Extinction Rebellion: Blind Paralympian climbs on top of plane as arrests pass 1,100

Activists including former detective among those taken away by police, while London City airport and New York’s Times Square blockaded 

Jane Dalton
Friday 11 October 2019 08:01 BST
Extinction Rebellion protests: Man climbs on to British Airways plane before take-off as climate activists occupy airport

A blind Paralympian climbed onto the roof of a plane preparing for take-off in a dramatic protest as hundreds of climate change activists tried to shut down an airport on Thursday.

The tally of arrests this week climbed to more than 1,100 following coordinated disruption by the Extinction Rebellion group, aimed at urging global leaders to urgently tackle climate change and wildlife losses.

Activists including an 83-year-old man were arrested after lying or sitting in the main entrance to block access to London City airport, some glueing themselves to the ground.

Dozens of other protesters glued themselves to the floor inside the airport lounge and at the nearby DLR station, stopping trains, Extinction Rebellion said.

In central London, roads around parliament were closed to traffic amid a heavy police presence, with protesters camped in St James’s Park and Trafalgar Square.

Protesters were removed with a hydraulic lift from a high structure in the square.

A former police detective was one of those glued to the ground at the airport and arrested. John Curran, 49, said he was demonstrating for his three-year-old daughter.

It was the fourth day of protests taking place across central London and other world cities, including New York, where activists took over Times Square.

At London City airport, James Brown, 43, a partially-sighted former cyclist, who won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Games, admitted he was “scared of heights” after managing to get on top of the aircraft in protest.

But he said his action was all about the climate and the ecological crises. “We’re protesting against government inaction on climate and ecological breakdown,” he said. “They declare a climate emergency and then do nothing about it.”

The fire brigade used a cherry-picker crane to remove him before police led him away.

Extinction Rebellion UK said he was “utterly selfless and incredibly brave”, adding: “Well done James, we are all with you.”

The blockade was billed as a three-day “Hong Kong-style” occupation of the airport which the group says is the worst hub for frequent flying, a “major cause of the climate and ecological emergency”.

Phil Kingston, 83, was among those arrested – the third time he was arrested as part of Extinction Rebellion action in a week.

A flight from the airport to Dublin was delayed when one protester on the plane stood up just before take-off and began talking about climate change.

Video showed him apologising for the inconvenience as other passengers called for him to be removed.

“I don’t wish to travel with you but I don’t wish to get off,” the man said.

Two protesters who clambered on to the roof of the airport building with a poster reading “Our fragile planet is dying” were removed by police.

Laurence Taylor, the Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, said the policing plan was aimed at “preventing criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport, and the thousands of passengers using it”.

“We are determined to deal with protestors robustly but proportionately,” he said.

“Targeting an airport and inconveniencing travellers in this way is wholly unacceptable and irresponsible. The consequences of committing offences at airports are serious; individuals breaking the law are being, and will continue to be, arrested and prosecuted where appropriate.”

A London City Airport spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a booked passenger that climbed on top of an aircraft at London City Airport has been removed. We are working with all partners to investigate, and ensure the safe and secure continuation of service.”

Two women from Extinction Rebellion are dragged out of London City airport by police

He said the airport was working with police to minimise disruption.

In Ireland, activists shut down Dublin city centre for a fourth day, camping outside the front door of a firm allegedly linked with “numerous harmful campaigns” including “promoting Ireland’s meat and dairy industry as sustainable”.

Karl Brophy, of Red Flag Consultancy, said: “The Extinction Rebellion movement is undoubtedly well-intentioned, but this small group is missing the mark by protesting outside our offices.

“All of our work is based on facts and science, unlike the claims these protesters are making about us, many of which are false.”

The Met Police could not put a figure on the number of arrests today but more than 500 protesters were arrested on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, praised Extinction Rebellion, saying their work was “extremely important” after his son labelled them “uncooperative crusties”.

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