Heathrow drone protests: Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam re-arrested hours after release for attempting to fly device

‘When there’s radical evil happening in the world, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, and that means economic disruption’

Andy Gregory
Saturday 14 September 2019 23:24 BST
Drone flyers fail to shut down Heathrow

Extinction Rebellion co-founder Roger Hallam has been arrested just hours after being after being released from custody for attempting to fly a drone near Heathrow.

The climate activist was first “pre-emptively” arrested on Thursday along with four others from the splinter group Heathrow Pause.

Hours after being released from custody on Friday night, Mr Hallam breached his bail conditions of not going within five miles of an airport or possessing any drone-related materials, the group said.

He was re-arrested by London's Metropolitan Police close to the airport’s southern perimeter on Saturday.

The group were attempting to ground flights at the airport and protest controversial plans for its expansion by safely flying the devices at head height inside the airport’s five-km exclusion zone.

While some activists filmed themselves flying drones in wooded areas, those who attempted to launch devices closer to the airport were forced to hold drones above their heads instead, concluding police were using “jamming signals” to disable the devices.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said while the force has a range of counter drone tactics, they would not discuss whether they had been deployed.

However, they confirmed that 19 people had been arrested and said that a dispersal order “implemented to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport” would remain in place until Sunday afternoon.

Heathrow Pause had stated their intention to disrupt the airport six weeks in advance, warning travellers to make alternative arrangements.

As a result, members of the group were arrested pre-emptively in London, while others were detained closer to the airport.

Paralympic bronze-medallist James Brown handed himself in to the police for his role in the protest, telling The Telegraph that he feared prison but it was a price worth paying. He had not flown a drone but held one above his head.

One activist was was bitten by a police dog during a raid in his garden, and was taken to hospital after spending 24 hours in custody, Heathrow Pause said.

A Met spokesperson said the man received minor injuries to his leg while attempting to evade officers on foot, before declining medical help.

Mr Hallam said he was taking part in the disruption “in order to get the government to take seriously its responsibilities to British people and cancel the third runway”.

Activists are protesting the airport’s planned expansion, which critics allege would be a betrayal of the UK’s declaration of a climate emergency and have a devastating impact on local wildlife.

“The main reason I’m doing it is I’m trying to be a human being,” Mr Hallam said. “When there’s radical evil happening in the world, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, and that means economic disruption.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said that anyone found flying a drone within five km of the airport would be subject to the full force of the law.

“Alongside drone detection capabilities, we will mitigate the impact of this illegal action and operate in a way that is safe at all times,” they said. “We agree with the need to act on climate change but driving change requires constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offences and disrupting passenger journeys is counterproductive and irresponsible.”

But Heathrow Pause activists claimed the airport already emits 18m tons of CO2 per year, more than the total emissions of 118 countries.

They said: “A third runway will produce a further 7.3 million tons, harming us and our children, devastating wildlife, shattering communities, damaging the natural environment probably beyond repair – certainly in our lifetime – and accelerating the already lethal pace of global heating.”

Extinction Rebellion is expected to commence another round of widespread civil disobedience across the UK in October that it predicts could be larger than April’s protests, which resulted in Westminster declaring a climate emergency.

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