Heathrow drones protest: Two men arrested within airport perimeter

By Caitlin Doherty, PA

Two people have been arrested after climate change activists planned on disrupting Heathrow using drones.

The men were arrested in the early hours of Friday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance within the perimeter of Heathrow Airport, the Metropolitan Police said.

Environmental protest group, Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of the Extinction Rebellion movement but separate from it, said it intended to fly the devices in the 5km zone around the transport hub.

The arrests, within a 5km (3.1 mile) exclusion zone around the airport, followed seven pre-emptive arrests on Thursday, when officers caught suspected would-be pilots, including Extinction Rebellion co-founder, Roger Hallam, ahead of the planned action.

The three women and six men are aged between their 20s and their 60s, with four of the men and the three women detained in Bethnal Green, Haringey and Wandsworth and taken into custody on Thursday, police said.

PA Graphics

Scotland Yard said a dispersal order had been put in place at Heathrow until 4.30am on Sunday “to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport”, and a large police presence was seen in the airport area on Friday morning.

In the early hours of Friday, a live stream was shared on a Heathrow Pause Twitter account, showing two people struggling to get a drone off the ground.

The two men, filming themselves near a road, said they were experiencing “a technical glitch”.

The device could be seen flashing red and green lights as the men held it above their head, but did not make it into the air.

Meanwhile, planes landed at Heathrow as normal, with the first flights touching down just before 5am.

Earlier this week, a senior Metropolitan officer advised Heathrow passengers to travel as normal and said they were “confident” disruption would be kept to a minimum.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We will be arresting anybody who commits unlawful offences.

“We are really clear that it is unlawful, it is a criminal offence, and anybody who turns up expecting to fly drones in that exclusion zone will be arrested.”

Heathrow Airport confirmed its runways were open and said they were committed to addressing climate change.

Police monitor traffic at Heathrow (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

It said in a statement: “We will continue to work with the authorities to carry out dynamic risk assessment programmes and keep our passengers flying safely on their journeys today.

“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.

“The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do.”

Friday morning’s action was the latest in a string of climate change protests this year, including the widespread action in London in April, which saw Extinction Rebellion bring sites including Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge to a standstill.