Insulate Britain: Arrests after fighting breaks out on M25 as angry drivers clash with climate protesters

Watch: Scuffle breaks out at Insulate Britain M25 protest

Police have arrested 35 people after furious drivers took matters into their own hands this morning as Insulate Britain protesters once again blocked traffic on the M25.

Fighting broke out on a junction close to the Dartford Crossing, a consistently busy route on the Essex stretch of the motorway.

Around 40 people from the eco-protest group sat down in the middle of the road in front of lorries and cars, who were forced to stop.

Video footage from the scene shows angry motorists blasting their horns, while many took matters into their own hands and started dragging protesters off the road so vehicles could pass.

Drivers and Insulate Britain protesters clashed on the M25 this morning. (Twitter/LBC)
Drivers and Insulate Britain protesters clashed on the M25 this morning. (Twitter/LBC)

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Police did not appear to be on site as a fight broke out between a driver and some members of the environmental group.

Protesters who had been dragged from the road walked back and either sat or laid down in front of HGVs as they tried to pass.

Banners were seen being ripped from the protesters, while others sat in vehicles and argued loudly at the people blocking them from moving.

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One man could be heard telling protesters that his business “is on its knees” and urged them to move on as they had “made their point”.

A mother taking her son to school was also heard demanding protesters get out of the way, according to LBC.

Essex Police have now confirmed that 35 arrests had been made following the incident.

They tweeted: “35 people have now been arrested after we responded quickly to reports of roads blocked in #Thurrock.

“16 people were arrested at J31 of the #M25 while 19 were arrested in Stonehouse Ln, #Purfleet."

The force earlier said in a statement: “We received reports of people on the road at Junction 31 shortly after 8.25am today.

Protesters from Insulate Britain staged another sit-in on the M25 this morning. (PA)
Protesters from Insulate Britain staged another sit-in on the M25 this morning. (PA)
Essex Police arrived at the scene after fights broke out between protesters and drivers. (PA)
Essex Police arrived at the scene after fights broke out between protesters and drivers. (PA)

“Officers were at the scene within five minutes and are currently working to resolve the situation quickly and safely. Arrests have been made.

“We know this will be frustrating for people caught up in traffic but we appreciate your patience and understanding.”

Watch: Who are 'Insulate Britain'?

Insulate Britain, an offshoot of environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion has now staged similar protests 13 times, despite injunctions granted by the High Court.

The group has blocked parts of major roads around London, including the M25 and M4, to draw attention to climate change.

Transport for London (TfL) was previously granted High Court injunctions against the group to prevent them further obstructing traffic – which applies to 14 locations around the capital.

The injunctions were extended to the end of next month on Tuesday, prompting members of the group to burn the court orders outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

Traffic builds up as Insulate Britain protesters stage another sit-in on the M25. (PA)
Traffic builds up as Insulate Britain protesters stage another sit-in on the M25. (PA)

Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed plans for new measures against the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion in her speech at Tory conference last week.

Patel said she wants to increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway while also criminalising interference with major roads, railways and the press.

She was speaking after coming under pressure to instigate tougher measures to deal with the regular blocking of motorways by the climate protesters.

Patel said: “Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department delivers her keynote speech during the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central Convention Complex on October 05, 2021 in Manchester, England. This year's Conservative Party Conference returns as a hybrid of in-person and online events after last year it was changed to a virtual event due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Boris Johnson addresses the party as its leader for the third time.  (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Home secretary Priti Patel announced tougher measures for protesters during her Tory conference speech. (Getty)

“But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders."

Police also came under fire for their handling of the protesters before the new measures were announced, following videos showing officers standing by – and even stopping traffic – as the group walked onto the road for their sit-in.

But Lisa Townsend, Surrey’s police and crime commissioner, recently said it is “very difficult” to bring charges against green activists.

Police officers detain a protester from Insulate Britain occupying a roundabout leading from the M25 motorway to Heathrow Airport in London. Picture date: Monday September 27, 2021. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Police officers detain a protester from Insulate Britain at protest on a roundabout leading from the M25 motorway to Heathrow Airport in London last month. (Getty)

Townsend said the police are receiving “an enormous amount of flak” over their response but she insisted officers are “doing their utmost to prevent the disruption”.

She added last month: “The public deserves to see a response from all parts of the criminal justice system and it is unfair for the police to be blamed if people do not end up before the courts.”

Insulate Britain has pledged to continue its activities until the government makes “a meaningful statement indicating that they will insulate all of Britain’s 29 million leaky homes by 2030”.

Watch: Insulate Britain protesters burn injunctions outside court