Climate protesters have walked onto the M25 and sat down in front of moving traffic as senior police officers warned their tactics are likely to cause “serious injury or death”.
Some 38 activists from the group Insulate Britain were arrested on Tuesday after targetting junctions 9 and 10 of Britain’s busiest motorway.
Surrey Police chief inspector Mike Hodder and chief superintendent Jerry Westerman told a press briefing that protesters charging into motorway traffic were putting drivers at a “very high” risk of death – but admitted police powers to charge the majority were “pretty limited”.
It’s the fifth time in just over a week the M25 has been the scene of an eco-protest, with similar scenes witnessed in Hertfordshire, Kent, Essex and Surrey.
— LBC (@LBC) September 21, 2021
Chief superintendent Westerman said the demonstrators were cleared by 8.17am and were being held at various custody centres, but none had been charged by 4pm.
Footage taken at the scene showed protestors holding up banners reading “Insulate Britain” and pouring blue paint on to the road, before they were dragged away by officers.
Chief inspector Hodder condemned the demonstrators’ “irrational decisions” to charge into moving traffic.
He said: “The risk of injury or death is very high when you’re messing around on a motorway which in some sections is four lanes of live traffic.
“Protesters standing on the hard shoulder and making an effort to get in to live traffic, anyone with a simple mind can understand that the result from that sort of action will be serious injury or death, and it could cause other motorists to react and have further accidents due to the consequences of those protesters making irrational decisions.
“We’re very worried about serious injury and death.”
Chief Superintendent Westerman added: “My plea to those (protesters) is that whatever you feel are your legitimate aims in relation to the protest, the harm that you are causing through your actions is significant, not just disruption and inconvenience, but very real risk of harm to people…
“The type of protest being carried out now is unreasonable, it’s unsafe and if it happens it will be dealt with robustly and it will be prosecuted with the full weight of the law.”
He added that no protesters have yet been charged with endangering lives.
He appealed for motorists with video and dashcam footage of the protest to share it with the force urgently.
The campaigning group confirmed it led the demonstration, adding that new people have joined its campaign to improve home insulation in addition to the others who have been involved in similar demonstrations.
It added that the recent rise in gas and electricity costs has “increased the urgency” for change and it would end its campaign as soon as it hears a “meaningful commitment” to its demands.
Spokesman Liam Norton said: “The idea that people would suddenly decide insulating our leaky homes is a bad idea as a result of our campaign is frankly laughable. We are simply asking the government to get on with the job.
“The people of Britain understand that climate change is a severe threat to everything they hold dear. They are looking to the Government for leadership. We have a practical solution and have received encouragement for our aims from many construction industry professionals.”
Climate change activist Dr Diana Warner, a retired GP from Gloucestershire, said: “Insulating homes is such a necessary action right now, for health, economy and climate. All our homes.
“Only the government can get that done. Boris just needs to get on with it. This is a practical way to start to level up Britain. No words, we need action and results.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.