Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Hundreds of activists block major bridge in London to protest jailing of M25 eco mob
20 November 2021, 13:01 | Updated: 21 November 2021, 15:20
Hundreds of eco activists have blocked Vauxhall Bridge and Cross in London as they march through the city to protest jail terms given to nine Insulate Britain protesters.
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It comes after eco protesters from Insulate Britain, Extinction Rebellion and others gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London to protest the jail terms given on Wednesday.
They then marched through the city, coming to a halt on Lambeth Bridge at around 2:15pm and sitting down on the road.
At 4.30pm, they arrived in Vauxhall, blocking roads while chanting "What do we want? Climate Justice. When do we want it? Now."
Among those affected by the group's antics was an NHS worker, who pleaded with the group to move elsewhere.
A total of 124 people were arrested across both Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Cross, with the majority being released under investigation, police confirmed.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted: "We have put conditions under the Public Order Act for a protest at #Lambeth Bridge and request all protestors leave the bridge.
"Officers are also dealing with an off-shoot protest at #Vauxhall Cross."
They later confirmed that 30 arrests were made for breach of the conditions, adding: "We continue to take action at #Vauxhall Cross to remove protestors."
Both Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge have since been reopened.
The force tweeted: "The final protestors have been removed from #Vauxhall Cross and the road has re-opened."
We have put conditions under the Public Order Act for a protest at #Lambeth Bridge and request all protestors leave the bridge. Officers are also dealing with an off-shoot protest at #Vauxhall Cross.— Metropolitan Police Events (@MetPoliceEvents) November 20, 2021
See conditions for Lambeth Bridge here 👇 pic.twitter.com/OYVRCwGWi8
One eco protestor, Gully, told LBC the group were knowingly breaking an injunction by being there.
"We're here on the bridge which is part of the injunction, and that's not an accident," she said.
"The people here today are too desperate, too terrified, too brave to be cowed by such a childish threat, and we're here to say that we will not be scared off our streets."
Gabriella Ditton, 27, an animator from Norwich, said she has been arrested six times with Insulate Britain, including once for breaking the injunction.
"I expect to go to prison at some point for at least six months because I am not going to be apologetic about this," she said.
"I have known for a couple of years that the only thing that is going to serve us is civil resistance. I have faith in people coming together.
"Solutions to this crisis exist, we just need the political will to do it."
The Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement they were diverting traffic away from the scene.
"We are responding to a demonstration which is blocking Lambeth Bridge," said the force in a tweet.
"Officers were called at 14:10hrs and remain at the scene.
"Road closures are in place. Traffic has had to be diverted for the safety of all."
#UPDATE | We are responding to a demonstration which is blocking Lambeth Bridge. Officers were called at 14:10hrs and remain at the scene. Road closures are in place. Traffic has had to be diverted for the safety of all.— Metropolitan Police Events (@MetPoliceEvents) November 20, 2021
The group marched from the High Court down Victoria embankment and past parliament, reaching Lambeth Bridge at around 2pm.
Shortly after the march began, activists read words spoken in court by Oliver Rock and Tim Speers, both of whom were jailed on Wednesday for four months.
"I'm sure that everyone in this room is aware of the climate crisis," one activist read into a microphone, flanked by protestors in high-vis jackets and holding a banner reading 'Betrayed by my government', reading from Mr Rock's speech.
"I took action in an attempt to mitigate the suffering of those in this country who cannot afford to properly heat their homes and in an attempt to mitigate the enormous suffering which is already occurring, and which will only increase as the climate crisis accelerates.
"We have all the information we need about this crisis but I think it's important to connect with the emotional weight of the situation that is upon us."
Extinction Rebellion activist Alanna Byrne, who took part in the protest, said: "When I saw the Highway Nine give their testimonies in court this week, I knew I had a duty to take a stand today in their place.
"These people willingly gave up their freedom to push the Government to act on the greatest crisis we'll ever face.
"The failure of COP26 should shock everyone into action. World leaders are protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry over the general public - they are not coming to save us.
"All we have left now is to come together on the street and rebel for all we hold dear.
"The Government thinks that this injunction will scare people into submission and stop taking action. But the opposite is true.
"This has only ignited a fire in people that will spread faster than they know. As Emma Smart said in the courtroom on Wednesday: 'I will not be a bystander.' And neither should you."
"In an insane world the sane will be seen as insane," read another to cheers from the crowd, quoting Mr Speers' speech.
"In a world where fossil fuel companies make up the largest delegation at a conference to revert climate catastrophe, in a world where 8,500 people die each year because they can't afford to eat their own homes in one of the richest nations on earth, in a world where scientists warning us of a code red humanity is news for a day and forgotten the next - this is the world in which I stand before you, arguing that a few hours of traffic is justified in the fight against extinction."
The group is protesting the jail terms imposed on nine demonstrators by the High Court on Wednesday.
Four of the activists from Insulate Britain were jailed for four months, two for three and one for six.
Since the sentencing, Emma Smart, who was imprisoned for four months, has gone on hunger strike.
She said she is "proud" of her actions with the eco group, and that her prison sentence will take her away from "valuable work".
But her husband Andy Smith has admitted he is "terrified" for her, saying it was a "horrible thing for her to go through".
Insulate Britain have caused two months of road chaos in their campaign for the Government to insulate Britain's social housing stock.
Since September 13 they have blocked many major roads across the country including the M25, M4 and M1 as well as a number of A-roads, in defiance of a number of High Court injunctions.