Heathrow 13 free!

IssueApril - May 2016
News by PN staff

In July of last year, 13 climate activists occupied Heathrow airport’s northern runway for six hours, causing around 25 flights to be cancelled. On 24 February, the Heathrow 13, who were found guilty of aggravated trespass and being unlawfully airside, were given suspended sentences of six weeks in prison. This means that if they commit another ‘offence’ in the next 12 months, they will be sent to prison for six weeks for the runway occupation, as well as being sentenced for any new ‘crime’.

The suspended sentences were seen as a little victory for the movement.

‘This is a huge relief for the activists and their families, and a massive boost for the movement to stop airport expansion,’ a blog post on the Plane Stupid website reads. ‘The court's U-turn over a prison sentence is a vindication of the right to peaceful protest.’

The activists were also ordered by Willesden magistrates court to do 120–180 hours’ community service and pay between £500 and £1,000 in costs. At the time of writing, supporters had raised more than half of the £5,000 necessary.

The defendants – Rob Basto, Ella Gilbert, Richard Hawkins, Cameron Kaye, Sheila Menon, Kara Moses, Danielle Paffard, Rebecca Sanderson, Sam Sender, Melanie Strickland, Alistair Tamlit, Edward Thacker and Graham Thompson – argued that their occupation was necessary to oppose the life-threatening climatic changes that Heathrow produces.

Additionally, the possible expansion of the airport poses a threat to the local residents, as well as being environmentally-destructive. Still, the government is considering this expansion. The activists have said that this reality is frustrating and unacceptable, especially in the wake of the climate change conference in Paris in December, where the British government promised to make changes in order to deal with climate change.

Science says

‘The climate science is undeniable and we need swift action from our government,’ Gilbert said. ‘If we’re at a crossroads between averting a climate crisis and blundering into a dark and unknown future, then the road to airport expansion is definitely the path that leads over the cliff.’

‘When the political system is so fundamentally flawed that it is unresponsive to an issue of colossal international importance, such as climate change, then every citizen has a responsibility to act,’ Strickland said. ‘There is a basic human, moral and social duty to take action to prevent this disaster and to wake people up.’