Insulate Britain has apologised for “causing disruption” to roads around London over the past several weeks
A spokesman said the group “profoundly” apologised after Prime Minister Boris Johnson labelled protesters “irresponsible crusties”.
Yesterday, a tearful woman begged them to let her through so she could go and see her elderly mother who was in an ambulance on her way to Canterbury hospital.
Over the past three weeks, protesters from the Extinction Rebellion offshoot have blocked major roads including the M25 and the M4.
More than 100 Insulate Britain protesters were served with an injunction against road-blocking demonstrations at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts, Insulate Britain spokesman Liam Norton said: “We cannot imagine undertaking such acts in normal circumstances. But we believe that the reality of our situation has to be faced.”
He added: “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 ask the prime minister to make the statement the country wants to hear – that our government will live up to its responsibilities to protect us, to defend law and order.”
The prime minister told LBC earlier that those involved are “doing considerable damage to the economy” and are “not” legitimate protesters.
The PM added that his government “will give the police the powers they need to stop their reckless and selfish behaviour”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel today announced the government plans to increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, as well as criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and the press, in a bid to combat disruptive protests.
“I will not tolerate the so-called eco-warriors trampling over our way of life and draining police resources,” she said in a speech at the Tory Party conference.
“Their actions, their actions over recent weeks have amounted to some of the most self-defeating environmental protests that this country has ever seen.
“Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our party will forever fight to uphold. But it must be within the law.”
Following the group’s apology, Insulate Britain spokesman Tim Gough told Sky News that unless politicians take action on climate change, “these inconveniences will continue”.
“No action is being taken by them. There are lots of policies being mentioned, there are things that Boris has sang, but he’s not actually taking leadership to reduce the country’s CO2 output of this country,” he said.
He added that while there is “talk, talk, talk” by politicians, Insulate Britain wants them to “walk the walk” and take concrete action to “commit to insulate the houses of Britain to a zero-carbon standard within the next eight to 10 years”.
Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson – who is an environmental campaigner and international ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network – told Sky News the actions of Insulate Britain protestors are not helping their cause.
The government crackdown on disruption follows days of protests by Insulate Britain, which has staged sit-down demonstrations on a series of key roads around London – including on the M25, M1 and M4.
On 2 October, the government obtained a fresh injunction banning the group from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A roads around London.
The new powers will be introduced by Ms Patel and added as an amendment in the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill, currently going through parliament.
The PM’s father told Sky News that “Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are making a mistake if they think antagonising ordinary people is going to help the cause”.
He added: “It is not a good idea, it needs to stop – whether it needs to stop by legal means – Kit Malthouse or whatever – I do not know, but I am simply saying as a matter of practical politics those who lead Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain need to realise that this is not actually going to advance the cause they are seeking to support.”
Speaking earlier on Sky News, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said Insulate Britain protestors have “crossed the line” of peaceful protest after video footage was released showing a paramedic removing an individual from the middle of the road.
Describing the footage as “deeply distressing”, the policing minister said something “does” need to be done about the situation.
“While we obviously all value the right to protest, there is a difference between causing disruption and causing damage,” he said.
“We believe that these protesters and some of the others that we have seen in the last couple of years have crossed the line between exercising their right but also their responsibility towards the rest of us and something needs to be done.”