FRUSTRATED motorists blocked by a protest against air pollution on a Swindon street drove through protestors’ banners and narrowly avoided hitting pedestrians after mounting the kerb.

Shouts of foul-mouthed abuse and angry horn sounding filled the air when Extinction Rebellion campaigners caused tailbacks all the way up Kingshill Road by standing on a traffic light crossing at the bottom of the hill with signs and placards. People heading to work and visiting loved ones in hospital loudly protested against the protest, one vehicle knocked a banner out of the protestors hands by driving through and another driver mounted the kerb and drove towards scared onlookers.

Paul, who lives on the street, said: “They’re perfectly within their rights to protest and seeing people abusing them and driving on the pavement was unacceptable. Pollution here is a big issue, the cottages on Kingshill have been black with soot for years and walking up from Clifton Street to the top is unpleasant. The council need to come up with solutions.”

Another resident, Jacqui, said: “This hill is so polluted that when my father with COPD comes to stay, his chest tightens up. Traffic is constant and people speed down the hill - it was lovely when we had the snow because it was quiet for a while. It’s great that they’re demonstrating but what’s the solution?”

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Grace Everett, 22, said: “I’ve seen protests before but not like that one. I agree with their message, Kingshill is very polluted, but this was a bit extreme. They put letters through our door about it and I think that’s gone some way to raising awareness.

“People needed to go places and someone almost got hurt, it caused more stress than it was worth.”

Extinction Rebellion member Andy Day said: “I’m disappointed by the aggression, if I get held up for a few minutes I don’t start driving through people. We just used non-violent direct action to draw attention to the fact that this is Swindon’s most polluted road and CO2 levels are dangerously high, while making a broader point that there has been no sensible action to limit climate change.”

The group had planned to block traffic for seven-minute intervals but this was quickly revised to five minutes when they encountered hostility, then reduced further when the police arrived half an hour into the protest to warn them that they could be charged with wilfully obstructing a highway. They reached a compromise by standing on the crossing when the light was red and moving out of the way ten seconds after the lights turned green, then repeated the process until midday.

Some patient drivers gave supportive beeps, smiles and thumbs-up to the protestors, one of whom knocked on passengers’ windows offering sweets if they wound them down for a chat, though many kept their windows firmly shut and drove off as soon as they could.

One motorist yelled “You’ve made your point, now get out of the way!” while another shouted “I don’t even believe in it!”