Police arrested 12 people during the M4 protest over fuel prices for driving too slow, saying the demonstration was putting emergency services “at risk”.
Fuel protests have broken out across the UK as drivers call for a reduction in fuel tax, bringing motorways and major A-routes to a standstill with a series of slow-moving roadblocks.
The latest figures from Experian show that the average price of petrol reached a new high of 191.5 pence per liter on Sunday, while the average price of diesel was 199.0 pence per litre.
Those who took part in a roadblock on the Prince of Wales Bridge, between South Wales and Somerset, on Monday morning were stopped and told they were being held for driving below the agreed speed of 30mph for a period length of time.
Gwent Police Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said the protesters had breached legal notice put in place to ensure public safety.
“Over the last two weeks, we have been working together with a number of partners to ensure that emergency and critical services can continue and prevent serious disruption to both road users and local communities,” the superintendent said in a statement. Chief Harding.
“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced against the rights of the wider community that may be affected.
“Together with partners, we identified that failure to comply with statutory notification requirements would lead to the restriction of emergency and critical services, posing a risk to local communities, action was taken where I felt these risks existed.
“We are aware of other traffic violations, not related to the protest, such as the use of a mobile phone while driving. These offenses will be dealt with appropriately.”
The protests, which started around 7am, are understood to have been organized via social media under the banner Fuel price opposes taxes, although police said their talks were held with the organizer of the protest. M4 ‘come to grips with fuel prices’.
Ongoing protests began simultaneously on the M4 from Magor services in South Wales and Almondsbury Junction 20 near Bristol, with protesters told by police they could not stop and must drive no less than 30mph. .
The police escorted the two blockades as they crossed the River Severn, but prevented them from completing the return journey by stopping the convoys and arresting the drivers.
The Prince of Wales Bridge was closed for more than an hour in both directions.
Dozens of police vans and hundreds of officers from both Gwent Police and Avon and Somerset Police were on the scene at 8:30am when four people were arrested and at 10:45am when another eight people were arrested.
They were put into a police van and taken to the Newport Central police station, according to eyewitnesses.
Their cars were seized and the passengers were taken back to the Magor service station near Caldicot.
Some of the passengers said those arrested have been “unfairly” targeted by officers.
Among those arrested was former Cwmbran HGV driver Vicky Stamper.
The 41-year-old said she and her partner Darren had to quit their jobs in Bristol because they could no longer afford fuel.
She said: “We had to quit those jobs because it was costing us £380 a week just to get to and from work.
“Then I lost a job two weeks ago because the company couldn’t afford to put fuel in so many trucks, so last in, first out.”
She said the situation has taken an emotional toll on her and her family.
Speaking before the protest about the disruption it will cause to drivers, Ms Stamper added: “We are doing this for us and for them. If they want to have a moan, they should join us instead.”
When asked what he would ask Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do, he said: “Resign.”
Mobile welder Richard Dite, 44, from Maesteg, South Wales, was also arrested.
He said before the protest that it was costing him hundreds of pounds in fuel to get to work each week due to price increases.
“It’s costing me £300 a week before I even get to work and earn anything,” he said.
“My only option soon will be to put the welding equipment in the shed and call it a day, maybe go on strike.
“Face it, at this rate I’ll be in more of that way.”
Sharon Downs, 46, of Pontypridd was also welcomed after bringing her heavy vehicle into the protest.
Ms. Downs, a saddle fitter, told the Pennsylvania News Agency: “I’m sick of putting so much fuel in my car. I am self-employed and people would rather not have their saddles now than cover the cost of the trip due to fuel hikes.
“It means I’m losing business, but it also means the horses are suffering.”
“I’m disappointed that more people didn’t come with us today, but I think the price of fuel is unfortunately exactly the reason there aren’t more here. And the need to be at work,” he added.
“But something has to be done about it, we need to get the fuel tax cut before we bring this country to its knees.
“We need more protests and we need more people to come together so that our voices are heard and the government knows that we will not tolerate it anymore.”
There were also protests on the A38 in Devon and at a Tesco petrol station in Shepton Mallet.
Further afield, there were demonstrations on the M54 in Shropshire, near Ferrybridge services in West Yorkshire, on the A64 in the York area, on the M180 near Scunthorpe and on the A12 in Essex.