Five Heathrow Pause activists 'preemptively' arrested

12 September 2019, 15:50 | Updated: 12 September 2019, 18:12

Five people have been arrested over plans to fly toy drones at Heathrow Airport as part of climate change protests.

Two men were arrested in a cafe in Bethnal Green, which was caught on camera, and two women and a man were arrested in Hornsey Lane, in Highgate.

Heathrow Pause released a statement which said: "Prospective drone pilots Roger Hallam and Mike Lynch-White have just been preemptively arrested and we caught it all on film.

"The pair were just concluding an interview with German news magazine der Spiegel at Billy's Cafe in Bethnal Green when four police cars pulled up. Officers handcuffed the Pause activists, placed them in separate cars and drove them away."

The Metropolitan Police confirmed the five arrests, which were "on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance in relation to operations at Heathrow Airport".

All five people are at a London police station.

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."

Mr Hallam is one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion. Heathrow Pause is understood to be a splinter group from XR.

Heathrow airport said it was determined to remain operational during potential disruption on Friday, which comes shortly after the BA pilot strike at the beginning of the week.

Activists were practicing flying the toy drones today, and said they would not fly them while there were planes in the air.

They also said they were willing to be arrested.

Linda Davidsen, from the Heathrow Pause group, said: "The idea is that we start the action... before any flights take off because we will not fly the drones when there is a flight already up in the air.

"We tell the authorities an hour before we take the action and then, once we have flown the drone, we call the police."

The group said it wouldn't fly the drones higher than head height.

Ms Davidsen said the act was "symbolic".

Earlier this week, Mr Taylor had warned: "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."

He said frontline police officers had been drafted in from other areas to help tackle the protest, and added that it if turned out to be a "handful of people, they will be responsible for the fact we've had to put that policing plan in place".

On Friday, more than 50 XR protesters are set to appear before magistrates at courts around the UK, on charges relating to the April protests in London where roads were blocked off for hours.

Despite being warned about the protests' impact on policing and on the justice system, Heathrow Pause said it had no choice but to go ahead.

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."