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Heathrow braces for disruption as Extinction Rebellion protesters threaten to target airport

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 19/04/2019 Telegraph Reporters
Heathrow Airport   (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Images Heathrow Airport (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Heathrow is bracing for major disruption on Friday after environmental protesters warned they would target the airport. 

With around 500,000 people expected to fly out for Easter breaks over the bank holiday weekend, Scotland Yard has said the Extinction Rebellion group would face a "robust response" if it targeted the airport.

The force said it had "strong plans" in place involving a significant number of officers to deal with the planned action on Good Friday.

A plane takes off over a road sign near Heathrow Airport in London, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. The British Cabinet has approved the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and to put the long-running issue up for a parliamentary vote. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) © ASSOCIATED PRESS A plane takes off over a road sign near Heathrow Airport in London, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. The British Cabinet has approved the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport, and to put the long-running issue up for a parliamentary vote. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Organisers of the climate group, which is calling for flights to be used only in emergencies, said action would be escalated to include Britain's busiest airport on Good Friday.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 01: Heathrow airport a major International Hub, launched a sustainability strategy which includes using 100 percent renewable energy by April and aims to operate  a zero-carbon, and zero-waste airport by 2050 on March 01, 2017 in London, England.

PHOTOGRAPH BY Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images

London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com -
New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com -
New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images) © Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Media LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 01: Heathrow airport a major International Hub, launched a sustainability strategy which includes using 100 percent renewable energy by April and aims to operate a zero-carbon, and zero-waste airport by 2050 on March 01, 2017 in London, England. PHOTOGRAPH BY Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

The airport said it was "working with the authorities" to address the threat of mass disruption, while Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: "Protesters can expect a robust police response. We are determined to keep the airport operating."

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has urged police to use the "full force of the law" to deal with illegal Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrations as they enter a fifth day.

More than 500 protesters had been arrested by Thursday night as activists continued to ignore orders to leave roadblocks at Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Parliament Square. Police arrest protesters as they block traffic on London's Oxford Circus, Thursday, April 18, 2019. The group Extinction Rebellion is calling for a week of civil disobedience against what it says is the failure to tackle the causes of climate change. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Police arrest protesters as they block traffic on London's Oxford Circus, Thursday, April 18, 2019. The group Extinction Rebellion is calling for a week of civil disobedience against what it says is the failure to tackle the causes of climate change. (AP Photo/Vudi Xhymshiti)

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London who has been accused of “aggravating” the climate protests, said he was "extremely concerned" about the possible disruption.

"This is extremely dangerous, illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force and our city," he said.

More than 1,000 officers have been deployed daily to deal with the protest. Some have been asked to work 12-hour shifts, while rest days and leave has been cancelled.

The Met said the protests were putting a strain on policing in the capital with officers diverted away from their "core local duties".

Climate change activists attend the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London, Britain April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson © Thomson Reuters Climate change activists attend the Extinction Rebellion protest at Oxford Circus in London, Britain April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

After a briefing from Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, the Home Secretary said: "I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law".

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"They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.

"I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law. They have my full backing in doing so."

Mass arrests for obstructing the highway and breaching the Section 14 order that prohibits protests apart from at Marble Arch do not appear to have deterred protesters and so far 10 people have been charged with those offences.

A further three people who were charged by British Transport Police appeared in court on Thursday morning.

Cathy Eastburn, 51, Mark Ovland, 35, and Luke Watson, 29, were remanded in custody over their alleged involvement in obstructing trains at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday morning.

Organisers said they expected even more people to join the protests and warned they would continue until their demands were met.

The group wants the Government to declare a climate emergency and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.

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In a video shared by the campaign group on Thursday, the Hollywood star urged viewers to "come and join" the demonstrations.

A representative of Dame Emma said she needed to take the 5,400-mile flight home to London after working in LA.

Large numbers of protesters moved from Oxford Circus to Parliament Square on Thursday night after organisers announced police were planning to make arrests in Westminster.

Sir David Attenborough's BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts was projected onto Westminster Abbey.

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