Although the corporate media scare stories over climate protests at Heathrow airport seem to have dropped out of the news, the protest group Heathrow Pause (an arms-length off-shoot of the Extinction Rebellion movement) has continued with its planned actions within the official 5km no-fly zone of the airport.
The aim of the group was always to provoke wider discussion of the plan to expand Heathrow, and they had been in contact with both Heathrow authorities and the police in order to reassure them of the safety of their plans – flying small lightweight toy drones at head height in the exclusion zone around the airport.
Last week the hype around the action was intense, with headlines proclaiming that climate extremists and eco-anarchists were plotting to bring misery to a million passengers.
Meanwhile, the British Airways pilot strike DID ground flights affecting tens of thousands of passengers, but they weren’t branded economic terrorists. It appears as though for the corporate media, trying to save humanity is a far greater crime than asking for more money.
Over the last few days, we’ve seen homes raided, more than twenty people arrested, one man injured by police dogs, and computers, phones, and evidence of activism seized. A co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, has been remanded in prison at Wormwood Scrubs after breaching bail conditions by openly returning to the vicinity of the airport to fly another plastic drone.
But the policing, despite promises of a major operation, has been markedly inconsistent. Real Media filmed two women flying drones within a quarter of a mile of the airport on Monday, but after repeatedly phoning a supposed police hotline and getting an answer message, they had to walk a mile along the busy Bath Road, openly carrying drones as two police cars drove past, and finally handed themselves in to the nearest police station.
Yesterday morning, acclaimed photo-journalist Guy Smallman met three drone activists near the North Perimeter Road. Guy is an accredited NUJ freelancer and was wearing his official press pass while filming two of the activists safely flying their small drones around 100 yards from the airport fence.
Margaret, a 79-year-old, was also helping out and she was flying a small unpowered model glider.
Police arrived and immediately arrested the three men, including Guy Smallman. For some reason, they did not want to arrest Margaret and despite her protestations that she was part of the group, they instead offered her a lift in their van to the train station. She declined, telling them she didn’t want to create unnecessary carbon emissions – she is still a keen cyclist.
Guy was taken to Wandsworth police station, where he was held by police for more than nine hours on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. He was eventually released without charge yesterday evening. During his detention, a flurry of messages of support came from other journalists. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (who is also the local MP for Hayes and Harlington) was also notified and expressed his concern.
Worryingly this is not the first time police have targeted journalists during this campaign – last week they raided the home of a press officer working with the Pause group – his computer and phone have been confiscated and he was released pending further investigation.
At the weekend, the group issued the following statement:
In the weeks leading up to the action, Heathrow Airport claimed repeatedly that activists flying drones in the exclusion zone would put people’s lives at risk, The number of successful flights, even in the presence of police officers, has shown this allegation to be fal, e however. Nonetheless, Heathrow continued with flights as usual, defying their own assessment of the danger.
Either Heathrow has deliberately misled the police and the public to discredit the action, or they have taken unacceptable risks, putting profit ahead of safety. Activists maintain that Heathrow’s demonstrably false allegations are consistent with the airport’s equally false claim to be able to go ‘carbon neutral’ whilst building a third runway.
It is important to note that shutting down Heathrow and worrying scores of travellers was never the point of this. The objective was always to trigger a sensible, honest conversation, throughout society on the dangerous folly of Heathrow expansion, with the ultimate objective of cancelling the third runway.
The airport authority has made contradictory statements about safety and completely abandoned protocols previously held as essential to guaranteeing passenger safety. As a consequence, activists are considering escalating their approach to meet the change in circumstances, whilst scrupulously adhering to the principles of nonviolence, and always ensuring that no lives are put at risk of harm.
More info at heathrowpause.org
The two drone pilots remain in custody this morning.