The environmental protest group, Extinction Rebellion has decided to call off a controversial direct-action protest at Heathrow Airport which was expected to start on Tuesday 18th June. Protestors had planned to fly drones around the airport in a bid to shut the airport down and force the British government to agree to a series of demands that the group say are imperative to save the world.
Details of the drone protest were leaked a couple of months of ago and have proved highly controversial because critics say it would put lives at risk. Some of Extinction Rebellion’s own members feared the protest would turn the public against the group and police said anyone caught flying drones near Europe’s busiest airport could face life in prison for endangering the safety of aircraft.
In a statement released by the group on Sunday, Extinction Rebellion said it would postpone any direct action at Heathrow until at least August. It also detailed a series of measures it would introduce to prevent aircraft being endangered by their actions.
“Extinction Rebellion will not be carrying out any actions at Heathrow Airport in June or July this year, aimed at causing disruption to holidaymakers and those planning to use the airport in this period. The Heathrow Airport authorities will therefore not have to pause any summer flights,” the statement read.
“Fear and apprehension have swirled around this action since an internal proposal was leaked to media. The subsequent accusation that Extinction Rebellion was willing to endanger life is a depressing and predictable smear.”
Environmentalists have not ruled out flying drones around Heathrow but have said they will only be flown at a maximum height of 6 feet and will not be flown within flight paths. They have, however, not ruled out flying drones within a 5km drone exclusion zone that encompasses the West London airport.
“It is Extinction Rebellion’s contention that flying a lightweight drone at a maximum height of six feet, outside flight paths, poses no risk to passing aircraft,” the group claims.
In addition, Extinction Rebellion says they’ll provide at least two months notice of any protest activity – the idea appears to be to force authorities to proactively cancel flights.
The group maintains that the world is facing an environmental disaster and that Heathrow, as well as many other airports around the world should be cutting capacity and not looking to expand.
Police have said they’ll robustly deal with any protest activity, describing Heathrow as a piece of “key infrastructure” that they will not allow to be disrupted.