Revealed: The middle class Just Stop Oil protesters who brought M25 to a standstill include ex-teacher once rammed by Range Rover mum, a globe-trotting eco-consultant and ex-public schoolgirl
- Activists caused seven hours of traffic chaos after climbing gantries in three areas of the orbital motorway
- In a statement today, Just Stop Oil has said it is declaring the motorway ‘a site of civil resistance’ this week
- Group has asked that ‘no one travels on motorway from Wednesday to Friday’ as they will ‘block the highway’
- Protests took place at the Poyle Interchange, around J10 near Guildford and at J30 near the Dartford Crossing
- Frustrated drivers, including bus driver who takes special needs children to school, caught up in huge delays
- Just Stop Oil says protest is a response to temperatures rising above 40C for first time ever in UK yesterday
The Just Stop Oil protesters who caused hours of traffic chaos on the M25 today are a former teacher who was once rammed by a Range Rover mother during another protest in London, a globe-trotting eco-consultant and an ex-public schoolgirl, MailOnline can reveal.
Activists blocked three parts of the orbital motorway today after scaling gantries and hanging Just Stop Oil banners just minutes after issuing a statement declaring the M25 ‘a site of civil resistance’ this week.
Specialist climbing officers had to scale the gantries to remove the activists after drivers were caught in nine-mile tailbacks and hour-long queues.
Involved in the demonstrations today were Cressida Gethin, 20, a student from Herefordshire; Abigail Percy-Ratcliff, 23, a student from Glasgow; Louise Lancaster, 56, a former teacher and mother-of-three from Cambridge; and Emma Mani, 45, an environmental consultant and mother-of two-from Berkhamsted.
Mrs Lancaster scaled a gantry located just north of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge in Thurrock, Essex, between Junctions 30 and 31.
She was previously involved in one of the most notorious episodes in recent protest history – when she was ‘nudged’ by an irate motorist in her £80,000 Range Rover.
The retired teacher had sat in front of the 4×4 car during another demo in Thurrock in October last year.
Sherrilyn Speid, 35, was so angry and frustrated that she slowly edged her vehicle into Mrs Lancaster – and ended up being charged with assault by police.
The mother-of-one had been on the school run and pleaded with the demonstrators to allow her to pass so her 11-year-old could attend school on time.
The charge was later dropped, but when she appeared before magistrates in May, she was banned from driving for a year after pleading guilty to dangerous driving.
She called the protestors ‘terrorists’ and she was hailed a hero by other motorists caught up in long tail backs for fighting back after footage of the incident emerged.
Mrs Lancaster and her husband Tim live in a cul-de-sac in Grantchester, the idyllic village featured in the ITV detective drama of the same name.
Former teacher Louise Lancaster and husband Tim, a director of a climate change research group, pictured taking part in an Insulate Britain protest on Southwark Bridge last year
Ms Mani (pictured) lived much of her life in India, where she brought up her children, but says she ‘can’t live in the country I call home as I fear for my children’s future there’
Cressida Gethin, pictured during a Just Stop Oil press conference in London in April, is a music student from Murray Edwards at Cambridge University
Ms Gethin (right) pictured on a gantry over the M25 around Junction 10 between Guildford and Cobham in Surrey, where three lanes had to be closed
Mrs Mani is removed from the gantry by specialist police climbers after staging a protest on a gantry over the M25 near Heathrow Airport
Their £900,000 house is around 400 yards from the home of Tory peer and novelist Jeffrey Archer.
The couple are known in the village as dedicated eco-campaigners, and drive a white Renault Zoe electric hatchback car worth around £20,000.
They were pictured together during a protest on Southwark Bridge in October last year.
Mrs Mani, meanwhile, caused the M25 to be closed in both directions around the Poyle Interchange between Junction 14 and Junction 15 near Heathrow Airport after scaling another gantry as part of the same protest.
She regularly rages against the use of fossil fuels but her social media reveals that in recent years she left the UK to apparently spend many months travelling around India – only to return here to start protesting.
Pictures showing her enjoying a lavish trip around the subcontinent are interspersed with XR protest material.
Mrs Mani appears to be a music fan, particularly electronic and deep house, according to her MixCloud.
From a gantry above Junction 14, she said today: ‘I am sitting here in the peace and quiet of Junction 14, closed north and southbound. It is very quiet. Maybe the government will listen if they can hear me.’
Two of the other protesters were veteran eco-activists who have been arrested for previous stunts.
Ms Gethin and Ms Percy-Ratcliff took part in a demonstration near Junction 10 between Cobham and Guildford, Surrey, causing nine miles of traffic and hour-long delays.
Surrey Police has confirmed a 22-year-old woman was arrested by officers at the scene on suspicion of causing a danger to road users, causing a public nuisance, and for being a pedestrian on the motorway, but the force has not released their name.
Ms Gethin, a former student of the prestigious Hereford Cathedral School, appears to be one of the five main founders of Just Stop Oil.
Cressie, a music student from Murray Edwards at Cambridge University, has been campaigning on climate issues at her college.
She told The Tab: ‘I was very very surprised that Murray Edwards came out bottom of the league tables for their climate policies because I had imagined it was something they would have cared about and been active on’.
The talented chorister has performed with her brother, also a singer.
From the gantry above the M25 today, Ms Gethin said: ‘We are currently on a gantry above the M25. It is very loud up here and very windy. We have dropped a banner over the edge, securely tied, that says Just Stop Oil because that is what our government must do.
‘It must stop new oil and gas licences in the North Sea. We are risking our civil liberty being up here, we do not want to be up here, but we feel it is what we must do.’
Ms Percy-Ratcliff, meanwhile, worked as a book seller in Waterstones, according to her LinkedIn page.
She also took part in the protests at a Navigator depot in Thurrock in April, where activists caused fuel sites to close.
Petrol stations were also been forced to close after running out of fuel as the environmental group glued themselves to roads and blocked delivery tankers from leaving ports.
Mrs Lancaster pictured during a demonstration outside the Home Office in Marsham Street, Westminster, London in September last year
Ms Mani, another protester on a gantry at Junction 14, near Heathrow Airport, posted a video from her position over the motorway
Queuing traffic on the M25 today caused by Just Stop Oil protesters scaling gantries over the busy motorway today, which caused closures in three different areas
Drivers, including a bus driver who takes autistic children aged seven to 10 to a school in Leatherhead, were caught up in today’s chaos on the orbital motorway
Surrey Police confirmed officers attended the scene of the protest at J10, which closed three lanes of the motorway and led to the arrest of a woman
Today’s protests came shortly after Just Stop Oil released a lengthy statement in which the activists asked that ‘no one travels on this motorway from Wednesday to Friday this week as we will be blocking the highway’.
The statement added: ‘We fully acknowledge the cost and disruption this will cause to the public and ask that they take their demands for compensation to the government which has caused this unprecedented threat to our lives and liberties.’
Bus driver Ashley Reid takes special needs children aged seven to 10 to a school in Leatherhead by travelling between Junction 12 and 10. He said his pupils, who start at 9.15am, were around 90 minutes late for their last day of term as a result of the disruption.
The 40-year-old, from Reigate, added: ‘We joined [the motorway] just after 9am and we didn’t arrive at school until 10.45am… with their autism [they] found it difficult to understand and stay calm.
‘It was really disruptive and I felt so sorry for them… today was their last day before the summer break and they would all be changing classes so they just wanted to get to school and spend time with their teachers and friends.’
The children are set to finish school at 1pm, when Mr Reid will have to return to the school to pick them up.
‘I am sympathetic to the cause that these people are protesting against; however, they are disrupting a lot of innocent motorists and (in my opinion) will lose more sympathy than they gain’, he added.
Drivers stuck in huge delays as parts of the M25 remained blocked due to an ongoing Just Stop Oil protest on gantries above the motorway today
Traffic is diverted off the M25 near Junction 14 after police closed the road due to an activist scaling a gantry used to hold signs over the road
A Just Stop Oil banner hanging over the M25 anticlockwise in Surrey, between Cobham and Guildford during the protest this morning
A picture taken by one of the Just Stop Oil protestors showing an empty M25 between Junctions 14 and 15 following its closure
A spokesperson for Surrey Police said: ‘Officers were called just after 7am this morning following reports of a protest on the M25 just past junction 10 of the anti-clockwise carriageway.
‘Officers attended the scene and located a female protester sitting on top of a gantry over the motorway.
‘Three lanes needed to be closed while we worked to safely remove the woman, which involved a specialist team trained in dealing with incidents at height.
‘A 22-year-old woman from London, has been arrested on suspicion of causing a danger to road users, causing a public nuisance, and for being a pedestrian on the motorway.’
‘We appreciate this caused significant disruption this morning and want to thank drivers for their patience while we dealt with the incident. National Highways has since reopened all lanes on this part of the M25.’
A statement from Essex Police added: ‘Part of the M25 in Thurrock has been closed while we respond to reports of people on the gantry above the road. The section affected is between junctions 30 and 31.
‘We’re working to resolve the incident as quickly and safely as possible but please avoid the area. We appreciate your patience and understanding.’
Highways England tweeted: ‘Traffic is held in both directions on the M25 anti-clockwise in Surrey within J10 (A3 for Guildford) due to an ongoing Surrey Police led incident
‘There’s 60 minute delays anticlockwise on approach; 7 miles of congestion. Clockwise delays of 40 minutes; 4 miles of congestion.’
Frank Bird, National Highways senior network planner, described the demonstration as ‘extremely dangerous’.
He said: ‘We respect people’s right to protest. However, protesting on the strategic road network is extremely dangerous, not just for the protesters but for people using the roads.
‘Along with the police and other partners, we are working hard to limit the effects of protests on the strategic road network.’
It came as the nearby M3 westbound was closed following a fatal crash in the early hours of the morning.
A 69-year-old man and 67-year-old woman both died at the scene after their car collided with the central reservation at around 12.45am. Their next of kin are aware and are being supported by specialist officers.
The latest Just Stop Oil demonstrations have been brought on following a heatwave that saw the UK record its hottest ever day on Tuesday.
Temperatures hit an unprecedented 40.3C (104.54) in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, yesterday beating records.
A Just Oil spokesperson added: ‘The main thing is, we’ve just seen 40 degree temperatures, which have been predicted for decades, maybe it’s happening a bit faster.
‘But it has just revealed how inadequate the Government’s preparations for climate change are and their entire policy, and basically we’re just saying it’s evident now we cannot continue.
‘As we’re going on, we need to stop new oil. It’s the first step to ensuring we have a liveable future, and maybe it’s already too late. This is something we definitely need to do.’
Protesters from Just Stop Oil glue their hands to the frame of a copy of The Last Supper at the Royal Academy in London today
The people on the track are believed to have been Louis McKechnie, 21, from Weymouth, Bethany Mogie, 40, from St Albans, Joshua Smith, 29, a bricklayer from Manchester, and Alasdair Gibson, 21, from Aberdeen
The group has chosen the M25 as the site of the action as it is ‘the place where we confront the carbon economy headlong and bring our resistance into full public view.
It added: ‘The M25 has a kind of iconic status as the motorway from hell, doesn’t it? So it’s a reference to that.’
The group demands the government make a ‘meaningful statement’ that they will commit to stop licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK, which they say is ‘the necessary first step to ensuring a liveable future’.
Ms Gethin said: ‘I am terrified by the extreme heat in the UK this week, knowing that this will only get worse as we continue to extract and burn more and more fossil fuels.
‘This country has the technology and money to begin a just and rapid transition immediately using renewable energy, insulation and cheap public transport, but our government refuses to do so.
‘I feel it is my duty as a human being to demand change in a way that cannot be ignored.’
And Ms Percy-Ratcliff added: ‘I joined Just Stop Oil because I was worried about my future, about my sister’s future, but I think a lot of us have realised this week that we’re not talking about the future, we’re talking about now.
‘It was 40 degrees this week, and thousands of deaths are predicted across the country due to the heat. The government will not stop pushing fossil fuels; we have to stop them.’
Just Stop Oil will march and take part in a sit down protest in Westminster on Saturday ‘with thousands of ordinary people’ to create ‘mass civil resistance’ – calling for the public to join them.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: ‘The ability to protest peacefully in a democracy is important and where lawful, forces will seek to facilitate protests – but even if a protest is peaceful and non-violent, this doesn’t always mean the actions taken by protestors are legal.
‘At a time of significant demand on emergency services, if officers are on the roads resolving this disruption they aren’t available elsewhere preventing crime and keeping the public safe.’
Today’s demonstrations come two weeks after activists from the same group glued themselves to the frame of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Extinction Rebellion co-founder Simon Bramwell was among those involved on July 5, along with fellow XR activist Caspar Hughes.
Just Stop Oil also named three of the protesters as Jessica Agar, 21, an art student from Hereford; Tristan Strange, 40, a community organiser from Swindon; and Lucy Porter, 47, a former teacher from Leeds.
The activists entered The Collection Gallery at the Royal Academy just and glued their hands to the base of the painting.
Security quickly responded and cleared visitors away before trying to prise the activists off the artwork.
Police arrived nearly an hour later and arrested them on suspicion of criminal damage.
That action took place days after protestors glued themselves to works by JMW Turner, Vincent van Gogh and Horatio McCulloch in London, Glasgow and Manchester to warn against ‘a future of suffering’.
On July 3, Just Stop Oil activists stormed the track of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Pictures from trackside showed a small group of protesters, each wearing an orange top, sitting in the middle of the track before being forcibly removed by police.
The people on the track are believed to have been Louis McKechnie, 21, from Weymouth, Bethany Mogie, 40, from St Albans, Joshua Smith, 29, a bricklayer from Manchester, and Alasdair Gibson, 21, from Aberdeen.
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