Plane Stupid activists set up protest, locking themselves together, on Heathrow northern runway
At around 3.30am a group of 13 climate change activists from the group Plane Stupid cut a hole in the perimeter fence at Heathrow, and set up a protest on the northern runway. They set up a tripod of metal poles, and metal fencing panels, and locked themselves onto these. Some were attached by D locks around their necks, onto the fence. Others used arm locks (two people link arms, linked together with carabinas, inside a hard tube) to make it difficult for police to remove them. Police arrived on the scene shortly after the protest was set up. The first flights arrive at Heathrow from around 4.30am. Flights were delayed while the airport needed to shift runways. Six protesters were removed quite quickly. The protest was due to the recommendation of the Airports Commission that a 3rd runway should be built at Heathrow. Besides the serious negative impacts of the runway on noise, air pollution, destruction of Harmondsworth, huge costs to the taxpayer and considerable social disruption for miles around, the issue which has been glossed over is the CO2 emissions that the runway would create from greatly increased flights, many long-haul. The Commission itself was aware that a new runway would mean the UK could not achieve its aviation carbon cap, and make it less likely the UK could meet its legally binding carbon target for 2050.
BBC for many more photos:
including a short video of the protesters arriving and setting up and many more photos.
Direct action group Plane Stupid said 13 demonstrators opposed to the airport’s expansion plans got on to the northern runway at 03:30 BST. The runway was closed for nearly three hours and 13 flights were cancelled. All the protesters were removed from the runway by 10:00 BST.
Two of the protesters arm-locked together on the northern runway
Protester: “We don’t have resources at our disposal other than our bodies”
Protesters from the Plane Stupid group have been further explaining their action this morning – and have denied they are putting aircraft in danger.
Sarah Shoraka, a member of the group, told the Guardian: “We thought we’d won this fight, because David Cameron said ‘no ifs, no buts’ there would be no runway at Heathrow.
“We thought it was off the table and then the report came through and we thought ‘we’re going to have to fight this all over again’.
““We picked the spot so we wouldn’t endanger flights trying to land. But we are not big corporations, we are not Boris Johnson, we don’t have resources at our disposal other than our bodies.”
“We need to insert climate change into the narrative, it’s been absent from the whole debate ever since the report came out.”
Plane Stupid would stage more demonstrations on the issue, she added. “There is a huge coalition of groups against this and we have to stop this again.” Link
And a delightful bit of unintended irony:
Retired couple Jean and Ray Leonard, who were travelling to Munich for a river cruise, said they had mixed feelings about the protest, though they had not been delayed. “We saw the police at the roundabout when we came in and wondered what was happening,” Mrs Leonard said. “It’s very difficult when you’re personally affected and losing your house [because of the new runway].”
“It seems to be young people, not the people affected. They’ve got nothing better to do,” her husband interjected.
Some extracts from early reports below:
• Climate change activists stage protest on Heathrow northern runway
• Dozen Plane Stupid demonstrators cut hole in fence at 3.30am
• Police arrest six after cutting locks from protesters chained to ‘tripod’
• But Heathrow warns passengers face delays and cancellations
Direct action group Plane Stupid said 12 demonstrators opposed to the airport’s expansion plans got on to the northern runway at 03:30 BST.
The runway was closed for nearly three hours. The airport said there would be some delays to flights.
Heathrow Airport said the protesters were still at one of the runways.
Passengers have been told to check with their airlines before they travel.
The airport said its southern runway had remained open throughout the protest.
“We are working closely with the police who are dealing with the incident.
“Both runways are open although there will still be delays – we are sorry for the disruption to passengers. Our priority remains to ensure the safe running of the airport,” said the airport in a statement.
The airport said the first flight was meant to take off from the northern runway at about 06:00 BST.
A video posted online appeared to show several activists chained together and being spoken to by police officers.
In the footage, an officer told them: “As a consequence of you being here, you are causing severe disruption and it will be in the millions of pounds because it will take us a while to remove you.
“The cost will be in the couple of millions. The airport will attempt to make a civil recovery.”
The Met Police said the protesters had chained themselves together using a tripod which they had assembled themselves.
Ella Gilbert, one of the activists on the runway, said: “Building more runways goes against everything we’re being told by scientists and experts on climate change.
“This would massively increase carbon emissions exactly when we need to massively reduce them, that’s why we’re here.
“We want to say sorry to anyone whose day we’ve ruined, and we’re not saying that everybody who wants to fly is a bad person.
“It’s those who fly frequently and unnecessarily who are driving the need for expansion, and we cannot keep ignoring the terrifying consequences of flying like there’s no tomorrow.
“No ifs, no buts, no third runway. And we mean it.”
After three years of investigation, the Airports Commission said Heathrow was best placed to provide “urgently required” capacity, but environmentalists warned that building a new runway there will make it harder to reduce air pollution and climate change emissions.
On 1 July a report recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow rather than Gatwick.
The Airports Commission said Heathrow was best placed to provide “urgently required” capacity, but environmentalists warned building a new runway there would make it harder to reduce air pollution and climate change emissions.
The protest has raised questions about security at the airport’s perimeter fence.
Afzal Ashraf, a consultant fellow at defence and security think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said the security breach is a “concern”.
“If they did manage to get to a runway before being apprehended then there is a bit of an issue,” he said. “If a terrorist group came up to the fence it would take a few minutes to cut through.
“It’s very easy to get to a fence before the police are able to react.”
“I think we need to look at the details, it’s worth asking questions. I don’t think there is a straightforward comparison between protesters and terrorists,” he added.
“It’s one thing to get in and chain yourself to a railing, it’s another to get near an aircraft. I’m sure there will be a security review.”
Scotland Yard has just confirmed that six of the protesters have been arrested on suspicion of Aviation Act offences.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “At approximately 3.45am on Monday, 13 July, officers were alerted to a number of protesters who had unlawfully made their way airside at Heathrow Airport.
“There were 13 protestors in total on the North runway. Six have so far been arrested on suspicion of Aviation Act offences and taken into custody.
“Officers remain at the scene and are continuing to work to remove the remaining protestors.”
Heathrow has just released an update explaining that both runways remain open despite the protest, but delays will continue. Passengers are advised to check flight times with their airline.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that some of the demonstrators had chained themselves together using a so-called tripod.
A spokesman said: “At approximately 3.45am officers were alerted to a number of protesters who had made their way airside at Heathrow Airport.
“A small number of these protesters are believed to have chained themselves to a ‘tripod’.
“Officers are in attendance.”
A Heathrow Airport spokesman said: “A group of people have breached the airport perimeter fence and are currently staging a protest on the northern runway.
“We are working closely with the police who are dealing with the incident. The southern runway remains open. Our priority remains to ensure the safety of the airport community, including passengers, employees and protesters”
The spokesman was unable to yet confirm whether the protest has caused delays for travellers.
Climate change activists are staging a protest on the north runway at Heathrow Airport.
A supporter of direct action group Plane Stupid said a dozen demonstrators entered the runway at 3.30am after cutting a hole in a fence.
He said the protesters were campaigning against airport expansion and would stay there for as long as possible.