A police officer was injured during the third consecutive day of Just Stop Oil protests on the M25.
Essex Police said there was a collision involving the police motorcyclist and two lorries during a rolling roadblock introduced while an activist was on the motorway on Wednesday morning.
Chief constable BJ Harrington warned it is “only a matter of time” before someone is killed during a Just Stop Oil protest.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “The only way this is going to stop is if Just Stop Oil frankly grow up and realise they are putting people’s lives at risk.”
The climate group said around 10 of its supporters climbed on to overhead gantries in multiple locations on the M25 from 6.30am.
This brought traffic to a standstill on several stretches of the UK’s busiest motorway.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said her “thoughts and best wishes” go to the injured officer, accusing Just Stop Oil of “guerrilla tactics” and later referring to protesters as “extermists”.
“I fully back police in using all tools available to prevent further disruption and protect the public,” she said earlier on Wednesday.
Speaking at a conference in Westminster later she said: “Although most police officers do an excellent job, sadly, in recent months and years we have seen an erosion of confidence in the police to take action against the radicals, the road-blockers, the vandals, the militants and the extremists.
“But we have also seen the police appear to lose confidence in themselves, in yourselves, in your authority, in your power – an institutional reluctance. This must change.
“Criminal damage, obstructing the highway, public nuisance – none of it should be humoured. It is not a human right to vandalise a work of art. It is not a civil liberty to stop ambulances getting to the sick and injured.”
💬 Rachel, 75 said:
"I'm here because of my five, lovely grandchildren. I want to do everything I can… For a liveable future."#CivilResistance #A22Network #JustStopOil #NoNewOil #ClimateCrisis #ClimateChange #CostOfLivingCrisis #UK #Government #FossilFuels #COP27 #M25 pic.twitter.com/OlRcd3Qk2F
— Just Stop Oil (@JustStop_Oil) November 9, 2022
In a statement, Just Stop Oil described the injury to the police officer as “an awful situation” and acknowledged the disruption “should not be happening”.
It added: “The failure of our politics has left us with no other option as we seek to protect our rights and freedoms from a collapse in law and order due to a heating world.
“The Government can end this immediately by ending dirty new oil and gas.”
Members of Just Stop Oil were joined by activists from Animal Rebellion, a group campaigning for “a plant-based food system”.
The Metropolitan Police said one person locked themselves on to an overhead gantry near Junctions 24 and 25.
The force said locks “add more complexity for our removal teams” as they require “specialist equipment” to remove protesters.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said officers are dealing with Just Stop Oil activists as quickly as possible.
He said: “We have gone as fast as we think we can do on the JSO (Just Stop Oil) issues.
“We can’t take snipers apparently to people who are climbing the gantries. When we use the angle grinders we have to apparently just take off the locks, we can’t take off the limbs at the same time.
“There are limits to how you can do this at speed. We are turning up at those things very quickly. We’re going as quickly as we can.”
We are currently on scene at the north-bound track of the M25 at the Dartford River Crossing where a protester has climbed on to the gantry at junction 31. Dartford tunnel and two lanes are closed. We are working as quickly as we can to keep you moving. pic.twitter.com/SAD8gCAtkS
— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) November 8, 2022
Rishi Sunak said his Government is “moving ahead” with legislation to give the police more powers to stop protests by groups such as Just Stop Oil.
His comments came after Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge Ben Spencer said in the Commons that the M25 protests are “causing disruption and misery to my constituents, including causing problems of access to my local hospital”.
In his reply, the Prime Minister said “we are moving ahead with legislation to give the police the powers they need to stop this type of extremist protesting”.
Just Stop Oil 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, and officers working a total of 9,438 additional shifts.
According to Just Stop Oil, its supporters have been arrested more than 2,000 times since its campaign began on April 1, and 15 are currently in prison.
Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Martin Hewitt told the body’s joint annual conference that police are “not anti-protest, but we are pro-responsibility”.
Speaking to journalists after his conference speech, Mr Hewitt said some protest groups are increasingly using “dangerous” tactics.