Thirty nine activists from Insulate Britain have been arrested after the climate campaign group staged its 10th day of protest in three weeks, as it called on the prime minister to “get on with the job” of insulating homes.
Shortly after 8am on Friday, activists glued themselves to the ground and to each other at junction 3 of the M4 near Heathrow airport, west London, and at junction 1 of the M1, near Brent Cross in north London. At about 11am, a third group blocked junction 25 of the M25, near Enfield.
Long queues of traffic formed at blockades, with drivers sounding their horns in frustration, according to PA Media. The Metropolitan police said the M4 blockade was cleared by 9am, with 13 arrests, and the M1 blockade by 10am, with 17 arrests. The M25 blockade was cleared by midday, with nine further arrests.
Insulate Britain has said its activists will keep returning to block motorways around London until the government “makes a meaningful statement indicating that they will insulate all of Britain’s 29m leaky homes by 2030, which are among the oldest and most energy inefficient in Europe”.
Among the activists taking part in actions on Friday were eight who were released from police custody on Thursday, after blocking the M25 at junction 30 in Essex, and others who were arrested earlier this week, the group said.
It admitted activists’ actions were in breach of an injunction, obtained last week by the government, which means anyone blocking the M25 could be found in contempt of court. If prosecuted, they could each face up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine.
Organisers had expected some activists taking part in the protests would have been jailed already. A spokesperson for the group said: “The government could end this tomorrow one way or another either by making a meaningful statement we can trust … or by sending our members to prison.”
Insulate Britain says 115 people have taken part in protests resulting in nearly 450 arrests, with some activists arrested six or seven times. So far, two have been held on remand and, after routine challenges by lawyers, both were released after about a week, the group’s spokesperson said.
Earlier this week, Lisa Townsend, Surrey’s police and crime commissioner, said it was difficult to bring charges against the group, with minor charges likely to be discontinued and more serious charges having too high a threshold to meet.
Insulate Britain has said its campaign is open-ended and will continue until its demands are met.
The group said in a statement: “It’s incomprehensible that the government is continuing to delay action on home insulation when we urgently need to cut our carbon emissions, eliminate fuel poverty and help hard-working families with their rising energy bills.
“Added to which, industry is crying out for the government to show some leadership and get behind a national retrofitting strategy. Come on Boris: get on with the job.”
Sir Stephen House, the deputy commissioner of the Met, told the London assembly’s police and crime committee on Thursday that he was concerned police forces were under so much pressure to quickly clear the protests that “officers are putting their lives at risk”.
He added: “They started off on the slip roads, which is bad enough, but we’ve now moved on to the main carriageways of the M25, which is absolute lunacy.”
An Insulate Britain spokesperson said motorway carriageways had been targeted “since day one”.