Police arrested at least 71 climate protesters on Wednesday after they blocked several junctions on the UK’s busiest motorway.
The activists from the campaign group Insulate Britain, which is demanding government action on home insulation, stopped traffic on three sections on the M25 shortly after 8 a.m.
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 of M25, but it was “too early in the investigation” to know if it was linked to the protests.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the protests were counterproductive.
“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,” he said.
Surrey Police said it worked with London’s Metropolitan Police to deal with the protesters, making 32 arrests. Kent Police said it arrested 21 people for obstructing the highway, while Hertfordshire Police said it arrested 18 people.
Adam Willmot, superintendent of Hertfordshire Police, said that the protestors ignored repeated requests from officers to move to a safer and less disruptive location, “making it clear that their aim was to cause as much disruption as possible.”
Insulate Britain said 89 of its members took part in the demonstration.
In a statement, the group demanded “credible action” from the government on home insulation.
“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.
Although the tactics and goals are similar, the group has no explicit link to Extinction Rebellion that over the last two weeks has also tried to rally people to its environmental cause by deliberately causing disruption.
Protesters who favour disruptive tactics were given a boost by recent appeal rulings that overturned convictions related to various controversial protest methods.
However, it comes as a new policing bill, which aims to stymy precisely this kind of disruptive tactic, starts to make its way through Parliament.
Simon Veazey and PA contributed to this report.