57 arrested as Stansted protest grounds flights
8.12.2008 ( Independent )
Police arrested 57 people today after a protest by climate change activists forced
flight cancellations and delays at one of Britain’s busiest airports.
Queues grew and tempers frayed in the departure lounge at Stansted Airport after
budget airline Ryanair cancelled 56 flights as a result of the early-morning protest
by Plane Stupid.
Activists broke into a secure area at around 3am, forcing the runway to remain
closed for three hours.
Ryanair called for an investigation into why airport operator BAA had failed
to keep the Essex airport “secure and open”, saying the disruption to passengers
Travellers caught up in the queues for information expressed little sympathy
for Plane Stupid’s stance that disruption would prevent “the release of thousands
of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere”.
Lainey Mace, of Fakenham, Norfolk, said: “They have caused great inconvenience.”
She added: “It is very worrying that protesters were able to get either close
to the runway or on the runway. One would have thought security at an airport would be much tighter than that.”
Today’s protest was sparked by the Government’s decision to allow the expansion
of the airport with a second runway.
Activist Lily Kember, 21, a third-year anthropology student at Edinburgh University,
said the group used bolt-cutters to get into a secure area around 55 yards (50m)
from the runway.
Ms Kember, from London, said: “Being arrested is a terrifying prospect, but not
nearly as terrifying as the threat of climate change.”
BAA said protesters did not get on to the runway, but it was closed as a “precaution”.
The runway had been due to open at 5am after maintenance work but remained closed
until 8.10am, causing delays to flights in and out of Stansted.
Ryanair, the only airline to cancel flights, said: “Ryanair will be calling for
an investigation as to why the BAA Stansted security has once again failed to
keep Stansted Airport secure and open to the travelling public.
“It is unacceptable that the travel plans of thousands of passengers have been
disrupted because BAA Stansted security have failed to remove a number of protesters.”
Long queues formed at Ryanair check-in desks and armed police officers helped
to keep order as a small number of passengers became irate.
Airline staff were forced to shout in an attempt to get passengers on planes,
at one point yelling “Hands up if you’re going to Hamburg.”
Passengers who were due on the cancelled flights have been told they can re-book
free of charge, subject to availability, or some will be able to claim a refund.
A Stansted Airport spokesman said officials would work with the police to investigate
how the breach occurred.
“If there are lessons to be learnt, that is what we need to take on board. We
need to discover if there’s anything we can do better.
“This is a site of about 2,000 acres bordered by a security fence. It is not
operated as a fortress. The people were spotted very quickly this morning and the police and security
staff were quickly on the scene. The first wave was intercepted before they got to the runway. The second wave was intercepted before they got through the fence.”
He said passengers should check with airlines before leaving home as delays were
likely to continue throughout the day.
“Ryanair decided to cancel their first wave of flights so, with luck, later waves
should not be too badly affected.
“Other airlines decided not to cancel so they will have to try to catch up.”
He praised the way the majority of passengers had responded: “I think most people
have been in fairly good spirits even though their plans have been very badly
The spokesman said BAA is happy to discuss airport expansion and respects people’s
right to protest within the law.
“However, any unlawful or irresponsible behaviour aimed at disrupting the smooth
operation of the airport is unacceptable.”
Essex Police said 50 of those arrested today were held on suspicion of aggravated
trespass, three on suspicion of attempting to gain access to a restricted area
and four of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.
A force spokesman said a detective superintendent will head an inquiry into the
incident but added that security at Stansted was primarily the responsibility
of the airport authority.
link to article
Stansted protest: ‘An angry security guy pushed and swore at me’
A environmental activist from Plane Stupid speaks to guardian.co.uk
by Jenny Percival
One of the arrested protesters from Plane Stupid, Leo, spoke to guardian.co.uk today by mobile phone as he
was being removed from the airport by police.
He said he had been handcuffed and was with dozens of other protesters in an
airport bus being driven away from the secure area near the runway.
He said: “It started at around 3am when we arrived outside the emergency vehicle
access to Stansted runway and cut through the fence with bolt cutters.
“We entered very calmly and peacefully. There were about 50 of us and we all
had high security fencing and were wearing high-visibility vests saying “Please
Do Something” on the back. We walked 300 metres to the edge of the runway. We
didn’t stop on the runway because we didn’t want to do anything that could endanger
“We assembled the fencing panels, creating a little fort, and hooked ourselves
on to it using chains and D-locks.
“Stansted generates 4.2 tonnes of CO2 a minute, so every minute we stopped 4.2
tonnes of CO2 being emitted – we’re all well off-set for years to come.
“Security arrived very quickly in the form of an angry guy who pushed me and
swore at me. He seemed to take it all as a personal affront.
“Then, before there was any significant police presence, two enormous snow ploughs
arrived, one of either side of us. They pulled up next to us, with their headlights
on and engines revving. One of them drove into us which was extraordinary dangerous.
It surprised the hell out of us. Thankfully no one was hurt.”
At that point it sounded as if Leo had been asked by the police to switch off
his phone and the line went dead.
including Getty photo