(by Nicholas Sakelaris, UPI) — A number of environmental activists were arrested in London Friday for attempting to fly drones inside restricted airspace at Heathrow Airport — a protest authorities called a serious safety risk, punishable by life in prison.
At least 19 demonstrators were arrested, police said in a statement.
The group Heathrow Pause, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, tweeted it had flown one drone at the airport, which is one of the world’s busiest. Friday’s demonstration opposes expansion plans at the [airport].
“At least one toy drone flight has happened within [Heathrow’s] exclusion zone,” the group tweeted early Friday. “No flights canceled yet but we have more pilots of toy drones who will keep trying….”
[Gizmodo reported: The activists said they wanted to illustrate the “dangerous folly” of expanding the airport. Building a third runway would enable 700 more flights out of Heathrow a day, contributing further to double-digit surges (26 percent) in the amount of carbon pollution European countries generate via air travel in the past five years.
In a manifesto, Heathrow Pause said that “It is a crime against humanity—and all life on earth—to support carbon intensive infrastructure projects.”]
The protesters were warned in advance that interfering with flights, and endangering passengers’ lives, could send them to prison for life. London police issued a 48-hour dispersal order early Friday for the area surrounding the airport.
“The order has been implemented to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport,” the department said.
Heathrow Airport said all runways were open as normal, and [said], “We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people is not the answer.”
[Video uploaded to Twitter by the radical group showed at least one of the drones (unable to launch), with members of the group speculating that signal jammers were involved. Richard Gill of the Drone Defense jamming manufacturer told the Times of London said he did not know how the Metropolitan Police prevented the drones from taking off but that their approach may have changed since Christmas, when reports drones repeatedly disrupted travel at Gatwick Airport].
The group said hundreds of volunteers were willing to fly drones a few feet off the ground in Heathrow’s “no-fly” zone, but said the devices would rise no higher than head height, nowhere near flight paths.
“We will not give up and we urge all right-minded people to rise up with us,” it said in a tweet. “Don’t sleep walk into oblivion. Protect your children as if their lives depended on it. It does.”
The group had informed police and airport officials of its plans beforehand, and two people were also arrested for committing a public nuisance within the airport perimeter.
Heathrow Pause tweeted a video of one drone experiencing a “technical glitch,” and the group accusing the airport of using “signal jamming” to sabotage the machines.
Friday’s protest followed several Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in London this year, which disrupted London traffic over the course of several days — and interfered with London Fashion Week Friday, when “dead” supporters lay on the ground in buckets of fake blood. Five activists glued themselves to the main entrance to the show. The goal of that disruption was to call attention to the fashion industry’s supposed impact on climate change.
Published by UPI on September 13, 2019. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from United Press International.
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