Nine protesters from the Just Stop Oil movement were arrested on Wednesday morning as police powers are “beefed up” by new policies. The activists were seen protesting throughout London, blocking motorists from entering the capital during rush hour traffic.
Later in the morning, protesters blocked traffic on Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge, Blackfriars Road, London Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge Road in central London. Frustrated commuters were documented yelling from their vehicles and beeping their horns, encouraging the protesters to move from the road.
Police officers quickly arrived at the scene as protesters slow marched over Westminster Bridge towards Parliament Square. The officers spoke to the protesters about the new regulations concerning disruptive protests that were passed just hours earlier. The activists were asked to move to the pavement and after a stern final warning, they obliged.
The Just Stop Oil protests followed within hours of the House of Lords vote to lower the threshold of what kind of protest is considered to cause “serious disruption”. The new regulation was passed, despite Baroness Jones from the Green party’s efforts to block it on Tuesday evening.
She filed a “fatal motion” claiming that because parliament had already rejected the motion to ban slow-walking protests, then it should not be considered again. Baroness Jones urged her peers to back her motion and said the law was “being enacted in an authoritarian manner by ministerial decree.”
The baroness’ endeavor was not successful, as the other Members of the House of Lords voted against it by 68 votes to 154, a majority of 86.
The enactment of this new law follows last month’s enforcement of the Public Order Act, which gives police officers greater powers when managing protests that are considered to be disruptive, granting officers more leeway to intrude when protesters attempt to block traffic when slow marching.
Ministers believed that new regulations were necessary as police lacked clarity of when their powers could be used to respond to protest activities. These efforts arose after police had received backlash from politicians over how they had been handling recent events with other Just Stop Oil protesters.
Activists continue to criticise the Public Order Act and feel that it grants powers to the police that are “too crude and too broad” following both the arrests of anti-monarchy protesters on the King’s Coronation Day and the arrests in London on Wednesday morning.