Extinction Rebellion threatens to use drones in 10-day Heathrow airport shutdown in third runway protest

Harry Robertson
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Extinction Rebellion protests blocked large parts of central London for two weeks in April. (Source: Getty)

Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion has threatened to shut down London’s Heathrow airport for as long as 10 days this summer in protest at plans to build a third runway.

Read more: Police charge 71 in relation to Extinction Rebellion protests

The climate change activists will protest at the airport on 18 June before a 10-day shutdown could begin on 1 July.

Extinction Rebellion said it plans “to carry out nonviolent direct action to ensure Heathrow authorities close the airport for the day, to create a ‘pause’ in recognition of the genocidal impact of high carbon activities, such as flying, upon the natural world”.

Activists are considering the use of drones to cause maximum disruption, according to widespread reports. Drone sightings disrupted hundreds of flights at Gatwick airport in December 2018.

Today Extinction Rebellion also threatened “to shut the airport down for up to 10 days” from 1 July “if the government does not cancel all Heathrow expansion”.

Jayne Forbes, a retired Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, said she was “probably prepared” to face “much worse” charges than were brought against the London protestors.

“It’s my sacrifice, and we have to sacrifice, we have to do everything we can. And the government are still not doing anything about it, that’s why it’s really important to start escalating,” she said.

Those arrested would most likely fund their legal battles by crowdsourcing, she said.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “This is reckless action that if carried out could endanger the lives of the travelling public and our colleagues.”

They said: “We agree with the need to act on climate change, but that requires us to work together constructively – not commit serious criminal offences just as hardworking people prepare to spend a well-earned holiday with their family and friends.”

Extinction Rebellion said: “This is not about targeting the public, but holding the Government to their duty to take leadership on the climate and ecological emergency.”

“We understand the action will cause disruption to a great number of holiday makers,” it said. “Holiday makers are being given advance notice to change travel plans.”

The group shut down areas of central London by blocking roads and bridges for 10 days in April, which resulted in more than 1,100 protesters getting arrested.

Read more: 'Banksy' artwork marks London heart of Extinction Rebellion protests

Protesters blockaded Waterloo Bridge and also swarmed Oxford Circus, Marble Arch and Parliament Square, with Canary Wharf station targeted when protesters twice glued themselves to DLR trains.

The protests angered many, however, who said they were hugely disruptive and cost businesses millions of pounds.