On Monday at 7pm (12 Jan) around 250 people calmly entered the departures level of Terminal 1 at London’s Heathrow Airport to protest against the impact on climate change resulting from air travel. Having been planned for many weeks the protest took on added meaning as a result of the British Government’s announcement just one day prior that the construction of a third runway and more airport expansion at Heathrow would most likely be given the go-ahead, despite assurances from Government that full public consultation would be entered into.
Under a heavy yet light-touch Police presence the protestors remained within a cordoned area. Many changed into Edwardian clothing in memory of and to emulate the peaceful protest methods of the suffragettes – campaigners for women’s rights in the early 20th century. Amongst the protestors were villagers from Sipson – the village near Heathrow which would be decimated should airport expansion go ahead.
With a string quartet playing the protestors sat down for a picnic and in a truly old-fashioned and quintessentially English manner offered sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and sweets to everyone – passers by, the media and even the Police officers. The protest drew a great deal of media attention with live TV news coverage and a phalanx of photographers and reporters.
Perhaps fearing a repeat of the recent protest at Stansted Airport in December where environmental campaigners invaded the runway causing flight cancellations and major disruption there was a large Police presence which encircled the group yet kept at a slight distance preventing the protest from accessing other parts of the terminal. The protest remained completely peaceful, even as a conga line of protestors snaked around the terminal and in front of Police.
As the protest was taking place news was coming to light that a group of celebrities including Oscar winning actress Emma Thompson, impressionist Alistair McGowan had secretly purchased from a local landowner a football-pitch sized plot of land – right in the middle of the area outlined for the controversial third runway, a move which could result in years of delays for any development and very possibly mean any expansion plans would need to be completely changed – or even scrapped.