UK Climate Protesters Face Jail for Further Attempts to Block Motorway

UK Climate Protesters Face Jail for Further Attempts to Block Motorway
Protesters from Insulate Britain block the M25 motorway in London, on Sept. 15, 2021. (Courtesy of Insulate Britain/PA)
Alexander Zhang

Climate protesters will face possible imprisonment if they make further attempts to block the UK’s busiest motorway after the government secured an injunction against such actions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday that National Highways had been granted an injunction against the protests, which have shut down parts of the M25 five times in just over a week.

Shapps wrote on Twitter: “Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk. I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protestors which a judge granted last night. Effective later today, activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they flout.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said this “important injunction” means “people can get moving again” on the M25.

“We will not tolerate lives being put at risk,” she said on Twitter. “Those who continue to do so risk imprisonment.”

The motorway-blocking protests were organised by campaign group Insulate Britain, who said they were demanding “credible action” from the UK government “to insulate all the homes of this country” to cut carbon emissions.

Surrey Police arrested 38 activists from the group on Tuesday who had targeted junctions nine and 10 of M25.

Footage taken at the scene by LBC showed the protesters walking on to the motorway and sitting down on the ground in front of moving traffic. Some then held up banners reading “Insulate Britain” and poured blue paint on to the road, before they were dragged away by officers.

In a commentary published in Daily Mail on Wednesday, Patel and Shapps condemned the tactics of the protesters.

“They have broken the law, undermined the cause they believe in, alienated the public, and created extra pollution, in one of the most self-defeating environmental protests this country has ever seen, particularly as we all strive so hard to rebuild after 18 months of the pandemic,” they wrote, adding: “Punishing motorists to make a point about home insulation makes absolutely no sense at all.”

The ministers said they were giving police more powers to “take decisive action” against the activists’ “guerrilla tactics.”

Although the tactics and goals are similar, the group has no explicit link to Extinction Rebellion that over the past few weeks has also tried to rally people to its environmental cause by deliberately causing disruption.

Simon Veazey and PA contributed to this report.