Police arrested two alleged members of the Heathrow Pause group, a splinter cell of activists from the Extinction Rebellion movement, after futile attempts to disrupt air traffic at Heathrow Airport using drones.
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The pair were arrested in the early hours of Friday morning but authorities claim there was no breach of airport security. The men were reportedly captured within Heathrow’s 3.1-mile exclusion zone in possession of a drone with the express intention of disrupting air travel, but without placing any lives in danger.
Their arrest brings the total number of Heathrow Pause climate activists arrested to 11, after police arrested several people in pre-emptive raids on Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance.
Despite the arrests, the group claims to have attempted three drone flights on Friday, one of which they say was “successful.”
Heathrow authorities deny any disruption to operations, and footage of one attempt showed the drones were incapable of flying as the authorities had deployed signal jammers to interfere with the remote-controlled devices.
Former paralympian James Brown was among those arrested; he claimed that there were as many as 35 people committed to flying drones at the airport with “lots and lots of people” ready to follow suit.
“It’s largely a protest against the fact our government declared a climate emergency in April and straight after approved a third runway for Heathrow. There’s no logic to that,” Brown said, adding that any disruption caused was nothing compared to “the imminent climate breakdown we are facing.”
However, judging by comments online, many disagreed with Brown’s assessment of the situation, calling the protesters a “menace” and joking about their attempts to launch drones.
“This is not protest, or taking action that causes ‘inconvenience,’ this is attention seeking by people who have nothing better to do,” wrote one user.
“Drumming up political will through endangering people’s lives is as extremist as it gets,” added another.
Others pointed out that forcing the planes to pursue a different path could cause them to burn more fuel, seriously undermining the whole point of the protests.