800 arrested in Extinction Rebellion protests ahead of City Airport action

By Emily Beament, Michael Bedigan and Margaret Davis, PA
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800 arrested in Extinction Rebellion protests ahead of City Airport action

Police have confirmed 800 Extinction Rebellion protesters have been arrested in London so far ahead of a plan to shut down City Airport for the next three days.

Activists say they will stage a “Hong Kong-style” occupation of the terminal building, lying, sitting or gluing themselves in front of the departure and arrival gates at the east London airport.

If they do not make it in to the terminal, they plan to blockade it from the outside, in protest against the climate impact of flying and the Government’s ongoing support of airport expansion.

Protesters have occupied Birdcage Walk, in central London, as part of the protests (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The warning comes as hundreds of police officers are being drafted in from across England and Wales to help the Metropolitan Police deal with the protests, which are now in their third day.

And the Metropolitan Police confirmed this evening 800 people have been arrested since Monday, with another 220 detained today.

Protesters have been camped, with tents, banners, food stalls and sound systems, on roads around Parliament Square and Whitehall, calling for urgent action on climate change and wildlife losses.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said the police have plans in place to intervene and “deal proactively” with anyone who has the intention of shutting down the airport.

And he said more than 80 tonnes of equipment being used for the protests in central London had been seized, including tents, portable toilets and generators.

Police were clearing any sites outside the pedestrian area of Trafalgar Square, after restrictions were put in place to stop disruption in the capital, he said.

Stanley Johnson, father of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, joins protesters in Trafalgar Square (Jonathan Brady/PA)

On Wednesday police marched down Horse Guards Road to remove protesters and tents, including several elderly activists who refused to move and were lifted to the side of the road and placed under arrest.

In the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling the protesters “unco-operative crusties”, his father Stanley Johnson said the comments were made in humour and he would consider it a compliment to be called a crusty by his son.

After speaking to a substantial crowd at the demonstration in Trafalgar Square, he told the PA news agency that Extinction Rebellion’s actions were “tremendously important”.

He added: “It is absolutely clear to me that we have been moving far too slowly on the climate change issue.”

Mothers gather ahead of the Extinction Rebellion mass ‘nurse-in’ road blockade in Westminster, London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

As part of the protests, hundreds of women staged a mass “nurse-in”, breast and bottle feeding their babies outside the QEII centre, before marching on Downing Street with their prams.

Lorna Greenwood, 32, who organised the event, said: “We’re bringing the youngest lives who will be affected by the climate crisis to the heart of Westminster.”

On Thursday, attention is expected to turn to City Airport in east London, where Extinction Rebellion says hundreds of activists have signed up to “non-violently use their bodies” to close the airport, and are prepared to be arrested.

The protesters say air travel is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions, is unsustainable and unfair as a minority of people take the majority of flights.

The group known as the Red Rebels in a procession leaving St James’s Park, near Birdcage Walk, during the third day of Extinction Rebellion protests (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Extinction Rebellion protester Dr Larch Maxey said: “The climate and ecological emergency affects us all, so it is essential that we all come together to solve it.

“We cannot do that with a government that is criminally neglecting to tackle the huge problem of aviation.

“Mass peaceful civil disobedience is essential to force our Government to take the necessary action before it is too late.”

A London City Airport spokesman said they were working with the Met Police to prepare for the protests and all passengers would be required to show their boarding pass to access the terminal.

“Climate change is a global challenge and we remain committed to building a more sustainable future for the airport and the aviation industry, ensuring that we are playing our part in meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon objectives,” he said.