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Priti Patel: Police must take ‘decisive action’ to stop ‘selfish’ M25 eco mob
17 September 2021, 06:08 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 17:47
- Eco protesters calling themselves 'Insulate Britain' blocked the M25 twice this week
- Their actions sparked chaos for tens of thousands of drivers
- Police accused of not clearing the protest group quickly enough and even helping them into place
- Home Secretary tells police they need to be dealt with 'decisively'
Home Secretary Priti Patel has criticised "selfish" climate protesters and told police they must take "decisive action" to stop a repeat of the blockades on the M25 that saw people's lives disrupted.
Ms Patel's comments come after LBC obtained video of police asking if the demonstrators "needed anything" and checking on their welfare. Officers have faced criticism for not clearing the protest fast enough.
Police faced further criticism after it emerged that some of the eco-extremists arrested for shutting down the M25 during the Monday morning rush hour were set free without bail conditions and allowed to do the same 48 hours later.
Members of the eco-group Insulate Britain warned officers they plan to do it again after being released the first time and vowed to hold a third protest 'as soon as possible' in another humiliation for police.
Protesters from the group stopped thousands of motorists at four junctions on Britain's busiest motorway shortly after 8am on Wednesday for the second time in three days.
The demonstrators, including some who had glued themselves to the road, were demanding Government action on home insulation.
Scores of protesters were held on Wednesday by officers deployed from four forces - Surrey Police, Hertfordshire Constabulary, Kent Police and the Met - and totals given by each force suggest 86 were arrested overall.
On Thursday evening, Ms Patel spoke out against the "guerrilla tactics" used by protesters which she said "detract from their cause".
She warned: "They must uphold the law and take decisive action. This kind of disruption is dangerous and takes police away from communities where they are needed most.
"Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and there will always be space for legitimate groups to make their voices heard.
"But this Government will not stand by and allow a small minority of selfish protesters to cause significant disruption to the lives and livelihoods of the hard-working majority.
"The guerrilla tactics used by Insulate Britain detract from their cause and I know the public will agree that the scenes on the M25 this week were completely unacceptable."
Jerry Westerman, Chief Superintendent with Surrey Police, the force that made the most arrests, appealed for witnesses who may have dashcam footage.
He said: "I appreciate that these protests have caused considerable inconvenience and frustration for those caught up in the traffic delays and I can assure you that we are continuing to gather evidence and ensure that those who break the law are brought to justice.
"I would like to thank all those motorists who got caught up in the delays, both yesterday and on Monday, while we dealt with the incident, for their co-operation and patience.
"We are continuing to appeal to anyone who witnessed either incident or anyone with any dashcam footage to come forward as you may be able to help us progress our investigation."
Surrey Police said officers made 33 arrests at Junctions 8 and 10 for offences including public nuisance, obstructing the highway and conspiracy to cause danger to road users.
Of these arrests, 12 were released under investigation, while 21 were released on conditional bail.
The Met said officers arrested 14 people at Junction 25 for obstructing the public highway, following another 17 who were involved in the previous protest on Monday at Junction 14.
The force identified three people they suspect were the organisers as a 55-year-old man at an address in Walworth, a 45-year-old woman at an address in Milton Keynes, and a 49-year-old man at a location in Torquay.
They were arrested for conspiracy to cause public nuisance over the first protest.
Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: "The actions of this group have significantly impacted the major road network around London.
"Removing individual protesters who have glued themselves to the road or locked themselves on to something is a complex and resource-intensive challenge and we must do this in a safe and effective way.
"It is our view that this behaviour is unsafe and irresponsible, creating risk for themselves, other road users and officers."
Kent Police previously said officers arrested 21 people for obstructing the highway on Wednesday, and Hertfordshire Constabulary said it made 18 arrests.
The Met were asked whether there were any overlaps in arrest figures given by each force, but could not confirm.
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."