M25 closures and 23 Just Stop Oil activists arrested over protests branded ‘criminality’ by police
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Twenty-three people have been arrested after Just Stop Oil protesters climbed gantries on the M25 despite a major Metropolitan Police operation to foil their plans.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist branded the demonstrations as "criminality" and claimed that the group's actions on England's busies motorway was not a protest.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, he said: "This isn’t protest, this is criminality where people are taking extremely hazardous steps disrupting the M25.
Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist tells Simon Harris protesters caused 'serious disruption'
"This action is grossly disproportionate to any legitimate aim that this group may have. This is criminality and we’ll treat it as such."
The Metropolitan Police arrested seven people before Monday’s protest on suspicion of “conspiracy to intentionally or recklessly cause public nuisance”.
A new offence under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
"We suspected that the intent of the individuals involved was completely disproportionate to any legitimate right to protest,”" Mr Twist said.
But the protest went ahead, with forces including Kent, Essex, Surrey and Hertfordshire facing demonstrators in 13 locations.
Surrey Police tweeted that they had reports of protesters at a number of places along the motorway, resulting in temporary lane closures, while Essex Police said arrests were made after reports of people climbing up an overhead gantry close to junction 30 of the M25.
Hertfordshire Police said five people had been arrested after protesters attempted to climb overhead gantries at various junctions.
The motorway was cleared by Monday afternoon, Mr Twist said.
As well as the arrests, police believe that some of those involved in the demonstrations could have breached a High Court injunction obtained by the Highways Agency.
The M25 closed between junctions six and seven in Surrey on Monday morning after a protester climbed an overhead gantry.
Surrey Police said the decision was made to close the road “for the safety of everyone” while officers attended the incident.
The protester had been removed by police before 9am.
The force's 'protest removal team' was also deployed to gantries over junctions 8-12, where four protesters were arrested for causing a public nuisance before officers began to re-open carriageways.
A spokeswoman for Just Stop Oil said “action has gone ahead in multiple locations on the M25” on Monday morning.
The demonstrations come as the latest Cop27 international climate change talks in Egypt get under way.
After a protester targeted junction 30 at Thurrock, Essex Police urged the public “not to intervene”.
Just Stop Oil has vowed to continue its action, saying it will demonstrate “every day” until the group’s demand for no new oil and gas in the UK is met.
In an update on its website, the group said: “This is not a one-day event, expect us every day and anywhere. This is an act of resistance against a criminal government and their genocidal death project.
“Our supporters will be returning – today, tomorrow and the next day – and the next day after that – and every day until our demand is met: no new oil and gas in the UK.”
According to the Met, which is conducting the operation in conjunction with the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC), more than 10,000 officer shifts have been dedicated to policing Just Stop Oil protests since the start of October.
Police are calling on the public to assist with preventing public disruption from protesters by reporting it to 999.
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Mr Twist had said of Sunday's arrests: “Our investigation has strong reason to suspect the Just Stop Oil group intend to disrupt major motorway road networks which would risk serious harm to the public, with reckless action to obstruct the public on a large scale.
“All those arrested are suspected of engaging in conspiracy to cause public nuisance contrary to Section 78 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022."
According to the group, since its campaign began on April 1, Just Stop Oil supporters have been arrested nearly 2,000 times, and five are currently in prison.
Just Stop Oil in numbers
32 days of disruption from the end of September and throughout October
111 people charged
9,438 additional shifts worked by police officers
100 new oil and gas projects planned by 2025 are the focus of the group's protests
According to the Met, which is conducting the operation in conjunction with the National Police Coordination Centre, more than 10,000 officer shifts have been dedicated to policing Just Stop Oil protests since the start of October.
“These are officers who would otherwise be dealing with issues that matter to local communities, such as knife crime, safeguarding and responding to burglaries,” Mr Twist added.
“We are determined to bring to justice all of those who conspire to cause significant and unreasonable disruption to London, or cause damage to buildings, property or valuables. It’s what the public expects, and we’ll work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and Courts to make sure this happens.”
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