Climate change campaigners threaten direct action at British airports

December 9th, 2008 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 9 (IANS) Security at British airports, including Heathrow, may come in for review after environment campaigners laid a temporary siege on Stansted airport Monday and threatened to step up direct action against environmentally challenged airport expansion plans of the government.Thousands of passengers had their travel plans thrown into chaos and 52 flights were cancelled after activists cut through the perimeter fence at Stansted and set up camp on a secure part of the airfield near where aircraft taxi to the runway. They were eventually forced off the airport by security officials and police.

With the public inquiry into the expansion of the Essex airport due to open next year, and a verdict on a third Heathrow runway expected in January, campaigners gave warning that direct action could become a recurrent problem for airlines and their passengers unless the sector’s growth is checked.

The protesters, some wearing high visibility vests which have the message “Please DO something” printed on them, chained and locked themselves to security fencing that they had brought with them, forcing police to physically remove them. The group used bolt-cutters to get into a secure area around

A spokesman for the campaigners, Plane Stupid, said that Monday’s incident would be “the first of many actions unless the government backs down” and that the people involved were professional and well-educated.

Maggie Thorburn, of another anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, warned that the Stansted protest might be the shape of things to come. She told The Times: “Hacan is not a direct action group but we are encouraged to see that the passion is there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other direct actions before next month’s Heathrow announcement, and if the announcement is not the one we want to see then I would expect to see more of it afterwards.”

The British Airports Authority told The Guardian it would review security arrangements. “If there are lessons to be learned obviously we will take that forward,” said a spokesman. “The good news is that they were stopped (at Stansted) before they reached their goal and they didn’t at any point risk the security of the airport.”

In February, five Plane Stupid activists, including the granddaughter of a baronet, were arrested after climbing the roof of the houses of parliament and unfurling banners opposing a third runway at Heathrow.

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