Five climate change activists from a group planning a “drone protest” at Heathrow airport on Friday (13 September) have been pre-emptively arrested.
Extinction Rebellion splinter group Heathrow Pause is planning to fly toy drones in restricted airspace at Britain’s busiest airport in an attempt to ground flights.
Last month, Heathrow Pause said anywhere between 50 and upwards of “a couple of hundred people” could participate in the protest, each operating a drone.
The group met with the Metropolitan Police earlier this week to discuss their plans and establish how the action could pass off peacefully and without “unforeseen difficulties” for either side.
Heathrow Pause has confirmed those arrested include Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam and another prospective drone pilot Mike Lynch-White.
In a statement, the Met said three men and two women aged between their 20s and their 50s were arrested on Thursday afternoon (12 September) on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance in relation to operations at Heathrow airport on Friday.
Two men were arrested in Bethnal Green, and two women and one man in Haringey. They have been taken to a London police station.
It comes after the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor told the Guardian he would take any opportunity to head off the protest pre-emptively.
The Met made a final plea to Heathrow Pause on Wednesday (11 September) to call off their planned protest, warning anyone waking part would face serious legal repercussions.
Taylor said the force had been preparing for the action for several weeks to minimise or avert any potential disruption. “This group of activists have stated their intention to fly drones illegally near Heathrow airport on Friday morning, with the sole aim of causing significant disruption to planned flights,”
“Far from this being a lawful protest, this is the deliberate and criminal targeting of an essential part of the UK’s national infrastructure that thousands of people rely on every day and it will not be tolerated.
“We would urge anyone planning to take part in this activity to reconsider. We take the flying of a drone within airspace used by passenger aircraft very seriously. Anyone caught flying a drone without permission must expect to be arrested and prosecuted.
“We will be deploying extra officers for this operation, and the plan covers the unique challenges that come with a protest targeting the airport and the surrounding areas.”