Police have arrested scores of climate protesters after they blocked parts of the M25, causing huge traffic queues, and three people on suspicion of orchestrating the event.
Dozens of activists from Insulate Britain, which is demanding Government action on home insulation, stopped traffic on three sections of Britain’s busiest motorway shortly after 8am on Wednesday – the second time in three days.
They targeted Junctions 1a and 1b for Dartford, Kent, the main carriageway between Junction 8 at Reigate and Junction 9 at Leatherhead, Surrey, and Junction 23 for South Mimms, Hertfordshire.
Demonstrators sat on the road while stranded motorists beeped their horns.
Videos posted on social media showed angry drivers remonstrating with the activists.
Surrey Police said there had also been a crash, involving multiple vehicles, at Junction 9.
It was “too early in the investigation” to know if the crash was linked to the protests, the force said.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng commented: “These actions are not only highly disruptive to those going to work and transporting vital goods, but are putting lives at risk on a busy motorway.
“Not to mention the resulting traffic delays will only add to vehicle emissions.”
AA president Edmund King said: “Whilst most people understand the need to take action on climate change, these motorway blockade tactics are just backfiring as they are alienating the working public stuck in this chaos and subsequently pumping out more emissions.”
He added: “Essential deliveries, emergency services, people missing hospital and business appointments are all hit by these blockades.
“Hopefully the police will take immediate action to unblock the arteries of Britain.”
Surrey Police said it worked with the Metropolitan Police to deal with the protesters, making 32 arrests.
Hertfordshire Police said it arrested 18 people.
Superintendent Adam Willmot said: “Our officers were on the scene within minutes of us being alerted to the protest, and attempted to engage with the group, working to balance the rights of people to protest with the rights of those affected by their presence.
“However, protestors ignored repeated requests from officers to move to a safer and less disruptive location, and alleged that they had glued themselves to the Tarmac, making it clear that their aim was to cause as much disruption as possible.”
Kent Police said it arrested 21 people for obstructing the highway.
The Met Police said on Wednesday evening it had cleared junction 25 of the M25 of protesters, making 14 arrests for obstructing the public highway, including three who glued themselves to the road or each other.
“We cannot remove protesters who are glued to the road without specialist equipment and trained officers. This was happening at multiple locations around the M25 and it took time to resolve – time which could have been spent policing our communities in London,” the force said.
“We consider their actions to be unreasonable and unsafe highway obstruction, and we will respond as quickly as possible and robustly to any incidents of this nature.”
It added: “A further three people have been arrested across the country on suspicion of orchestrating the protest.”
Insulate Britain said 89 of its members took part in the demonstration on Wednesday.
It said in a statement: “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.
“It is a total no-brainer and yet this Government refuses to get on with the job. This is criminal negligence.”
A protest by the same group on Monday blocked five junctions of the M25, leading to tens of thousands of drivers being stuck in huge queues of traffic and dozens of arrests.