his own and awkwardly being met with silence after asking the demonstrators which of them organised Wednesday's protest
Motorists attempt to move activists as protesters from Insulate Britain block a roundabout near the Dartford crossing
Police attempt to remove a protestor who had glued her hand to the road on the M25 on Wednesday
Protesters from the group Insulate Britain blockade the M25 at Junction 23 for the A1 this morning
'Tasked with ensuring the safety of the wider public and those in the carriageway, they worked quickly to minimise disruption to motorists on the local and wider road network. Unavoidably, due to this group's actions, it took time to safely de-bond the protestors from the tarmac as well as ensure that the roads could be safely re-opened.
'Policing protests is complex, in part due to the operating environment, the number of people involved and the need for us to deploy specialist resources to resolve and manage the situation.