A police officer has been 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 roadblock introduced while an activist was on the motorway on Wednesday morning.
Chief Constable BJ Harrington has warned it is ‘only a matter of time’ before someone is killed at a Just Stop Oil protest.
He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The only way to stop this is for Just Stop Oil to grow up frankly and realize it is putting people’s lives at risk.’
The climate group said around 10 of its supporters climbed onto overhead gantries at several locations on the M25 from 6.30am.
It brought traffic to a standstill on several sections of the UK’s busiest motorway.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said her “thoughts and best wishes” were with the injured officer, accusing Just Stop Oil of “guerrilla tactics” and later calling the protesters “extermists”.
“I fully support the police in using all available tools 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 do a great job, unfortunately in recent months and years we have seen an erosion of trust in the police to act against radicals, roadblockers, vandals, militants and extremists.
“But we also saw the police seem to lose faith in themselves, in yourselves, in your authority, in your power – an institutional reluctance. This must change.
“Criminal damage, obstruction of the freeway, public nuisance – none of this should be accepted. Vandalizing a work of art is not a human right. It is not a civil liberty to prevent ambulances from driving. to reach the sick and injured.
In a statement, Just Stop Oil described the officer’s injury as “an awful situation” and acknowledged that the disruption “should not happen”.
He added: “The failure of our policy has left us with no other option as we seek to protect our rights and freedoms from a breakdown in law and order due to an overheated world.
“The government can end this immediately by stopping new dirty oil and gas.”
Members of Just Stop Oil were joined by activists from Animal Rebellion, a group that campaigns for “a plant-based food system”.
The Metropolitan Police said a person locked themselves on an overhead gantry near Junctions 24 and 25.
The force said the locks “add more complexity to our removal crews” as they require “specialized equipment” to remove protesters.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said officers were dealing with Just Stop Oil activists as quickly as possible.
He said: “We went as fast as we think we can on the JSO (Just Stop Oil) issues.
“We apparently can’t take snipers to people climbing the gates. When we use the angle grinders we apparently have to remove the locks, we can’t remove the limbs at the same time.
“There are limits to how quickly you can do this. We turn to these things very quickly. We’re going as fast as we can.
Rishi Sunak said his government was “moving forward” with legislation giving police more powers to stop protests by groups such as Just Stop Oil.
His comments came after Tory MP for Runnymede and Weybridge Ben Spencer told the Commons that the M25 protests are ‘causing disruption and misery for my constituents, including problems accessing my local hospital’.
In his response, the Prime Minister said “we are moving forward with legislation to give the police the powers they need to stop this type of extremist manifestation”.
Just Stop Oil staged 32 days of disruption from late September and throughout October which the Met said resulted in 677 arrests with 111 people charged and officers working a total of 9,438 shifts additional.
According to Just Stop Oil, his supporters have been arrested more than 2,000 times since his campaign began on April 1, and 15 are currently in jail.
National Council of Police Chiefs Chairman Martin Hewitt told the body’s joint annual conference that the police are “not anti-protest, but we are pro-accountability”.
Speaking to reporters after his conference speech, Mr Hewitt said some protest groups were increasingly using “dangerous” tactics.