Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley joked today that he cannot tackle Just Stop Oil eco-zealots with snipers or ‘take off their limbs’ with angle grinders as Home Secretary Suella Braverman urged police to take a tougher stance on ‘extremist’ protesters after an officer was injured on the M25.
During a Q&A with police chiefs at a London conference, Britain’s top cop defended the response to the environ-extremists who have shut Britain’s busiest motorway for the third day running, declaring: ‘We’re going as quickly as we can.’
But Ms Braverman told the same event in Westminster this afternoon: ‘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’.
She said: ‘Thousands of police days and hours are being diverted away from combating rape and homicide and burglary to dealing with these extremists. 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’.
And Tory MP Peter Bone told MailOnline that the police and justice system are being ‘too soft’ and officers should be ordered to use force to remove protesters – even if eco-warriors end up injured.
Defending the approach, Sir Mark Rowley has revealed that his 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 this morning. It came amid growing public anger that dozens of Just Stop Oil supporters, including a 75-year-old grandmother, have been able to climb gantries on the M25 with ease with specialist officers required to remove them.
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.’
He spoke hours after one Just Stop Oil protestor caused a lorry crash and left a police outrider hurt after going on the motorway between Junctions 26 and 27 on Wednesday morning.