Police will have to divert officers away from London’s violence-plagued streets to tackle climate protesters threatening to cripple Heathrow with drones in repeat of Gatwick chaos
- Climate protesters are planning to fly drones over Heathrow on Friday
- Police have vowed to draft in extra officers and arrest anyone flying drone
- Met have insisted the stunt won’t be a repeat of chaos at Gatwick last year
Published: 11:18 EDT, 11 September 2019 | Updated: 12:24 EDT, 11 September 2019
Police officers will be pulled from across London to round up climate protesters who want to bring Heathrow Airport to a standstill with drones.
Heathrow Pause – a splinter of the Extinction Rebellion movement but separate from it – plans to fly drones in the 5km exclusion zone around Britain’s biggest airport on Friday.
Police have vowed to arrest anyone with a drone and have urged demonstrators to stay away from the area.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: ‘We will be arresting anybody who commits unlawful offences. We are really clear that it is unlawful, it is a criminal offence, and anybody who turns up expecting to fly drones in that exclusion zone will be arrested.’
Protesters want to bring Heathrow to a standstill on Friday by using drones around runways
Police say they’ll not allow a repeat of the actions which brought chaos to Gatwick last year
At a time when violence in parts of the capital is spiralling, there is anger that officers will be pulled away from their beats to hunt for eco protesters around the airport.
Mr Taylor added: ‘We’ve had to put a significant policing plan in place that drains resources from across the Metropolitan Police.’
A meeting was held between Heathrow Pause activists and the police force earlier this week to discuss Friday’s action.
The Met has reassured passengers that it is working hard to minimise any potential disruption.
He vowed that the protest would not be a ‘repeat’ of the drone disruption at Gatwick Airport last winter.
He said: ‘I’m very confident that we have taken the learning from Gatwick. The aviation industry and national policing has been working to look at measures to mitigate those issues that we saw at Gatwick, and I’m confident in the tactics that we’ve got in place that we won’t see a repeat of what we saw at Gatwick.’
Police are urging protesters not to fly drones and say they will arrest anyone who does
Police were called to Heathrow in April when similar action by climate protesters was planned
That protest came to nothing however, with many of the demonstrators ending up crying
Mr Taylor said: ‘I’m really confident in the plans we’ve got in place, the level of resource and the tactics available to us, and we obviously take passenger safety incredibly seriously.
‘I would urge people to come on Friday because we’re going to do everything we can to prevent any disruption and I am confident we will be successful in that.’
Climate change activists have held a number of disruptive protests this year.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor says the Met Police will arrest anyone flying drones
Most notable was the shutdown of a number of sites in central London in April by Extinction Rebellion, including Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge.
Mr Taylor urged the protesters to consider their impact on the public.
‘Having to arrest hundreds of people is a huge demand, not just on the police, but on the justice system. It’s very costly.
‘We would urge protesters to consider that wider and considerable impact.
‘People absolutely have the right to protest, but that can’t be at the expense of thousands of other people.’
Heathrow Pause said it has ‘no choice’ but to carry out the action and invited the Prime Minister to join the protest.
It said: ‘The current Prime Minister is on record for saying his opposition to Heathrow expansion is so profound that he would ‘lie down in front of the bulldozers’.
‘We invite Boris Johnson to join us in flying a drone and showing his commitment to stopping Heathrow expansion and addressing the climate and ecological emergency.’