Blockade of petrol depot leads to 41 arrests

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Police arrested 41 people yesterday after environmental protesters forced the closure of an Esso distribution depot.

Dozens of demonstrators stormed into the complex in Purfleet, Essex, as part of a concerted campaign backed by pressure group Greenpeace against the oil company's stand on global warming and its opposition to the Kyoto climate change protocol.

The entrance was blocked with shipping containers as protesters, some dressed as tigers, the Esso corporate emblem, staged a rooftop protest. Others climbed to the top of five 40ft light pylons at the depot. The protest was called off when Esso served an injunction on Greenpeace.

Police accused the environmentalists of disrupting the search for the missing teenager Danielle Jones. The Essex force said that officers searching for the 15-year-old had to be drafted in for the protest at the Esso depot.

The claims were angrily rejected by the defiant demonstrators. The Greenpeace climate campaigner Rob Gueterbock said: "What the police choose to do with their resources is up to them. We never asked them to come down here. It is a peaceful action.

"We often carry out similar action here and abroad, where we just get one or two policemen show up. I agree they should go off and do something more useful than sitting in vans here."