Heathrow airport protest: Police stop Extinction Rebellion activists blocking road

Ceren Senkul, news reporter

Young climate change protesters have launched a small protest outside Heathrow airport, amid a plan to "shut down" the transport hub.

Around 20 of them gathered next to a roundabout between terminals two and three with a banner reading "are we the last generation?" but all roads remain open.

The home secretary had told police they could use the "full force of the law" to stop illegal demonstrations during the Easter break.

After several "non-violent civil disobedience" protests in recent days, Extinction Rebellion group announced on Thursday that it planned to "raise the bar" at the UK's busiest airport, which is expected to be used by almost 250,000 people today.

In a statement, the group said: "There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted.

"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."

After a briefing from Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law.

"They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.

"I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law. They have my full backing in doing so."

Heathrow said on Friday morning: "Following earlier activity, we continue to work with the authorities to address any threat of protests which could cause disruption for passengers.

"Heathrow is currently operating normally.

"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 with family and friends disrupted."

About 247,000 people are estimated to be flying in or out of Heathrow on Good Friday and the airport advised passengers to contact their airlines for information.

Extinction Rebellion wants the government to declare a climate emergency and take action on its three main demands: that the government tells "the truth" about "how deadly our situation is", that it cuts carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and creates a "citizens' assembly" to oversee the changes.

More than 1,000 officers have been deployed daily to deal with the protests and more than 570 people have been arrested.

However, those arrests have resulted in only 10 charges.

Actress Emma Thompson joined the protests in London after taking a 5,400-mile flight from Los Angeles in the US.

She said: "I absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday but I didn't quite manage that.

"I'm so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was "extremely concerned" about the disruption, adding: "This is extremely dangerous, illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force and our city."

Scotland Yard warned protesters the force has "strong plans" in place with a significant number of officers ready to respond.

Disrupting the services of an airport that could endanger the safe operation or safety of passengers and staff is a crime.