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Resistance scrappers dubbed “Blade Runners” have been wrecking surveillance cameras meant to enforce London‘s controversial program to tax high-polluting motor vehicles that is set to expand its boundaries in the coming weeks.
Various media reports and videos posted to social media detail how this band of rebels has been climbing up polls to dismantle and swipe parts from cameras that help track non-compliant drivers who get fined £12.50 (about $15.87 in the United States) a day to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the heart of the British capital.
One activist, clad in a balaclava to hide his identity, told the Daily Mail in the spring that he had personally stolen 34 Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and surmised that Blade Runners had damaged hundreds of the devices by that time.
UK citizens are furious Sadiq Khan is installing ULEZ (Ultra low emission zones) recognition cameras throughout London. Those who can’t afford electric vehicles will be fined £12 pounds ($15) every time they drive past them.
Citizens are fighting back by taking them down as soon… pic.twitter.com/8AsvWYPbfA
— Pelham (@Resist_05) August 13, 2023
“Everything we are doing is for our own freedoms,” this Blade Runner, identified only as a father in his mid-40s, told the news outlet. “It’s the tip of the iceberg. We do not live in a democracy,” this person said, adding, “We will fight with everything we have for our freedoms.”
Despite the pushback to ULEZ, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is spearheading an expansion of the program to cover all of the city’s boroughs. The expansion is set to take effect on August 29 after the High Court ruled it lawful in the face of a legal challenge by five Conservative-led councils.
The ruling allowed London to “press on with the difficult but vital task of cleaning up London’s air and tackling the climate crisis,” Khan said in a statement. The government is also funding a “scrappage scheme” to provide financial assistance to local residents who get rid of non-compliant vehicles.
Still, as some raise concerns about a growing ULEZ zone in London harming businesses and workers, acts of defiance have continued. Authorities conceded that dozens of cameras were being vandalized weekly in the weeks preceding the planned expansion. Cameras being set up in new areas have had their wires cut off and lenses painted over in black, The New York Times reported in June.
In response, Scotland Yard began “Operation Eremon” to investigate the activity, according to ITV News London. “We are continuing to proactively target anyone we suspect of causing or seeking to cause damage to these cameras,” said Detective Superintendent Daniel Smith, per the report. “We are now reviewing this social media post and will follow up every line of investigation.”
There have been reports of charges against at least one individual over the alleged criminal damage of ULEZ cameras.
As officials increasingly raise concerns about global warming and air pollution, low-emission zones have spread to cities across Europe, leading to measures geared toward getting older cars off the roads.
In London, most vehicles observed in and around the city on an average day are already compliant with ULEZ, according to the government’s website. It also says that “all petrol cars and vans registered new from 2006, and diesel cars and vans from 2016, will meet the ULEZ standards.”
The local government insists harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution has been reduced by nearly half in central London thanks to ULEZ, which was first announced in 2017 and began in 2019, and claims the expansion will bring “clean air” to 5 million more people.
Susan Hall, a Conservative candidate for mayor for the election set to take place next year, has vowed to undo the ULEZ expansion, according to Bloomberg.