The middle-class eco-mob who brought M25 to a standstill

The middle-class eco-mob who brought M25 to a standstill: Organic farmer who compares himself to Gandhi, a puppeteer, a vegan ‘business coach’ and an IT expert who describes herself as a ‘world citizen’

  • Organic farmer Roger Hallam, 55, believes those running society ‘should have a bullet through their heads’ 
  • Allegations of a ‘cult-like’ following for the Welshman who compares his tactics to those of heroic activists 
  • David McKenny, 38;  Zoe Cohen, 51; Janine Eagling, 60; and Liam Norton, 36, were also among protesters 
  • It took up to four hours to arrest the activists with 60 arrested for illegally obstructing the highway 
  • Group is Extinction Rebellion offshoot urging Government to reduce home heating emissions to zero
  • ** Do you know any of the protesters? Please email: [email protected] **  

The middle-class eco-mob who blockaded the M25 yesterday included an organic farmer who compares himself to Mahatma Gandhi, a puppeteer, a vegan ‘business coach’ and a ‘rebel’ IT project manager. 

Farmer Roger Hallam, 55, who helped found Extinction Rebellion before leaving to joining protest organiser Insulate Britain, wants to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world’, starting with Britain, and believes those running society ‘should have a bullet through their heads’. 

There have been allegations of a ‘cult-like’ following for the Welshman who compares his tactics to those of heroic activists Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He is said to have been inspired to take up climate activism after his farm in Wales went bust due to bad weather. 

Ironically, Mr Hallam owns a farmhouse described as ‘poorly insulated’ in an official energy performance certificate. His 2,000 sq ft farmhouse in Carmarthen, South Wales, gets the lowest possible energy rating on the certificate. It is unclear if Mr Hallam has taken steps to improve the rating since it was issued six years ago.

Asked about the certificate last night, a spokesman for the group said: ‘This is the point – UK homes are the leakiest in Europe, with many millions of families being unable to afford the advice and help needed to insulate the building they live in.’

Joining Mr Hallam was David McKenny, 38, from Cambridge, who was one of six XR protesters who ‘doorstepped’ TV wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough, 95, at the height of pandemic after he criticised their tactics. The group posted a letter through Sir David’s door as he isolated due to his age last year. 


Farmer Roger Hallam, 55, who helped found Extinction Rebellion before leaving to joining protest organiser Insulate Britain (pictured left at a Heathrow protest). Janine Eagling, 60, (right) helped to block the M25 and A13 junction yesterday

Eli Rose (pictured), 26, spent 16 days in a tree last September to protest the HS2 rail link. Ms Rose lived in the tree in Parliament Square because she ‘cannot bear’ knowing her potential future children will be born ‘into a world where they will have to battle through food shortages and drought’

Steve Gower, 54, pictured in a ‘Team Corbyn’ T-shirt from Gloucester, is one of the ringleaders of yesterday’s protests


Liam Norton (left), 36, an electrician; and Zoe Cohen (right), 51, a self-employed mother, are both part of Insulate Britain

A ringleader of the M25 protests was an unemployed Corbynite eco-warrior recently fined for tossing a cigarette outside his local Jobcentre because he was late for his appointment, MailOnline can reveal today.

Of the senior members of Insulation Britain, only Steve Gower, 54, from Gloucester, has been involved in the action. He was arrested, the organisation said. They also said that 90 people took part in today’s action and 78 of them were arrested.

Mr Gower, who is unemployed but describes himself as a volunteer advocate for the homeless in his home city, is also an active Unite union campaigner.

Last summer he was ordered to pay £267 by a magistrate after he dropped a cigarette in the street while visiting the Job Centre.

Mr Gower said that the fine spiralled because he couldn’t afford the reduced fine of £75 and was told there was no opportunity to pay in instalments. 

Magistrates fined him £100 and ordered him to pay costs of £135 and a surcharge of £42.

He had dropped in Southgate Street by an employee of Gloucester City Council but didn’t do so and was issued with a fixed penalty notice of £100 on Monday September 9 2019. 

In a statement read to the court Mr Gower said: ‘On the way I rolled a cigarette and began smoking it, but when I realised the time I panicked about my appointment at the job centre and hastened my speed.

‘About 20 yards from the entrance I was tapped on my shoulder and asked if I knew I dropped a cigarette.

‘The official then started filling out paperwork and I asked ‘Will this take long?’. I then told him he’d better follow me into the job centre so I wouldn’t be sanctioned for being late. He interviewed me inside the job centre and gave me a copy of what he had written. I was so stressed at the time.’ 

Mr McKenny was jailed for 14 days for contempt after he glued himself to the dock and filmed officials at City of London Magistrates’ Court in April. The community musician has taught puppeteering at the Royal Northern College of Music and performed it at Bath Spa University.

The two men were among a group of protesters who left furious motorists trapped in cars for hours yesterday after they brought rush-hour chaos to Britain’s busiest motorway. 

Dozens of activists from the group – which campaigns for cheaper and better home insulation – blocked five junctions from 8am, bringing traffic to a standstill in Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Surrey and near Heathrow. 

Vegan business coach Zoe Cohen, 51, from Lymm, Cheshire, said she joined yesterday’s action to demand ‘real action’ from ministers. She was involved in XR’s takeover of central London last month. 

Ms Cohen said then: ‘We are more scared of the reality of what this system is doing to ending life on Earth and ending our future and our children’s future than we are of spending a night in a cell.’ She describes herself as a ‘carbon literate coach’ and ‘XR catalyser’ on social media. 

Janine Eagling, 60, from London, helped to block the M25 and A13 junction yesterday. She has been involved with XR since 2018, helping to form blockades across Waltham Forest. 

The IT project manager describes herself online as a ‘world citizen’ and ‘rebel’ as well as a cyclist, walker and gardener. She has overseen IT projects at top universities and was part of a campaign to improve safety for cyclists in the capital. 

Liam Norton, 36, a London electrician blocking drivers yesterday, said he was ‘shocked at the lack of significant action from our Government’. 

He became involved in climate activism in 2018 when he helped blockade five bridges in the capital and went on to join XR’s ‘actions team’, which is responsible for planning civil disobedience. He was convicted over blocking printing presses last year. 

He delayed court proceedings by gluing himself to a table. It took three hours for police to remove him and the stunt is thought to have cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

Today he told Good Morning Britain: ‘The government is not looking after their citizens. We are. We’ve got a plan to insulate Britain that gives you the best value for money in terms of reducing emissions. Hundreds of thousand of meaningful jobs will be created.’

Another protester, Steve Gower, 54, from Gloucester, is unemployed but describes himself as a volunteer advocate for the homeless and is an active Unite union campaigner. 

An irate driver who had enough of the queues on the M25 took the matter into his own hands yesterday and began moving protesters with links to XR and grabbing their banners

Police then tackled the driver as people took to social media to praise him and criticise the officers who dragged him away 

Puppeteer and business guru… activists behind stunt

ORGANIC FARMER

Roger Hallam, 55, helped set up XR but left to advise Insulate Britain, which launched this summer. The organic farmer wants to ‘bring down all the regimes in the world’, starting with Britain, and believes those running society ‘should have a bullet through their heads’. There have been allegations of a ‘cult-like’ following for the Welshman who compares his tactics to those of heroic activists Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He is said to have been inspired to take up climate activism after his farm in Wales went bust due to bad weather.

Organic farmer and activist Roger Hallam

PUPPETEER

David McKenny, 38, from Cambridge, was one of six XR protesters who ‘doorstepped’ TV wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough, 95, at the height of pandemic after he criticised their tactics. The group posted a letter through Sir David’s door as he isolated due to his age last year. Mr McKenny was jailed for 14 days for contempt after he glued himself to the dock and filmed officials at City of London Magistrates’ Court in April. The community musician has taught puppeteering at the Royal Northern College of Music and performed it at Bath Spa University.

ELECTRICIAN

Liam Norton, 36, a London electrician blocking drivers yesterday, said he was ‘shocked at the lack of significant action from our Government’. He became involved in climate activism in 2018 when he helped blockade five bridges in the capital and went on to join XR’s ‘actions team’, which is responsible for planning civil disobedience. He was  convicted over blocking printing presses last year. He delayed court proceedings by gluing himself to a table. It took three hours for police to remove him and the stunt is thought to have cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

BUSINESS COACH

Zoe Cohen, 51, from Lymm, Cheshire, called yesterday for ‘real action’ from ministers. The vegan business coach was involved in XR’s takeover of central London last month. She said then: ‘We are more scared of the reality of what this system is doing to ending life on Earth and ending our future and our children’s future than we are of spending a night in a cell.’ She describes herself as a ‘carbon literate coach’ and ‘XR catalyser’ on social media.

IT EXPERT

Janine Eagling, 60, from London, helped to block the M25 and A13 junction yesterday. She has been involved with XR since 2018, helping to form blockades across Waltham Forest. The IT project manager describes herself online as a ‘world citizen’ and ‘rebel’ as well as a cyclist, walker and gardener. She has overseen IT projects at top universities and was part of a campaign to improve safety for cyclists in the capital.

Last summer Gower was ordered to pay £267 by a magistrate after he dropped a cigarette in the street while visiting a Jobcentre. He said that the fine spiralled because he couldn’t afford the reduced fine of £75 and was told there was no opportunity to pay in instalments.  

He was joined at the M25 road blockage by Eli Rose, 26, who spent 16 days in a tree last September to protest the HS2 rail link. 

Ms Rose lived in the tree in Parliament Square because she ‘cannot bear’ knowing her potential future children will be born ‘into a world where they will have to battle through food shortages and drought.’

She said that police didn’t let anyone pass food or water to her for two days which made her feel ill but she added: ‘Some of the protesters were doctors and enabled antibiotics to be tied on to a rope.’ 

Insulate Britain said it had carried out the action after ministers ignored demands it sent in August to commit to improve home insulation. The group vowed the disruption was ‘just the start’ until the Government made a meaningful commitment to change.

But the climate warriors were accused of hypocrisy as critics warned their stunt led to an increase in vehicle emissions.

AA president Edmund King said: ‘This action is not only incredibly dangerous in potentially putting lives at risk, but it also backfires in environmental terms by causing more delays and more vehicle emissions.

‘These are some of the busiest sections of the M25 where tens of thousands of drivers will have been affected and it has a negative knock-on effect on economic activity.’

Police dealing with the chaos – including at junction 14 for Heathrow’s Terminal 4 – were criticised for taking up to four hours to arrest demonstrators.

In one incredible scene caught on video, officers in Kent even appeared to protect an activist from an irate driver who attempted to move the protesters himself. 

He was dragged away by police as another man shouted, ‘I just don’t understand why you won’t move them’. 

 Another driver tried to remove a group in Hertfordshire. Around 50 police guarded the activists and set up a diversion.

A total of 92 people were later arrested in connection with the stunt. But officers were accused of being too slow to act and many questioned why it took until midday to break up protests that began at 8am.

One critic tweeted a video of the chaos with the message: ‘Public servants stand by.’

Another wrote: ‘The irony is we are thermal insulation engineers (laggers) who have been insulating Britain for decades but can’t get to work because of Insulate Britain protests.’  

With police again accused of being too scared of tackling climate change activists, one critic tweeted the video from with the message: ‘Public servants stand by while the public do the job they are paid for. This bl**dy country at times is just beyond. 

‘They were happy to arrest people for going for a walk or stopping on a bench for a coffee’. 

Furious motorist Sam, 37, from Bromley, south-east London, said he was stuck in the traffic with his two children for three hours. He insisted: ‘I am seething at how irresponsible and selfish their demonstration is.

‘It is ill-considered and poorly executed. I am all for change and reducing fuel poverty but there are more sensible ways to lobby and protest.’ 

Police officers stand in front of protesters as they failed to immediately arrest a group from ‘Insulate Britain’, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion (XR), who blocked the A41 roundabout at Junction 20 of the M25

Insulate Britain protesters sit on the M25 yesterday near junction 14 for London Heathrow Airport – this group, who could have been killed when they walked into the road, took four hours to arrest and remove

Police stood next to the Insulate Britain protesters at junction 20 of the M25 at Kings Langley in Hertfordshire yesterday morning rather than immediately arrest them 

XR offshoot Insulate Britain wants zero home heating emissions 

Historic England commissioner Ben Derbyshire is among the supporters of Insulate Britain

Insulate Britain is an independent campaign launched on August 20 by members of Extinction Rebellion, who want the Government to reduce home heating emissions to zero. 

The organisation has claimed that its demands for the Prime Minister were delivered to Downing Street by hand on August 21, but so far no-one from the Government has responded.

Insulate Britain’s listed mailing address is a Victorian semi-detached house in Streatham, South London, constructed in 1882 and now worth £1.5million.

The group has been holding campaign meetings since June 29, and held gatherings over the weekend in Taunton as well as Bath and Bristol.

A spokesman said: ‘We are demanding the Government and Boris Johnson create hundreds of thousands of jobs, lower our emissions, and save lives.’

The group said that its actions would continue ‘until the government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate Britain’s 29million leaky homes’. It describes itself as ‘a new group demanding that the Government gets on with the job of insulating Britain’s homes’. 

Among their supporters are Ben Derbyshire, who is the former president of the Royal Institute for British Architects and a commissioner for Historic England. 

They have two main demands:

 

The Metropolitan Police said it took action ‘to ensure disruption was minimised’ while the Hertfordshire force insisted it ‘quickly mobilised resources to the scene’.

Last night, Extinction Rebellion said: ‘This is nothing to do with Extinction Rebellion.’

Obstruction of a UK road ‘without lawful authority or excuse’ is an offence punishable by up to six months in prison.

Police guidance stresses that officers should seek to facilitate protests on the presumption that they will be peaceful.

They are told they must minimise disruption and harm for those not involved in the demonstration, but they also must protect the rights of peaceful activists. 

Police can only issue a condition restricting a protest when it is necessary to stop serious disruption or damage. 

Yesterday, protesters were arrested for highway obstruction and causing public nuisance.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘People have the right to protest freely, but clearly they shouldn’t be doing anything which is either illegal or endangers the public.’    

Of the senior members of Insulation Britain, only unemployed Corbynista Steve Gower, 54, from Gloucester, was involved in yesterday’s protests. He has been arrested, the organisation says. 

A total of 92 people were arrested in connection with the incidents sparking chaos across five different police constabularies. 

Surrey Police detained 36 people across two demonstrations at Junction 6 near Godstone and Junction 14 by Heathrow Airport.

They remain in custody on suspicion of public nuisance and wilful obstruction offences after officers were called just before 8am.

A spokesman said: ‘A total of 36 people have been arrested after we were called to protests at Junction 6 and Junction 14 of the M25 which were reported just before 8am (September 13).

‘The protesters were arrested on suspicion of public nuisance and wilful obstruction offences and are currently in custody.

‘Protesters from Insulate Britain were at the two locations as part of a coordinated protest which has also affected other junctions of the motorway.

‘Diversions were set up while officers dealt with the situation.

‘Both Surrey junctions of the M25 are now fully reopened and we would like to thank motorists for their patience while we dealt with the situation.’

Traffic builds up on the M25 between junctions 11 and 12 after the protest group sat down on the motorway near Heathrow

Police officers remove a protester who stopped traffic at junction three of the M25 at Swanley in Kent yesterday morning

Officers from the Met Police arrested a further 14 people for highway obstruction after they also ‘quickly responded’ to people blocking the Poyle Interchange at junction 14 near Heathrow Airport just after 8am.

A spokesman said: ‘The Met chaired a cross-force and stakeholder meeting with a number of agencies to share information, and co-ordinate activity to ensure disruption was minimised.

‘We are working with colleagues at Heathrow Airport to establish what, if any, impact the protest had on the airport.’

The co-ordinated demonstration on the roads network saw Hertfordshire Police arrest 18 people in connection with the protest at the Kings Langley interchange near junction 20 for Hemel Hempstead after demonstrators were removed for ignoring officers’ requests to move.

Superintendent Adam Willmot, of Herts Police, said: ‘We were called to reports of a protest at around 8am (Monday 13 September) and quickly mobilised resources to the scene.

‘The M25 was closed westbound at junction 20, resulting in congestion and delays on both the M25 and the A41.

‘Protestors ignored police requests to move location, so we took robust action to enable roads to be reopened and to remove the protestors causing obstructions.

‘Our officers dealt with the disruption as quickly as possible, reopening routes for local businesses and residents.

‘The road closures were lifted by 10.20am.’

Essex Police confirmed 12 people were arrested on suspicion of highways obstruction after climate protests blocked the Purfleet Interchange at Junction 31 for Lakeside on the Essex side of the Dartford Crossing shortly before 8.15am.

Chief Inspector Paul Austin, of Essex Police, said: ‘This incident caused significant disruption and our officers worked to resolve it as quickly and safely as possible.

‘I want to thank the drivers affected for their patience and understanding.’ 

Kent Police also arrested 12 people in connection with a blockade at the Swanley Interchange after officers attempted to engage with the activists.

A spokesman said: ‘Twelve people have been arrested after a roundabout which connects with the M25 at junction 3, near Swanley, was obstructed.

‘The individuals were detained on suspicion of obstructing a highway after Kent Police was called to reports a group of people had gathered at the scene at 8.10am on Monday 13 September 2021.

‘They remain in custody as enquiries continue. The road was clear by around 11.40am.’ 

Police arrest protestors at junction 3 of the M25 this morning which is at Swanley in Kent

Protesters are taken away by police after the Insulate Britain group caused chaos at the M25 in Swanley, Kent, yesterday 

Supporters of the group include Ben Derbyshire, who is the former president of the Royal Institute for British Architects and a commissioner for Historic England.

He said: ‘Britain has the leakiest and poorest performing housing in Europe that contributes 20 per cent of our total climate emissions.

‘Instead of fiddling while Rome burns with a series of ill-thought through programmes, reliant on private investment and debt, Government needs to invest in a major programme of deep renovation for energy efficiency with measures to support the supply chain, hitherto endlessly messed around with by half-hearted and inconsistent subsidies. 

‘The cost benefits for health and well-being, unemployment, homelessness and delivery of a levelling-up programme (otherwise dependent on long term and grandiose transport projects) will pay back the investment amply.’

An Insulate Britain spokesman said: ‘We are demanding the Government and Boris Johnson create hundreds of thousands of jobs, lower our emissions, and save lives.’ 

The organisation added that its actions would continue ‘until the government makes a meaningful commitment to insulate Britain’s 29million leaky homes’. 

It claimed that its demands for the Prime Minister were delivered to Downing Street by hand on August 21, but so far no-one from the Government has responded.

Insulate Britain’s listed mailing address is a Victorian semi-detached house in Streatham, South London, constructed in 1882 and now worth £1.5million.    

Insulate Britain’s listed mailing address is this £1.5million semi-detached house (centre) in Streatham, South London

** Do you know any of the protesters? Please email: [email protected] ** 

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