‘You have to take offensive action’: Anti-Ulez group defends destroying cameras

Over a dozen camera were vandalised in Bromley, London, on the first day of the Ulez rollout.

A damaged ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) camera lying on the road in Harefield, Uxbridge, Greater London. (AJ Simpson/PA)
A damaged ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) camera lying on the road in Harefield, Uxbridge, Greater London. (AJ Simpson/PA)

An anti-Ulez group has defended its tactic of destroying cameras following the rollout of the scheme across London.

On Tuesday, the ultra-low emission zone was extended across the capital, meaning people who drive in the zone in a vehicle which does not meet minimum emissions standards are now required to pay a £12.50 daily fee or risk a £180 fine, reduced to £90 if paid within 14 days.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has faced strong opposition to the scheme, with critics claiming he has “declared war on motorists”.

Over a dozen cameras where vandalised in Bromley on the first day of the scheme – and now a group dedicated to ridding the capital of the cameras has said Ulez amounted to an “attack” on drivers.

ULEZ cameras are being vandalised as part of a protest against the new scheme. (PA)
Ulez cameras are being vandalised as part of a protest against the new scheme. (PA)

Now, ‘Captain Gasto’ – the campaign director of the Blade Runners group who have begun removing cameras across London – has justified their illegal tactics.

Speaking on TalkTV on Wednesday, Gasto described the actions as “unpaid voluntary work for the community”.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned if your car has got an MOT, it has passed an emissions test and it covers it for the whole of the UK… then you haven’t got to worry about an app or pay a different fiefdom, in this case the London mayor…

“When you are under attack from this government you have to take defensive/offensive action.”

Watch: Khan defiant about Ulez expansion amid protests

Gasto said drivers were using other “imaginative” methods to avoid being caught by Ulez cameras as it has “got to a stage where the only people in this country feeling the long arm of the law is the motorist”.

He added: “It’s high time we fought back… let’s all do stuff to mitigate all the attacks on our purses and wallets.”

Who is supporting the Blade Runners?

There has been some support for Blade Runners’ tactics, including from Reform party leader and GB News presenter Laurence Fox, who has publicly backed the group on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He said urged the group to “keep going” with their “noble work”, and described Khan as a “thief and a liar”.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP has also spoken out in support of the group, saying he was “happy” for his constituents in Chingford and Woodford Green to destroy cameras because they had been “lied to”.

Smith said: ”A lot of people in my constituency have been cementing up the cameras or putting plastic bags over them.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith speaks as he hosts the press conference for Bob Chan on October 19, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Bob Chan was dragged into consulate grounds and beaten up during a gathering in front of China's Consulate in Manchester. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has publicly backed the actions of the Blade Runners. (Getty)

”I am happy for them to do it because they are facing an imposition that no-one wants and they have been lied to about it.

”The actions you are seeing show how angry people are at what is being imposed on therm. Sadiq Khan has gerrymandered all the information – people have had enough.'

However, others who have previously spoken out against Ulez have refused to back the Blade Runners.

TalkTV host Julia Hartley-Brewer said the group were taking part in “criminal activity”.

She told Gasto: “I’m massively opposed to this scheme… but I don’t think we should commit criminal acts.”

Protests against Ulez

Anti-Ulez vigilantes have repeatedly targeted enforcement cameras in recent months and protesters have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the Ulez zone.

Footage has circulated on social media showing so-called Blade Runners cutting the cameras’ wires or removing the devices.

The Metropolitan Police said it had recorded 288 crimes relating to the cameras as of 1 August.

The Ulez zone has expanded across London despite protests. (PA)
The Ulez zone has expanded across London despite protests. (PA)

On Tuesday protesters carried placards saying “Stop the Toxic Air Lie” and “Ulez all about money”.

Dozens of activists lined the road leading to Downing Street in the centre of the capital, blowing whistles and banging drums.

Others carried mocked-up car registration plates reading: “Get Khan out”

What has Khan said?

The mayor of London has ploughed ahead with the Ulez rollout – but admitted that it was behind Labour’s failure to win last month’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary by-election last month.

However, he and supporters of the scheme argue it will prevent premature deaths from pollution and clean up the capital’s air, with any revenues being used to reinvest in public transport.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has insisted the Ulez zone is necessary. (AP)
London mayor Sadiq Khan has insisted the Ulez zone is necessary. (AP)

The Labour mayor said: “The vast majority of Londoners want to see clean air and I recognise there are some Londoners with genuine concerns.

“My job is to try and address those concerns and I have been doing that.”

Can the government stop Ulez?

A government spokeswoman said transport and air quality are devolved to London, and are “the direct responsibility of the mayor of London”.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper insisted the scheme was a “money-raising exercise” rather than a green initiative but said he was unable to intervene.

Westminster, London, UK. 29th Aug, 2023. Protesters opposite Downing Street on Whitehall rally against ULEZ, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, on the day the extended ULEZ zone has come into force. Many raise their voices against not only the charge, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Credit: Imageplotter/Alamy Live News
Protesters opposite Downing Street on Whitehall rally against Ulez. (Alamy)

He told LBC the government will be backing an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill to make changes to the 1999 law that created the role of mayor of London.

Under the amendment, brought forward by Tory peer Lord Moylan, London boroughs would be able to opt out of future Transport for London (TfL) clean air schemes if they are meeting air quality targets.

How many cars are Ulez-compliant?

To comply with Ulez standards, petrol cars must generally have been first registered after 2005, while most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are also exempt from the charge.

TfL says nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are compliant.

A person checks their vehicle on the Transport for London (TfL) webiste on a mobile phone, on the first day of the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to include the whole of London. The capital has become the world's largest pollution charging area with a £12.50 daily fee for the most polluting vehicles. Picture date: Tuesday August 29, 2023.
Drivers can check their vehicle on the Transport for London (TfL) webiste on a mobile phone for Ulez compliancy. (PA)

But separate figures obtained by the RAC show more than 690,000 licensed cars in the whole of London are likely to be non-compliant – not taking into account other types of vehicles or those which enter London from neighbouring counties.

However, City Hall claims the RAC data is out of date and inaccurate.