Environmental Activists Consider Drone Disruption in London

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Environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion has been causing disruption across the UK in recent months in an effort to draw attention to climate change and ecological breakdown.

The group has taken action and held protests around the world. In the UK, those actions have mainly centred around civil disobedience, with members blocking major transport links with peaceful protests and glueing themselves to just about anything: the London Stock Exchange, trains, the homes of major politicians, a Brexit debate in parliament (while naked).

Heathrow airport expansion a non-starter for activists

One of the contentious issues being protested by Extinction Rebellion is the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport. The airport is already among the busiest in the world and critics of the expansion suggest increasing its capacity is in contradiction with the UK government’s environmental sustainability targets.

Extinction rebellion has announced plans to disrupt the airport’s operations on June 18 with “nonviolent direct action to ensure Heathrow Authorities close the airport for the day”.

In a statement, the group has also said that “If the Government does not cancel all Heathrow expansion, Extinction Rebellion will act to shut the airport down for up to 10 days from July 1.”

Any disruptions at Heathrow will have serious consequences for the millions expected to be flying in and out on summer vacations over the set time period. Given the disruption caused by the group in the past, it’s going to be chaos.

“Extinction Rebellion is in the consultancy stage with its members on the proposed action,” reads a statement. “This is not about targeting the public, but holding the Government to their duty to take leadership on the climate and ecological emergency. The addition of the planned third runway would make Heathrow the single biggest carbon emitter in the UK; to expand the airport at this critical point in history would be madness.

We understand the action will cause disruption to a great number of holiday makers, however we believe that it is necessary given the prospect of far greater disruption caused by ecological and societal collapse, if we don’t act now. Holiday makers are being given advance notice to change travel plans.”

Extinction Rebellion protest in London.

Is drone disruption inbound?

London’s airports have seen their fair share of drone disruption in recent months. Air traffic at Gatwick was brought to a standstill in the days leading up to Christmas last year after several drone sightings.

Police and airport officials are concerned that history is about to repeat itself.

An internal proposal, seen by Reuters, suggests that Extinction Rebellion is indeed considering the use of drones as part of their efforts to shut down operations at Heathrow.

“This is not about targeting the public, but holding the Government to their duty to take leadership on the climate and ecological emergency,” the group said.

Unsurprisingly, Heathrow Airport has said the use of drones as part of the protest would be a “reckless action”.

It would also be an escalation from the kind of almost-comic disobedience Extinction Rebellion has preferred to date.

A further statement from the group appears to back down from any use of drones: “Extinction Rebellion is fully committed to nonviolence and will not take action that would put airline passengers at risk. Reports to the contrary are the result of a misconstrued interpretation of a document circulated within the movement asking for feedback.”


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