Heathrow protest – Brits braced for travel hell today as eco-warriors vow to shut down UK’s busiest airport on Good Friday

ECO-WARRIORS wept as they tried to shut down Heathrow Airport at the start of the Easter holidays today.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists sobbed as they were faced by police at Britain’s busiest airport on Good Friday morning.



The group have plotted to close Heathrow with up to 800,000 passengers due to travel over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Up to 20 protesters – many of them under the age of 17 – stood by the tunnel that leads to Terminals 2 and 3, but roads nearby remained open.

Around 15 children held a huge banner which read "Are we the last generation?" as they gathered at a roundabout near Heathrow terminals two and three.

One boy told Sky News: “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.”

A 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."

ECO-PROTESTERS DESCEND

During four days of demonstrations XR campaigners have brought chaos to the streets of London, where they were joined on Thursday by actor and environmentalist Emma Thompson.

Cops were ready to intercept them as they descended on Heathrow, with some activists bursting into tears.

Others hugged each other in a bizarre emotional outpouring of emotion.

Protesters were told to take a specific train out of London and meet at a petrol station near Heathrow.

Dozens of police officers were massed at the airport as the protesters arrived.

But passengers whose plans are disrupted have been warned by a lawyer that they are unlikely to be able to get compensation.

Traffic is horrific, police and TV crews everywhere. If you’re travelling today, get here early

Rebecca Kellett tweeted: “Having to go into Heathrow terminal 5 instead of 2 because of the protesters.

“Traffic is horrific, police and TV crews everywhere. If you’re travelling today, get here early”.

Police have been given the green light by the home secretary to use the "full force of the law" against the climate change protesters.

More than 1,000 extra police officers have been policing XR demonstrations in London this week.

Some have been working 12-hour shifts, while rest days and leave have been cancelled.

There have been more than 460 arrests since Monday, with eight people charged.



Police were waiting for the group as they gathered near a roundabout next to Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3Last night, the Met warned Extinction Rebellion that any members who return to protests after being released will be arrested again.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave warned the protests are “increasing in intensity”.

He added: “Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating.”

Activists – who have already caused chaos across the capital by blocking landmarks for the past four days – said they were "raising the bar" to target Heathrow.

In internal messages sent yesterday, protesters were told: "Tomorrow we raise the bar. We are going to shut down Heathrow."

An important message for passengers this weekend. pic.twitter.com/MqB2HLi8TQ

Rebels – who have already blocked Waterloo Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge and Oxford Circus in four days of illegal demos this week – vowed to "swarm" the airport.

The group described the dramatic new tactic as an "escalation strategy".

The plot threatens to throw the Easter plans of 800,000 passengers expected to travel through the airport into chaos.

Extinction Rebellion spokesman Robin Boardman – the former public schoolboy who stormed off Sky News after host Adam Boulton called him "middle class and self-indulgent" yesterday – said: "This will be standard swarming process. If there are lots of us, there will be a low risk of arrest.

"We are all going to face pushback on this. We hope, together, we can recognise the necessity of this action and communicate that necessity to our friends, our loved ones, and the general public."

There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted tomorrow

Self-professed "poet" Boardman acknowledged it would hit families holiday plans – but said the shutdown was "necessary".

He said: "There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted tomorrow. It is not our intention to cause further separation.

"However, the aviation industry needs to be targeted and we are all aware of the deep, structural change that needs to come."

The messages also thanked the protesters for their efforts to shut down the capital for the past week.

Organisers said: "Over the last week, we have listened to the concerns of the movement and we can assure you that, as we test our escalation strategy on the ground, we are adapting and changing our carefully designed plan. We thank you for all your wisdom and guidance on this."

It comes as 10million Brits are set to hit the road this weekend.

But the protests have left holiday-makers stressed and nervous as they wait to see what will happen at the airport – which was one of the first to sign up to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

One man was left in tears as he revealed he had put months into organising a romantic proposal in Paris this weekend – which could now be ruined by climate change protesters targeting the airport.

The man, only known as Richard, told LBC Radio he was "shaking" after hearing the news.

He said: "I’ve put months of preparation into taking my girlfriend to Paris.

"I went over at Christmas to look at all the hotels. I’ve spent months preparing for this, they’re going to ruin it!"

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: "We are working with the authorities to address any threat of protests which could disrupt the airport.

"While we respect the right to peaceful protest and agree with the need to act on climate change, we don’t agree that passengers should have their well-earned Easter Break holiday plans with family and friends disrupted. Passengers should contact their airlines for up to date information on their journeys."

WARNING OVER REFUNDS

Passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed as a result of environmental protests at Heathrow have been warned they are unlikely to be able to get compensation.

Although passengers may be due refunds or replacement flights, they are unlikely to receive cash payouts from airlines as the protests are likely to be considered "extraordinary circumstances," a lawyer has said.

Events such as security threats, adverse weather, unexpected flight safety issues and staff strikes are considered extraordinary.

Under the Montreal Convention, an international aviation treaty, flight operators are not required to issue compensation to passengers in extraordinary circumstances, which apply if the delay or cancellation is outside of the control and responsibility of the airline.

Coby Benson, a lawyer in flight compensation at solicitors Bott & Co, said it was likely any disruption on Friday would be extraordinary and passengers would not be due compensation.

"Based on the case law that exists at this point in time, I strongly suspect that any judge would say that this is an extraordinary circumstance," he said.

The Civil Aviation Authority, the UK's aviation regulator, said it was not yet possible to determine whether delays on Saturday would be classified as extraordinary.

While passengers may not be able to claim cash compensation, they may be due refunds or replacement flights to get them to their destination.

Under European legislation, airlines are required to refund or reroute any passengers who have their flights cancelled, even if the cause is extraordinary.

POLICE RESPONSE

A Metropolitan Police statement said it had "strong plans" in place to deal with any planned demonstration at Heathrow Airport.

The force said: "We are aware of information that suggests the protesters will carry out a demonstration on Friday, 19 April in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport.

"We have strong plans in place that will enable us to deploy a significant number of officers to Heathrow and take firm action against any protester seeking to cause disruption at this location by committing criminal offences such as obstruction of the highway.

"We have requested mutual aid from other police forces to support our operation.

"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."

ARRESTS CONTINUE

Police confirmed more than 400 people had been arrested over the ongoing protests.

It has been suggested the sheer volume of protesters arrested have put pressure on police, with activists themselves claiming cells in the capital are full and "operating on a one-in, one-out capacity".

Some have even claimed they were taken as far away as Luton and Brighton as police struggled with demand.

But police refused to comment, saying that had "contingency plans in place" should they run out of space.

Activists glued themselves to a train at Canary Wharf yesterday in a bid to stop the Tube running and drivers have been stuck in traffic jams for more than an hour this morning after the protesters blocked Vauxhall Bridge.

Among those at Oxford Circus include actress Emma Thompson.

The protest has already disrupted the lives of more than 500,000 hard-working Londoners and cost businesses £12million and counting – with Extinction Rebellion threatening to keep it going for two more weeks.

 

It comes after Black Lives Matter got onto the runway at London City Airport in 2016, causing havoc.

The group later said it had targeted the airport because of climate change’s disproportionate effect on black people.

Heathrow Airport has been contacted for comment.



Emma Thompson is with us, #ExtinctionRebellion in Oxford Circus pic.twitter.com/Z5BKWGJuQ0








 

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