Just Stop Oil protesters force parts of M25 to shut as activists scale motorway gantries

Parts of the M25 have been temporarily closed after Just Stop Oil protesters climbed overhead gantries and caused disruption on the major motorway circling London.

A spokeswoman for the group said "action has gone ahead in multiple locations on the M25".

Motorists were urged to avoid the area and seek alternative routes while several police forces dealt with the demonstrations.

The disruption comes despite the Metropolitan Police "proactively" arresting campaigners last night suspected of planning action on UK motorways.

A total of 23 people have been arrested so far.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said the action was "criminality", not protest, and pledged to bring those involved to justice as quickly as possible.

He told journalists on Monday: "This was a very significant and co-ordinated effort to cause massive disruption to the entirety of the M25."

Surrey Police said a decision was made to close several sections of the M25 during the morning rush hour on Monday "for the safety of everyone" while officers removed activists.

The force said it had received reports of protesters scaling gantries between junctions 6 and 7, 8 and 9, 9 and 10, and 11 and 12.

"We are here and dealing and will get this resolved as soon as possible," it tweeted, later adding activists had been removed and arrested for public nuisance from all those sections of the motorway, with lanes reopening.

A fifth protester, who had scaled an overhead gantry between junctions 13 and 14, was also removed - with traffic resuming.

Hertfordshire Police said it was dealing with similar action on the M25 at junctions 20, 22 and 23.

"The junction 22 #M25 road closure has now been lifted. All protesters have been removed and some five people have been arrested," the force tweeted.

Three people were arrested by Essex Police, including a man and a woman, for attempting to climb a gantry at junction 30 of the motorway. The third person had locked himself onto a gantry at junction 27.

They are now in custody and being questioned on suspicion of road traffic offences.

"At this stage, there are no longer any reported incidents on the Essex stretch of the M25 and the road has now fully reopened," the force said in a statement.

The demonstrations took place as the latest COP27 international climate change summit in Egypt got under way.

The Met had earlier said its "significant" operation had resulted in at least three people being detained, who the force had "strong reason to believe are intent on causing reckless and serious disruption to the public".

In a statement released late on Sunday, Mr Twist said: "Acting on intelligence, this operation is fast-moving and will continue this evening and overnight with multiple arrest inquiries under way.

"So far this evening we have made three arrests linked to this activity.

"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."

The suspects were arrested for allegedly conspiring to cause public nuisance, according to the Met Police.

Mr Twist warned there "remains a possibility" that other suspects are "still intent on causing unlawful disruption to the public".

National Highways has secured a High Court injunction to prevent Just Stop Oil protesters disrupting England's busiest motorway.

The court has granted a further injunction which aims to stop unlawful demonstrations on the M25, which encircles Greater London, in an attempt to end disruption to the busy road by the environmental group.

It means that anyone entering the motorway and fixing themselves to any object or structure on it, and anyone assisting in such an act, can be held in contempt of court.

They could face imprisonment, an unlimited fine, and the seizure of assets.

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Just Stop Oil has attracted widespread attention, and fierce criticism, in recent weeks for their stunts which have involved spraying orange paint on buildings and scaling a bridge to force the closure of the M25 Dartford Crossing.

The climate change activists staged 32 days of disruption from the end of September and throughout October, which the Met said resulted in 677 arrests with 111 people charged.

The protesters have been calling on the government to abandon plans to licence more than 100 new oil and gas projects by 2025, and to do more to help people with their skyrocketing energy bills.