Heathrow protest: Extinction Rebellion climate activists threaten to disrupt airport, sparking Easter travel chaos

Messages sent on Whatsapp are calling for protesters to turn their attention to the UK's busiest airport

Helen Coffey
Thursday 18 April 2019 17:04 BST
Extinction Rebellion protesters continue to block Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge in third day of action

Extinction Rebellion climate change protesters are planning to shut down Heathrow airport on Friday as millions prepare to travel for Easter weekend.

Messages sent via a Whatsapp group inform members the movement will be turning its attention to the aviation industry next, following five days of disruption in the capital.

Shared on Twitter, the messages read: “Tomorrow we raise the bar. We are going to shut down Heathrow.”

It goes on: “Many of you have expressed a desire to disrupt Heathrow – and so we wanted to share this action with you.

“For the Bank Holiday, we are halting swarming disruption and turning our focus onto the aviation industry. We want you to join us.”

The messages give participants in-depth instructions on where to meet and how to get there, informing them to catch the 7.12am train from London Paddington station and alight at West Drayton to congregate by a local petrol station.

The correspondence laments the holiday and family plans that will be disrupted by the action, saying there is “deep remorse” for this.

“It is not our intention to cause further separation,” reads the message. “However, the aviation industry needs to be targeted and we are all aware of the deep, structural change that needs to come.”

It is not yet known how the protesters plan to shut down Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, which sees more than 200,000 passengers pass through every day on around 1,300 flights.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are aware of information that suggests the protesters will carry out a demonstration on Friday, 19 April in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport. We have strong plans in place that will enable us to deploy a significant number of officers to Heathrow and take firm action against any protester seeking to cause disruption at this location by committing criminal offences such as obstruction of the highway.

“We have requested mutual aid from other police forces to support our operation. The airport is part of our national infrastructure and we will not allow the illegal activities of protesters to cause further disruption and misery to thousands of travellers, many of them families, over Easter.

“We would urge any protester planning to attend Heathrow to strongly reconsider.”

Three million British travellers are expected to fly from UK airports during the Easter period, according to the UK Travel Retail Forum.

“We are all going to face pushback on this,” the Extinction Rebellion message finishes. “We hope, together, we can recognise the necessity of this action and communicate that necessity to our friends, our loved ones and the general public.

“Keep on going everybody. Keep rebelling.”

The planned disruption follows the movement bringing traffic in London to a halt during the last few days by blocking key junctions, including Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus.

A spokesperson for Transport for London said: “We are aware that there are demonstrations taking place across London which may cause disruption to travel.

“The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority and we’re working closely with the police to manage the impact on London’s transport network.

”We would encourage people to check their journeys before they travel.”

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