Live blog: 12 arrested as fuel protestors cause huge tailbacks on Wales-England M4 crossing
Gwent Police chief superintendent Tom Harding has confirmed a total of 12 people were arrested during the fuel price protest on the M4.
All were arrested for breaching the legal notice issued by the police prior to the protest by driving at under 30 mph for “a prolonged amount of time”.
“Over the last two weeks, we have been working jointly with a number of partners to ensure that emergency and critical services could continue and to prevent serious disruption to both road users and local communities,” Chief Supt Harding said.
“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. By implementing restrictions on the moving protest, we aimed to protect the public and local communities.
“Along with partners, we identified that failing to comply with the legal notice requirements would lead to emergency and critical services being restricted therefore posing a risk to local communities, action was taken when I deemed these risks existed.
“We are aware of other driving offences, not connected to the protest, such as the use of a mobile phone whilst driving. These offences will be dealt with appropriately.”
At least eight protesters who were carrying out a demonstration along the M4 have been arrested on suspicion of committing a public order offence.
The drivers of the vehicles were told they were being arrested for driving too slow, below the 30mph or more they were told they had to drive to carry out the action legally.
Dozens of police vans and police officers blocked the eastbound and westbound carriageways of the M4 just past the Prince of Wales Bridge into Wales to carry out the arrests.
Those arrested were taken into custody and PA news agency understands they were transported by police van to Newport Central Police Station, South Wales.
Their vehicles were seized, and those considered passengers were driven back to Magor Service Station where their convoy started from.
A number of the M4 protesters have said they believe those who were arrested have been “unfairly” targeted by Gwent Police and Avon and Somerset Police.
Drivers of the vehicles conducting a rolling roadblock on the motorway from Magor Services, South Wales, this morning were arrested for a public order offence, breaching the rules requiring them to drive at a speed of 30mph or more.
Passengers of some of the vehicles, who were driven back to the service station in a police van just before midday, said some of the motorists were unable to drive any faster due to the demonstrators leading the convoy driving at about 10-15mph.
On the westbound carriageway of the M4 near to the second Severn crossing uniformed police officers were arresting eight fuel price protesters who had been driving vehicles.
A PA news agency reporter at the scene said they were being arrested for driving slower than the agreed 30mph speed limit.
It is understood that protesters who had blocked the eastbound carriageway of the Severn crossing were also being arrested.
The eastbound carriageway of the Prince of Wales bridge remains closed due to the protest, Gwent Police said.
Meanwhile, police have stopped the rolling protest on the westbound carriageway before the crossing.
Police are now arresting protesters for driving at a speed lower than 30mph.
Around 100 police officers are on the westbound carriageway.
A Gwent Police spokesman said: “Please be aware, eastbound on the Prince of Wales bridge remains closed at this time.
“Diversions are in place, directing drivers to the M48 bridge. We are seeking to return traffic to normal as soon as possible.”
As well as the convoy along the M4 between Wales and England, some separate protests are also taking place elsewhere in England.
West Yorkshire Police said a “small group” of motorists were protesting about fuel prices in the vicinity of Ferrybridge services.
“There is currently no disruption to the motorway network in the rush-hour period, but we would advise drivers to avoid Ferrybridge services,” a force spokesman said.
“We acknowledge the importance of lawful protests but will deal swiftly with any criminal offences.
“It is clear deliberate disruption of the network will inconvenience huge numbers of people, draw police resources away from other important work and potentially delay the response times of all emergency services.”
Devon and Cornwall Police had earlier tweeted: “We are aware of a go-slow protest having commenced at 7:10am from Exeter Services heading northbound.
“This is currently around a dozen vehicles in size and is being accompanied by police vehicles to ensure the safety of all road users.”
A protest is also taking place at a Tesco petrol station in Shepton Mallet, Avon and Somerset Police said.
“We do not believe any other petrol stations are affected at this time,” a force spokesman said.
Gwent Police warned protesters that it was aware of “driving offences” being committed during the fuel protest.
“We are aware of driving offences being committed during the planned protest on the M4,” a spokesman said.
“We are committed to increasing the safety of all road users in Gwent and beyond.
“We urge all motorists to drive carefully, responsibly and within the limits of the law.”
Chief Superintendent Tom Harding, of Gwent Police, said: “We are seeing significant delays both east and westbound on the Prince of Wales Bridge due to the planned protest.
“We are seeking to return traffic to normal as soon as possible.
“Please keep an eye on our social media channels for further updates throughout the day.”
Meanwhile, Avon and Somerset Police said two slow-moving roadblocks in the force area have a potential to cause disruption – one on the M4 westbound, travelling from junction 17 towards Wales, and another on the M5 northbound, due to travel from junction 24 towards Almondsbury Interchange later.
So slow has the traffic become that three people were seen getting out of their cars and playing football on the empty side of the motorway.
It is illegal to walk on the motorway so this is not to be encouraged.
Fuel protesters who were heading eastbound on the M4 turned around at exit 17 for Chippenham.
They are now continuing their “go slow” convoy heading westbound towards Wales and the Prince of Wales Bridge.
Drivers are currently doing around 20mph, causing huge tailbacks.
Martin Crowley, 48, from Cardiff said he is a self-employed exotic animal courier and said fuel prices are damaging his livelihood.
“Fuel cost me £280 over two days last week. It’s unbelievable.
“You can hardly make a living any more,” Mr Crowley said.
For a few minutes both carriageways of the M4 approaching the M4 Prince of Wales Severn Bridge crossing were brought to a standstill by go-slow protests travelling east and west.
Two police motorcyclists rode in front of four vehicles travelling at around 30mph from the Bristol area towards South Wales.
There was a marked police patrol car behind the protestors, followed by dozens of queuing motorists.
A larger convoy of protestors drove over the Severn crossing heading into England from Wales with a large backlog of traffic following behind.
Former HGV driver Vicky Stamper, 41, from Cwmbran said she and her partner Darren had to leave jobs in Bristol because they could not afford the fuel any longer.
Ms Stamper said: “We had to leave those jobs because it was costing us £380 a week just to get to and from work.
“I then lost a job two weeks ago because the company couldn’t afford to put fuel in that many lorries so, last in first out.”
She said the situation had taken an emotional toll on her and her family.
Talking about the disruption that the protest will cause to drivers on the M4, Ms Stamper added: “We’re doing this for us and for them. If they want to have a moan, they should join us instead.”
Asked what she would ask Boris Johnson to do, she said: “Resign.”
Mobile welder Richard Dite, 44, from Maesteg, South Wales said it is costing him over £300 in fuel to get to work every week due to price hikes.
“It’s costing me £300 a week before I even get to work and earn anything,” Mr Dite told PA news agency.
“My only option soon will be to put the welding gear in the shed and call it a day, maybe go on the doll.
“Face it at this rate I’ll be on more that way.”
He was joined at Magor Service Station with around a dozen or more other people who have driven this morning across the Prince of Wales Bridge in protest of fuel tax.
Avon and Somerset police tweeted: “A slow-moving rolling roadblock is under way on the M4.
“A number of vehicles will head east over the Prince of Wales Bridge and expected to exit the M4 at J22 (Pilning).
“There they plan to re-join westbound towards Wales.
“A similar protest from the England side is also expected.”
Police have warned of “serious disruption throughout the day” as fuel protesters target the Second Severn Crossing between Wales and England.
Protesters have left the M4 Magor services, near Caldicot, heading across the Prince of Wales bridge crossing the River Severn into England.
A convoy of around 20 vehicles has left the services.
Before departing they were told by police they cannot stop and must drive no slower than 30mph.
Police officers plan on directing protesters off the motorway either side of the bridge.
Some protesters have said they intend to meet in the middle and block the motorway.
Gwent Police said protests are expected to take place on the road network between 7am and 7pm on Monday.
They said organisers had indicated an intention to block the Prince of Wales Bridge, with the protest starting on the M4 at Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and junction 20 of the M4 westbound.
Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said he would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.
It is part of expected action on motorways across the nations of the UK on Monday as protesters take action and call for a cut in fuel duty.
Protests will target mainly three-lane motorways and see slow-downs on two lanes, leaving the fast lane free, according to FairFuelUK founder Howard Cox.
While he said his organisation is not involved in the action, he is “fully supportive” of the demonstrations so long as they are conducted legally.
The protests are understood to be organised via social media under the banner Fuel Price Stand Against Tax.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said he will carefully consider calls for a “more substantial” fuel duty cut after the 5p per litre reduction implemented in March failed to halt price rises.
Figures from data firm Experian show the average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a new high of 191.4p on Thursday, while diesel rose to 199.1p.
The Government said while it understands people are struggling with rising prices and have a right to protest, “people’s day-to-day lives should not be disrupted” and warned that traffic delays “will only add to fuel use”.
Mr Cox said: “I totally support their protest because people have reached the end of their tethers at the moment.”
He said other countries had cut fuel duty by more than the UK and asked “why the hell are we not doing it here?”
Mr Cox called for a cut of at least 20p, and warned that protests will continue if not.
He said: “There is an appetite (for such protest). If the Government don’t actually deliver on this, I think there’s going to be some serious escalation of protests.”
Bristol Airport advised travellers to allow extra time for their journeys.
In a tweet, the airport said: “Please note that there is a planned fuel protest to block the River Severn Bridge crossings this Monday July 4 from 8.30am.
“The protest will likely affect the M5, M4 and the two crossings to Wales. Please allow extra time if travelling to or from the airport.”
Essex Police Chief Inspector Anna Granger said her officers “are experienced at dealing with incidents which cause significant disruption”.
She said: “We will be monitoring the situation closely and have a policing operation in place to limit disruption.”
Gloucestershire Police said protests are likely to affect the A48, causing travel disruption in the Gloucester and Forest of Dean areas.
A Government spokesperson said: “While we respect the right to protest, people’s day-to-day lives should not be disrupted, especially on busy motorways where lives are put at risk and resulting traffic delays will only add to fuel use.
“The new Public Order Bill will make it a criminal offence to glue yourself to a dangerous motorway, which sees police spending hours trying to safely remove people.”
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