It is "only a matter of time" before someone is killed by a Just Stop Oil protest, a police chief has warned after his officer was knocked off a motorcycle and injured on the M25.
BJ Harrington, chief constable of Essex Police, told The Telegraph he was "devastated" that the roads policing officer was hurt on Wednesday responding to the activists’ latest motorway stunt.
He said there was "nobody responsible" for the officer’s injury "other than Just Stop Oil", whose activists have been climbing gantries on the 116-mile London orbital all week to force road closures.
The injured officer had been trying to implement a "rolling roadblock" – to help ease existing traffic before a road can be closed – between Junctions 26 and 27 when two lorries crashed and knocked him off his bike.
He was taken to hospital but it is hoped that he will make a full recovery.
Mr Harrington told The Telegraph: "It’s been a game changer today, if indeed you could describe this as a game because it is a pretty serious one".
His remarks came after Suella Braverman condemned Just Stop Oil’s "guerilla tactics" after activists scaling gantries this morning led to a police officer being injured in a collision on the busy motorway.
Speaking to journalists after her speech, Home Secretary Suella Braverman referred to Just Stop Oil protesters as "extremists".
She said: "There are many thousands of police days – not just within the Met but also from other forces because we’re adding resources from forces outside those which are directly affected – thousands of police days and hours which are being diverted away from, you know, combating rape and homicide and burglary, diverted to dealing with these extremists."
She said she has concerns about how forces are interpreting laws around how much disruption protests cause.
"I’ve got some concerns about the interpretation of serious disruption and when that threshold is hit, and also the cumulative impact.
"So when we see a daily reset do you assess it cumulatively over a 10-day period or week or do you say, well I’m just measuring it in a 24 hour period?
"I think police forces and chiefs would welcome clarity on the law and what their powers actually are."
The Government is working to give police more powers to tackle disruption from protest action, Downing Street has said.
Asked about the Just Stop Oil protests on the M25, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: "We are introducing new powers so that police can go further in tackling this constant disruption we are seeing.
"It’s causing mass misery for the public, as we’ve seen today, even putting lives in danger and stopping emergency services from going about their work.
"So the public rightly want the police to have the powers to take action and that’s what we are delivering."
"We have been telling Just Stop Oil all the time that motorways are dangerous places and people will and do get killed," BJ Harrington told our Crime Correspondent, Jack Hardy.
"It’s devastating. Our officers have been out there doing the best they can to protect the public and keep the roads moving. As a result of their bravery and commitment, one of them gets hurt.”
Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, condemned the group’s "guerilla tactics" and expressed her "thoughts and best wishes" to the injured officer.
Mr Harrington warned that the consequences in future could be even graver.
He said: "I think it is only a matter of time before somebody gets killed.
"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 police chief described being particularly incensed to see a spokesman for the protest group describe the collision as an "awful situation".
"I just want to really stress the point that Just Stop Oil are putting lives at risk," he said
"It’s not an ‘awful situation’, it’s a criminal situation."
Home Secretary Suella Braverman told police chiefs at a conference in Westminster
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.
Such disruption is a threat to our way of life. It does not ‘further a cause’. It is not ‘freedom of expression’ and I want to reassure you that you have my – and this government’s – full backing in taking a firmer line to safeguard public order. Indeed, that is your duty.
Scenes of members of the public taking the law into their own hands are a sign of a loss of confidence and I urge you all to step up to your public duties in policing protests.
Reporting by Martin Evans, our Crime Editor
Suella Braverman has condemned Just Stop Oil’s "guerilla tactics" after activists scaling gantries this morning led to a police officer being injured in a collision on the busy motorway.
The Home Secretary said: "My thoughts and best wishes go to the Essex Police officer injured while dealing with protesters engaging in guerrilla tactics on the M25 today.
"These protests are dangerous and I fully back police in using all tools available to prevent further disruption and protect the public."
An officer was injured in a "serious" incident after two lorries crashed with a police motorbike following road blocks put in place for the climate protesters.
Essex Police told The Telegraph: "Initially officers intervened to deal with a protester on the motorway between Junction 26 and 27. Due to this a rolling road block was put in place.
"Subsequently, there was a collision involving two lorries and a police motorbike.
"Thankfully the motorbike rider has not been seriously injured."
A Just Stop Oil spokesperson said the collision this morning was "an awful situation" but doubled down on their cause, adding: "In normal circumstances this would be unacceptable".
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said officers are dealing with Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters as quickly as possible.
He said: "We have gone as fast as we think we can do on the JSO 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."
On Wednesday Met officers had to use an angle grinder to remove a bicycle D-lock from the neck of a protester who had attached themselves to a gantry, he said.
Rishi Sunak believes it is "vital" that journalists are able to do their job freely, Downing Street has said following the arrest of a radio journalist while reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: "It’s vital journalists are able to do their job freely without restriction.
"I am cautious about commenting on specific incidents. Operational decisions are a matter for the police but the Prime Minister strongly believes in championing press freedoms.
"We wouldn’t want to see those freedoms impeded whilst journalists are going about their day-to-day business".
Speaking to journalists after his conference speech, Martin Hewitt said some protest groups are increasingly using "dangerous" tactics.
"We are increasingly seeing things that are dangerous – dangerous for the protesters, dangerous for other members of the public and, as we’ve seen this morning, dangerous for police officers," he said.
"I just think that all of those groups, who have every right to make the point they want to make, have every right to seek to get that point through the media, need to think really hard about the responsibility that they have both to themselves, to other members of the public and to, as we’ve seen, police officers that are that are having to go there and try and deal with these very difficult circumstances."
Two Just Stop Oil protesters have been charged over disruption on the M25, Essex Police has said.
Charlotte Kirin, 53, of Peckham Street, Bury St Edmunds, and 55 year-old Paul Bleach, of Locarno Road, Portsmouth, were charged with intentionally recklessly causing a public nuisance.
On Tuesday, they were arrested at junctions 31 and 27 of the M25 respectively.
Both are expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
Hertfordshire Police responded to the widespread criticism of the arrest of LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch, saying: "As always, our priority remains to ensure public safety – we have a responsibility for the health and safety of all those involved and everyone at the scene, including emergency services, members of the public, members of the press and the protesters themselves.
"These operations are very fluid and fast moving, with the potential to cause widespread and sustained disruption, that not only affects Hertfordshire’s stretch of the M25 but also the wider road networks.
"Our officers have been instructed to act as quickly as they can, using their professional judgment, to clear any possible protesters in order to get roads up and running and to prevent anyone from coming to harm."
Speaking to journalists at a conference in Westminster on Wednesday, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said officers are under pressure when dealing with protesters but media should not be prevented from reporting on them.
He said: "There’s an enormous amount of pressure in play around those protest issues for the reasons that you would understand.
"But, of course, there is a right for journalists to go and report on those occasions and that shouldn’t be prevented in any way."
My thoughts and best wishes go to the @essexpoliceUK officer injured while dealing with protesters engaging in guerrilla tactics on the M25 today. These protests are dangerous & I fully back police in using all tools available to prevent further disruption & protect the public https://t.co/aBX19yZVnl
The force tweeted: "The M25 is now fully open across the Essex stretch. Thank you for your patience. It has been a difficult morning and we have worked as fast as possible to resolve this and to arrest these individuals."
The M25 is now fully open across the Essex stretch. Thank you for your patience. It has been a difficult morning and we have worked as fast as possible to resolve this and to arrest these individuals.
Essex Police Chief Constable BJ Harrington said: "This criminal activity must stop.
"People are now getting hurt including an Essex Police officer responding to protect the public.
"We’re on the side of people trying to get on with their lives.
"It seems Just Stop Oil isn’t interested in anyone but themselves – stop this now!"
The Society of Editors has said that it is deeply concerned and "strongly condemns" the arrest this week of journalists covering Just Stop Oil protests.
The Society’s intervention comes after LBC reporter Charlotte Lynch was arrested on Tuesday by Hertfordshire Police while covering a protest by the climate activist group.
Her arrest comes only a day after reports that officers from Hertfordshire constabulary had arrested documentary film maker Rich Felgate and photographer Tom Bowles on Monday. All had been covering protests by Just Stop Oil on the M25.
Responding to the arrests, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: "The Society is deeply concerned by reports this week of a number of journalists being arrested while reporting on protests by the campaign group Just Stop Oil.
"The protests are a source of legitimate public interest and journalists, film-makers and photographers have a right to attend protests and report on behalf of the public.
"We strongly condemn the arrest of journalists in the course of their work and will be writing to Hertfordshire Police to seek an urgent explanation and seek assurances that its officers respect the rights of journalists and understand that such actions threaten press freedom."
A radio journalist has spoken of the "terrifying" five hours she endured in a police cell after being arrested while reporting on a Just Stop Oil protest.
Charlotte Lynch, of LBC, had been reporting on the activists from a road bridge over junction 21 of the M25, in Hertfordshire, on Tuesday, for around 45 minutes when she was approached and questioned by two officers.
After showing them a press card and having explained she was reporting on the demonstration, the officers handcuffed her, took her phone and arrested her on conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.
It comes after a photographer and filmmaker said they were held in police custody for around 13 hours for covering a protest staged by the group.
Ms Lynch said she was searched on the side of the road, before officers seized her devices and took her to a police station in a custody van.
She said: "Got to Stevenage police station, that journey took over an hour because of the M25 being closed.
"I was in the back of a police van, handcuffed, my hands were in front of me, handcuffed the entire time, on my own, the two police officers were behind the glass cage.
"That’s when it dawned on me ‘gosh, I could be charged here’ and everything runs through your mind ‘have I actually committed this offence?’ even though I knew I hadn’t."
It was absolutely terrifying being in a cell with a pad for a bed in one corner and a metal toilet in the other. I was just doing my job.
What’s also terrifying is what this means for press freedom. It was blindingly obvious I was a reporter.
Thank you for the kind messages x
The National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt told an annual press conference:
This week we are seeing protests on the road network. A combination of proactivity and preparedness meant we have been able to reopen the busy motorways quickly.
Working with government and other agencies we continue to use civil injunctions as well as our criminal powers to minimise disruption.
Policing is not anti-protest, but it is pro-responsibility and for having due regard for the rights of others.
We will continue to take all appropriate action against anyone who deliberately chooses to protest outside of the law.
Reporting by Martin Evans, our Crime Editor.
Despite the fact that Britain is pledged to reduce carbon emissions faster than most other leading economies, activists continue to cause mayhem on the roads, demanding even swifter action.
Yesterday, protesters from Just Stop Oil brought the M25 to a halt by climbing on overhead gantries, whereupon the police stopped traffic while they dealt with them.
The campaigners were in breach of a court order that they felt entitled to ignore. Their hysterical claims that a catastrophe is imminent are causing unfounded distress among young people.
While legitimate protest must be allowed in a free society, the activities of Just Stop Oil do not fall into that category. They are also self-defeating, since they alienate people otherwise sympathetic to the idea of lower carbon emissions.
Read more here
Earlier this morning, Surrey Police said that they were "proactively patrolling the M25 again today in anticipation of further attempts to cause disruption."
The force added that "keeping traffic moving is key and any criminality will be dealt with ASAP".
The Metropolitan Police also said on Twitter: "We’re ready to respond to any protest activity on £M25 with partner forces again today.
"We know this disruption is incredibly frustrating for the public.
"We will act as swiftly as possible to remove any individuals intent on obstructing the road and get traffic moving again."
Just Stop Oil said around 10 of its supporters climbed onto overhead gantries in "multiple locations" on the M25 from 6.30am on Wednesday, in what is the third consecutive day of protests on the UK’s busiest motorway.
They have been joined by activists from Animal Rebellion, a group campaigning for "a plant-based food system".
Officers were also at J30 of the M25, where one Just Stop Oil protester had climbed a gantry, while one person was stopped.
🚨 BREAKING: M25 BLOCKED AGAIN
🦺 From 6:30am, around 10 supporters of Just Stop Oil climbed onto overhead gantries of the M25 in multiple locations, causing police to halt traffic.
"Ending all fossil fuel licencing is as important as transitioning to a plant-based food system… We're all fighting for the same cause" pic.twitter.com/mSzkIZzky5
A spokesperson from the group said:
The collision of two lorries and the injury of a police officer on the M25 this morning is an awful situation.
The level of disruption being witnessed on the M25 should not be happening – people are rightly angry and frustrated.
The impact on people’s lives is huge. In normal circumstances this would be unacceptable.
It should never have come to this. 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.
The failure to abandon this toxic policy is a failure of politics and failure of leadership, it is a betrayal of us, our children and this country.
Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow told The Telegraph:
Officers have again responded quickly to minimise disruption and two people have already been arrested.
One of our officers has been injured as they worked to help resolve this situation.
Our roads policing officers are dedicated, specialist officers who come to work to serve the public and keep you safe on our roads.
They do this tirelessly, day-in day-out.
"Sadly, this morning one of these fantastic officers has been injured while carrying out this work.
My thoughts are with them and their family.
I want to thank the public for their support, patience and understanding while we work to resolve this situation.
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