Five arrested ahead of Heathrow drone protests

Five arrested ahead of Heathrow drone protests

Five climate change activists have been “preemptively” arrested over plans to fly drones near Heathrow Airport.

The three men and two women, aged between their 20s and 50s, were held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance, Scotland Yard said.

Heathrow Pause, a splinter group of the Extinction Rebellion movement, which is separate from it, has said it intends to fly drones in the 5km exclusion zone around the airport on Friday.

Would-be pilots Roger Hallam, a co-founder of the Extinction Rebellion group, and Mike Lynch-White were arrested in Bethnal Green, east London on Thursday afternoon.

Video footage shows the pair being handcuffed by plainclothes officers and put into the back of unmarked vehicles.

A Heathrow Airport sign (Steve Parsons/PA)
A Heathrow Airport sign (Steve Parsons/PA)

Heathrow Pause said they were “pre-emptively arrested” following a magazine interview.

Two women and a man, who have not yet been named, were also arrested in Highgate, north London.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “We have carried out these arrests today in response to proposed plans for illegal drone use near Heathrow Airport which protest group Heathrow Pause have said will take place tomorrow morning.

“Our policing plan is aimed at preventing criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport, and the thousands of passengers that will be using it.

“We have warned previously that arrests would be made if this activity continued.

“In these circumstances, we believe these arrests to be a proportionate response to preventing criminal activity that could significantly impact on a major piece of national infrastructure.

Flying a drone within 5km of Heathrow is illegal and any persons found doing so will be subject to the full force of the law

“We remain fully prepared for the planned protest tomorrow, and will work quickly to identify criminal activity and arrest anyone committing offences.”

Earlier this week the senior officer advised Heathrow passengers to travel as normal, warning activists they face arrest if they fly the machines nearby.

“We will be arresting anybody who commits unlawful offences,” he said.

“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.”

Frontline officers have been drafted in from other areas of the Met to tackle the protest, while a meeting was held between Heathrow Pause activists and the force earlier this week to discuss Friday’s action.

Planes taxi to the southern runway at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)
Planes taxi to the southern runway at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA)

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Flying a drone within 5km of Heathrow is illegal and any persons found doing so will be subject to the full force of the law.”

He added: “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.”

It is the latest in a string of climate change protests this year, including the widespread action in London in April, which saw Extinction Rebellion bring sites including Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge to a standstill.

- Press Association

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