‘Insulate Britain’: 92 arrests after climate change protesters cause chaos on M25

13 September 2021, 10:43 | Updated: 13 September 2021, 13:42

By Emma Soteriou

More than 90 climate change protesters have been arrested after "Insulate Britain" demonstrators partially blocked several junctions on the M25 this morning.

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Tens of thousands of drivers were held up by long delays in Kent, Surrey, Essex, Hertfordshire and around Heathrow Airport.

National Highways said there was disruption 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.

Around 20 protesters sat in the middle of the road at Kings Langley, causing tail backs up to the motorway. In heated scenes, motorists clashed with protesters and tried to drag them away so they could continue their journeys.

Protesters blocked the roundabout at junction 20 of the busy motorway, leading to outrage from furious drivers on their morning commute.

LBC witnessed one driver who left their car and attempted to grab a protester from the road and drag him away as tempers flared.

Read more: M25 traffic cameras capture vast queues sparked by Insulate Britain protest

Other areas affected included junction three of the M25 at Swanley, junction six at Godstone and junction 14 near Heathrow.

Police arrived to take control of the situation at Kings Langley, with around 50 officers reported to be gathering at the scene. They made 18 arrests.

Essex Police said 12 people were arrested at Junction 31 on suspicion of highways obstruction.

Chief Inspector Paul Austin said: "This incident caused significant disruption and our officers worked to resolve it as quickly and safely as possible.

"I want to thank the drivers affected for their patience and understanding."Junction three at Godstone has also reopened since the protest began.

Police forces across London and the South East dealt with demonstrations in their areas, with officers making arrests at five locations.

  • Met Police - 14 arrests
  • Essex Police - 12 arrests
  • Hertfordshire Police - 18 arrests
  • Surrey Police - 36 arrests
  • Kent Police - 12 arrests

Talking to LBC, a protester apologised for the problems they were causing, but said they had made the extreme move to get the government's attention.

Insulate Britain wants the government to "take responsibility for the insulation of all social housing in Britain" and create a "legally binding national plan to fully fund and take responsibility for the full low-energy and low-carbon whole-house retrofit", according to their site.

The group - which is relatively new and small - has warned that the motorway disruption is "just the start" of their demonstrations until the government decides to take action.

They tweeted: "We're not here to block Boris Johnson, but we're blocking the M25 to get a message to him and the government.

"We'll go home when you get on with the job. Only you can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, save lives and lead the world through this crisis. Time to Insulate Britain now."

Read more: 'You've ruined your cause': Driver takes on Insulate Britain supporter over chaotic M25 protests

Two Kendal women are taking part in the protests. Gwen Harrison, 43, an environmental consultant said: "I am endlessly shocked at the lack of significant action from our government. They need to face up to reality.

"If don’t cut our use of fossil fuels urgently we will destroy our climate, our economy and the fabric of our society. They are being incredibly reckless.

"They are betting on technologies that don't exist. If we spend money now we’ll stop a catastrophe later down the line.

"It’s a no brainer. Insulating Britain will reduce emissions, provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and stop our elderly dying in cold homes each winter. "So stop messing about Boris and get on with the job!

"As soon as a statement is made that we can trust and is meaningful we will get off the roads."

Catherine Rennie Nash, 70, an events organiser and grandmother, said: "It's now proven that our use of fossil fuels has brought permanent change to our climate.

"The world I was born into has gone, and politicians are not doing enough to stop the damage.  The world's politicians need to be honest.

"They need to act to protect our kids and grandchildren from a terrible future. We need real action from our government to reduce emissions this year  - 2050 is far too late."

Hertfordshire Police's Superintendent Adam Willmot said: "We were called to reports of a protest at around 8am today (Monday 13 September) and quickly mobilised resources to the scene.

"The M25 was closed westbound at junction 20, resulting in congestion and delays on both the M25 and the A41.

"Protestors ignored police requests to move location, so we took robust action to enable roads to be reopened and to remove the protestors causing obstructions.

"Our officers dealt with the disruption as quickly as possible, reopening routes for local businesses and residents.

"The road closures were lifted by 10.20am."

Surrey Police tweeted: "We're currently overseeing a protest at J6 M25 reported just before 8am.

"Number of protesters from Insulate Britain are at the location, slip road closed and diversion being set up.

The force added: "Please avoid the area for the time being."

They later revealed that there had been several arrests.

"A number of people have been arrested following protests at J6 +14 M25 8am today.

"Protesters from Insulate Britain part of a coordinated protest also affected other motorway junctions.

"Diversions set up and working hard to reopen motorway but please plan journeys accordingly this morning."

Read more: M25 Protest: 'Furious' mother raging daughter 'left in bits' by climate change demo

Essex Police said: "We are currently dealing with an incident near junction 20 (Hemel Hempstead) of the M25 involving a small number of protesters.

"Officers are at the scene. The M25 is currently closed at junction 20 westbound, and as a result there is heavy traffic on the A41.

"Motorists are advised to avoid the area where possible."

Chief Inspector Paul Austin said: "This incident caused significant disruption and our officers worked to resolve it as quickly and safely as possible.

"I want to thank the drivers affected for their patience and understanding."

Traffic cameras have shown backed up queues due to the protests.
Traffic cameras have shown backed up queues due to the protests. Picture: Highways England

Kent Police said they were "engaging" with those involved.

"Kent Police was called at 8.10am on Monday 13 September 2021 to a report a group of people were obstructing the road at a roundabout where the B1273, in Swanley, and junction 3 of the M25 meet," they said.

"Officers are in attendance and are engaging with the individuals involved. A diversion, which will allow drivers to join the motorway at junction 4, is in place.

"Traffic is moving, but motorists are advised to expect delays and, if possible, use an alternative route."

Former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde told LBC the protest was "extraordinarily dangerous."

He said that peoples' right to protest is "proportionate", and for this particular demonstration "a clear message needs to be sent."

"It's worth reminding ourselves these people tried to stop a live motorway running, that is extraordinarily dangerous.

"It puts their lives at risk, it puts motorists' lives at risks and it puts police officers' lives at risk."

Insulate Britain had been described as an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, but the XR protest group took steps to distance themselves from their actions this morning and said the two were not affiliated with each other in any way.