“They are irresponsible crusties who are basically trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.”
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has called out a group of climate change protesters, arguing that the brazen eco warriors are hurting their own cause.
It comes after 54 members of Insulate Britain caused huge tailbacks by blocking three key London roads namely Hanger Lane, Wandsworth Bridge and the Blackwall tunnel at the height of Monday rush-hours this week.
Insulate Britain has caused disruption on the roads eleven times over the past three weeks. It has previously targeted the M25, M4, M1 and Port of Dover.
The group says actions will continue until the government makes a meaningful statement indicating that they will insulate all of Britain’s 29 million homes by 2030, which are among the oldest and leakiest in Europe.
According to the group, the move would be part of a wider goal to decarbonize the economy, in a bid to tackle the climate crisis.
‘Crossed the line’
While the group is in no mood to back down, policing minister, Kit Malthouse, said that demonstrators in recent years “have crossed the line between exercising their right but also their responsibility towards the rest of us.”
The junior minister said that new measures will be announced alongside those that are already in the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill to crack down on protesters who disrupt strategic road networks and critical infrastructure, which leads to “a different scale of damage than you would otherwise find with a normal protest.”
More than more than 200 Insulate Britain campaigners have already been arrested at these protests, the first of which affected Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent on 13 September.
Home secretary Priti Patel has also applied for court injunctions to ban Insulate Britain campaigners from stalling motorways.
Currently fines for blocking a highway are up to £1,000.
‘Self-defeating environmental protests’
At the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Patel vowed to “close down the legal loopholes” taken advantage of by “the so-called eco warriors trampling over our way of life and draining police resources”.
“Their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating environmental protests that this country has ever seen,” she said, apparently referring to the Insulate Britain group.
According to The Guardian, Patel added that fines for blocking motorways will be increased, a new offence of interfering with key national infrastructure will be created, and courts will be given new powers to stop a “small minority of offenders” from travelling to protests.
Speaking to LBC, Johnson said: “There are some people who call those individuals legitimate protesters. They are not.
“They are irresponsible crusties who are basically trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.
“That is why we have taken the powers and why Priti Patel is doing the right thing to bring in powers so they can get six months or an unlimited fine.”
‘We are going nowhere’
However, Insulate Britain spokesperson Liam Norton, speaking outside the Royal Courts where a hearing concerning the M25 injunction is being held said: “Insulate Britain wishes to profoundly apologise for the disruption caused over the past three weeks. We cannot imagine undertaking such acts in normal circumstances. But we believe that the reality of our situation has to be faced.
“The collapse of the climate is happening around us. We face economic chaos and the breakdown of law and order in a matter of years. We will lose our incomes, pensions, and savings while passing on an unwanted legacy to our children. They will be rightly furious. Around the world thousands of millions of people will lose their lives through slaughter and starvation as society collapses.”
He added that the group is urging the government to demonstrate leadership and “live up to its responsibilities to protect us, to defend law and order.”
“As soon as we have a meaningful statement we can trust, we will call off the campaign. That is all we ask,” he further added.
“But, if our government believes that our acts are outrageous and illegal, that there is no right of necessity to cause disruption, to prevent the far greater destruction of our economy and way of life, then it has a duty to act decisively.
“Take us to court, charge us, and put us in prison. We are more fearful of the loss of our country than we are of the courts. Throw injunctions at us, but we are going nowhere, there is nowhere to go.”
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