protesters arrive at Heathrow airport threatening to cause chaos
Friday 19/April/2019 - 12:32 PM
Young eco-warriors broke down in tears about climate change on TV today after descending on London Heathrow today for an 'emotional disruption' following fears they would shut down the airport، daily mail reported.
The Extinction Rebellion protest، which is now in its fifth day، has already brought parts of London to a standstill by blocking four major routes of Waterloo Bridge، Oxford Circus، Marble Arch and Parliament Square since Monday.
This morning، some 15 children all aged under 17 held a large banner with the words 'Are we the last generation?' on a roundabout outside Heathrow terminals two and three as they were surrounded by dozens of police. Officers told the protesters they were breaking a bylaw by protesting on airport property، and so arrests are expected.
One well-spoken boy told Sky News while fighting back tears: 'I don't want to be the last generation. I've told you I'm here out of love and out of fear and from that comes courage، and that's why I'm here، that's why I'm here.'
Another girl said: 'It's about the message that we're trying to send، and that is that we are very possibly the last generation and that our futures have been stolen، the lives we thought we would be able to lead have been taken.'
The heavy police presence stopped them standing on the road، according to the group. Among those involved was Maya Rivett-Martinez، 15، who said the 'constant fear for my future is what gives me the need for change'.
Also at the protest was Felix، 14، who said he was there 'because when I have children I want to be able to tell them I did everything I could to protect their futures'، while Mia، 13، said it was 'because something has to change'.
Later today، protest organisers said there will be a procession of youth members of Extinction Rebellion marching from the Eros Statue at Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Circus on a so-called 'Day of Love' in the capital.
They will be joined by Hollywood star Emma Thompson، who was also at the protests at Marble Arch yesterday، and actors Lee Ross from White Gold and The Catherine Tate Show، and Paapa Essiedu from Press and Kiri.
The police at Heathrow are among more than 1،000 officers being deployed daily to tackle the protests، but they have until now failed to restore order elsewhere - leading to claims they are surrendering the streets.
The airport said it was 'working with the authorities'، while Met Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: 'Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating.'
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was 'extremely concerned' about the possible disruption، adding: 'This is extremely dangerous، illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force and our city.'
Some officers have been working 12-hour shifts، while rest days and leave have been cancelled. The Met said protests are putting a strain on policing in the capital with officers diverted away from 'core local duties'.
Robin Ellis-Cockcroft، 24، an organiser for Extinction Rebellion Youth said it had succeeded in creating an 'emotional disruption' at Heathrow، and that no further Extinction Rebellion protests would take place today.
He said: 'This is it. The idea is that we said we were going to disrupt Heathrow. The thing that's disruptive is the truth of what's happening to our generation، the truth of what those 14 year olds are going to face in the future. That's the point.
'That's what should be in people's minds all the time. It should throw everyone out of their ordinary lives. It should be as disruptive as anything else، more disruptive than a bunch of people wandering around in the road. It's like life-changingly disruptive.
'That's the point، that's what we're here for. We said we'd disrupt Heathrow and we've disrupted Heathrow. We've disrupted the narrative of everyday life.
'We've disrupted the idea that we can just carry on and this climate crisis is something we can just ignore and talk about later. It's an emotional disruption. The point of this is reaching people on an emotional level.'
The climate change activists، from Left-wing group Extinction Rebellion، expect to be joined by hundreds more supporters off work for Easter. As pressure grew on the authorities to act yesterday:
■ Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged police to use the 'full force of the law';
■ London Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed Government cuts and asked for more cash;
■ Officers caught dancing and skateboarding with activists received a dressing down;
■ Only eight protesters have been charged، with hundreds of others released because resources are so squeezed;
■ Company bosses complained the chaos had forced them to lay off staff.
Leaked messages، apparently sent by privately-educated ringleader Robin Boardman-Pattison، 21، laid out the plot to cause travel chaos.
They said: 'Tomorrow we will raise the bar. We are going to shut down Heathrow. For the bank holiday، we are turning our focus on to the aviation industry. There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted.
'However، the aviation industry needs to be targeted and we are all aware of the deep، structural change that needs to come. We are all going to face pushback on this. Keep on going everybody. Keep rebelling.'
Protesters were told to get a specific train out of London and congregate on a petrol station forecourt near the airport.
The good weather – with sunshine and highs of 77F (25C) – is expected to draw yet more crowds to the streets.
Yesterday، 'swarming' protests took place at Vauxhall Bridge when protesters stopped traffic intermittently for up to ten minutes. This can be more disruptive to traffic than permanent diversion.
Mr Boardman-Pattison flounced out of a Sky News interview on Wednesday after it was suggested he and his fellow demonstrators were patronising and self-indulgent.
He has previously said his group would like to see planes 'only used in emergencies'. His social media pages feature a series of photos of him enjoying skiing holidays abroad and visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.
Last night Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the protests were 'increasing in intensity' and warned demonstrators against targeting Heathrow.
He added: 'Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating.'
The Metropolitan Police added in a statement: 'The airport is part of our national infrastructure and we will not allow the illegal activities of protesters to cause further disruption and misery to thousands of travellers، many of them families، over Easter.
'We would urge any protester planning to attend Heathrow to strongly reconsider.'
The airport urged passengers to check with airlines for potential delays and said it was 'working with the authorities' to address the threat of protests.
Travellers whose flights are delayed or cancelled by activists have been warned they may not receive any compensation.
Coby Benson، a travel lawyer at Bott & Co، said the demos are likely to be considered 'extraordinary circumstances' – meaning they are not the airline's responsibility.
Mr Khan، who has this week been accused of offering tacit support to the protesters، condemned their plans.
He said: 'I support the democratic right to peaceful protest and agree that governments need to do more to tackle climate change، but these protests are now putting Londoners' safety at risk.
'This is extremely dangerous، illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force.'
Extinction Rebellion has warned that its 'non-violent' protests will escalate if its demands are not met. It wants the Government to introduce a legally-binding policy to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.
The activists have vowed to keep blocking key thoroughfares in London. As of last night، there had been more than 500 arrests.
Since Monday، Waterloo Bridge has been closed to traffic in both directions، with protesters planting trees، setting up vegan food stalls and erecting a skate park.
In Oxford Circus، London's main shopping district، protesters have taken over the streets، parking a bright pink boat on the main intersection. Police believe it has been bolted to the tarmac.
Meanwhile، both Parliament Square and Marble Arch have also been completely shut down by non-stop demonstrations.
The latter has seen a yurt and compostable toilet erected on the road. Police have been drafted in from neighbouring forces to help tackle the threat and keep the airport open.
Yesterday، it emerged only eight of those arrested this week have been charged with an offence. All the others have been released under investigation because resources are so squeezed.
Three of the eco-warriors found themselves behind bars yesterday after gluing themselves to a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday as part of the protests.
Cambridge-educated Cathy Eastburn، 51، Buddhist teacher Mark Ovland، 35، and Luke Watson، 29، all indicated not guilty pleas to obstructing trains or carriages but were denied bail when they appeared before Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court.
In another hearing yesterday، climate change activist Robert Pounds، 55، from Howdon، Tyne and Wear، denied obstruction charges after being arrested on London's Waterloo Bridge.
He spent two days in custody before being brought to Westminster Magistrates' Court yesterday. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail.
I wanted to get arrested on my 60th, jokes Emma Thompson as she supports climate change protesters Emma Thompson arrived at Marble Arch yesterday afternoon to support climate change protesters – and joked that she wanted to be arrested on her 60th birthday.
The actress told activists she hadn't achieved her ambition when she turned 60 on Monday but added: 'I bet that will happen in the future.'
What she might not have mentioned to them is that she had just flown back to Heathrow from Los Angeles the day before. Many protesters have demanded the Government limit how many times individuals can fly each year.
Extinction Rebellion ringleader Robin Boardman-Pattison declared during a television interview this week that flying 'should only be used in emergencies' – despite his own apparently extensive travels.
A flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow generates at least 1.67 tonnes of CO2.
Miss Thompson said she had wanted to join the protests sooner. Dressed in black dungarees and wearing a green sticker bearing the Extinction Rebellion logo on her chest, she said: 'I was not here on April 15 because I was with my husband because I was 60. I absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday but I haven't quite managed that.'
The Oscar-winning actress added: 'I am so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion, a new movement that has come up behind all the old ones I've been part of since I was 16.
'A movement that's telling it like it is and saying to government 'look, there's no more time. You can't lie and you can't stall any longer'. It's hard, it's inconvenient sometimes but it's much more inconvenient to leave a planet that's so completely destroyed our grandchildren will be up against things that we cannot even imagine.'
Her spokesman said: 'She had to fly home at any rate, it was just earlier than she thought she could have. At the moment, that is our only available and practical means of trans-global travel.'