Nine “Black Lives Matter” activists who blocked London City runway get conditional discharges



Black Lives Matter activists who sparked chaos for thousands with City airport runway protest walk free from court

Judge said she could not see a link between the airport protest and the Black Lives Matter movement

by Tristan Kirk (Evening Standard)


Around 9,000 passengers suffered disruption when the protest group evaded security at the east London airport at around 5.30am last Tuesday.

The activists donned wetsuits and used inflatable boats to cross the river and get on to airport land, then chained themselves to a large bamboo tripod for the five hour sit-in.

Westminster magistrates court heard 131 flights were delayed or cancelled as the protest chanted about the Black Lives Matter cause and climate change, filming themselves and streaming the footage online.

However, they later came under fire when it emerged the group is predominantly white, amid claims they had “hijacked” the Black Lives Matter movement.

At court this morning, the nine activists all pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass with intent to obstruct a person engaged in lawful activity.

District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe said the protest appeared to have “mixed motivations” as she imposed 18-month conditional discharges on seven of the group, and longer terms for two with previous convictions.

“It’s quite clear this caused a lot of disruption to a great many people, doubtless many of whom were the people you were aiming at”, said the judge.

Sama Baka, who lives on a houseboat, and actor Richard Collett-White (Kerry Davies/Daily Mail)
blm1a.jpgProtesters Sam Lund-Harket and organic farmer William Pettifer Kerry Davies/Daily Mail
Film student Esme Waldron (Kerry Davies/Daily Mail)

“It may have caused a real upset to people who had similar beliefs to yourself.”

She said it was obvious the protesters had deeply-held beliefs, especially around climate change, but added that she could not see the link to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the protest, William Pettifer sat atop the bamboo tripod during the stunt, while the others eight sat on the ground and lay out protest banners.

Activist Alex Etchart pictured outside court today (Kerry Davies/Daily Mail)

Prosecutor Philip McGhee told the court: “The nine defendants breached the perimeter of the aerodrome at London City Airport, by way of crossing the water to the runway using inflatable rafts under power, launched from Albert Island.

“They made landfall at the eastern tip of the active runway and climbed up steps from the water level.

“Having gained access to the runway, they made their way to the eastern end where they constructed a tripod made of three lengths of bamboo.

“Mr Pettifer was at the top of the tripod, and secured himself with chains. The remaining eight members secured themselves around the base by means of arm links.

“Their hands were joined inside metal or plastic tubes filled with expandable foam, which made their ability to separate themselves non-existent.”

Mr McGhee said the group were “chanting things including Black Lives Matters and matters relating to climate change”.

Among the group is Natalie Fiennes, 25, of Thurleigh Road, Wandsworth, a social justice campaigner and the cousin of actor Ralph Fiennes.

She was in the dock with Pettifer, 27, of Radford Mill Farm, Radford, Esme Waldron, 23, of Walmer Crescent, Brighton, Sam Lund-Harket, 32, and Alex Etchart, who both live on a houseboat, Sama Bakr, 27, of no fixed address, Deborah Francis-Grayson, 31, of St Mary’s Road, Slough, Richard Collet-White, 23, of Spring Road, Kempston, and Ben Tippet, 24, of Thurleigh Road, Wandsworth.

Mike Schwartz, representing some of the group, spent several minutes explaining to Judge Roscoe the reasons behind the stunt.

“They took their actions in support of Black Lives Matter UK – in their view there’s a need for white people to take responsibility in a society that privileges them through racism”, he said.

“They were highlighting the negative impact of the airport on the local community, and a large element of the local community are black and minority ethnic.”

The judge replied: “So they feel the business community is a small part of the population?

“There seems to be a lot of mixed motivations, climate change, disadvantaged Third World countries, and Black Lives Matter.  Black Lives Matter had been rather separate, I understood.”

A second charge of aggravated trespass and an allegation of being unlawfully airside within a restricted area of an aerodrome were dropped by the prosecution this morning.

The group were all ordered to pay £95 costs each and the equipment used in the protest will be held on to by the police.

City Airport said they would not comment on the proceedings but a spokesman said: “We would like to congratulate the Metropolitan Police for their safe and professional handling of the protesters last week.”




London City Airport runway blocked by protesters in support of “Black Lives Matter”, who got there by dinghy

Flights at London City Airport were disrupted this morning after a group of protesters occupied the runway. Earlier reports said they were from Plane Stupid, but later reports say they are in support of “Black Lives Matter”. Police were called to the airport at 5.40am to reports of demonstrators getting onto the runway. They got to the runway by using a small rubber dinghy to get across the Royal Docks. A statement released by the group said: “This morning activists in support of Black Lives Matter UK shutdown London City Airport… This action was taken in order to highlight the UK’s environmental impact on the lives of black people locally and globally. As the largest per capita contributor to global temperature change and yet among the least vulnerable to its deadly effects, the UK leads in ensuring that our climate crisis is a racist crisis.” The protesters were chained together, as the Plane Stupid group were in their protest occupation of the runway at Heathrow (13th July 2015). All flights due to land at London City airport were diverted to Southend and Gatwick airports. The runway was closed for around 6 hours, and a number of passengers had inconvenient delays to their travel.  All 9 protesters were arrested and held in police custody. Black Lives Matter have carried out other protests recently.

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