The nine jailed Insulate Britain climate activists are “political prisoners” and will not be the last to be locked up, supporters have claimed.
The group was jailed this week for breaching an injunction designed to prevent the road blockades which have sparked anger among motorists and others affected by the protests.
A campaigner, who would only give her name as Gully, told up to 200 supporters who gathered outside London’s Royal Courts of Justice: “Make no mistake, these are political prisoners and they will not be the last.”
The demonstrators went on to block Lambeth Bridge in central London, with the Metropolitan Police saying traffic had been diverted “for the safety of all”.
Insulate Britain began a wave of protests in September and has blocked the M25, other roads in London including around Parliament, roads in Birmingham and Manchester, and around the Port of Dover in Kent.
In a warning that was directed to the heavy police presence around the event, Gully said: “These streets are ours and we will put one foot in front of the other, and dare you to stop us.”
She added: “You can jail the resistor but not the resistance.”
#UPDATE | We are responding to a demonstration which is blocking Lambeth Bridge. Officers were called at 14:10hrs and remain at the scene. Road closures are in place. Traffic has had to be diverted for the safety of all.
— Metropolitan Police Events (@MetPoliceEvents) November 20, 2021
The group, watched closely by uniformed officers, then set off for a protest walk around nearby central London streets towards Westminster chanting “power to the people”.
Cheers rang out during the walk as a campaigner told the crowd that “good people have a duty to disobey bad laws”.
Insulate Britain said it was not involved with setting up the event, which was described by those who took part as community-led.
The nine protesters were sentenced at the High Court on Wednesday after they admitted breaching an injunction by taking part in a blockade at junction 25 of the M25 during the morning rush-hour on October 8.
Ana Heyatawin, 58, and Louis McKechnie, 20, were jailed for three months while Ben Buse, 36, Roman Paluch-Machnik, 28, Oliver Rock, 41, Emma Smart, 44, Tim Speers, 36, and James Thomas, 47, received four-month sentences.
Ben Taylor, 37, was given a longer sentence of six months “to deter (him) from committing further breaches” after his submissions to the court on Tuesday were described by Dame Victoria Sharp as “inflammatory” and a “call to arms”.
The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Chamberlain, said there was no alternative to custodial sentences given that the group’s actions were so serious and they had made it clear they intended to further flout court orders.
Insulate Britain has said it intends to continue the protests until the Government agrees to insulate homes.
The High Court has so far issued five injunctions to prevent protesters from blocking roads.
They include four injunctions granted to National Highways, banning demonstrations on the M25, around the Port of Dover and on major roads around London, and one to Transport for London (TfL).
TfL was granted a civil banning order aimed at preventing protesters from obstructing traffic on some of the capital’s busiest roads.
Those who breach the injunctions could be found in contempt of court and face a maximum penalty of two years in prison or an unlimited fine.
Further High Court committal proceedings are expected to be issued against other Insulate Britain protesters relating to protests on October 27.