Monday 26 September 2016

Seven arrested as Black Lives Matter protest hits flights at London City Airport

Ryan Hooper

Published 06/09/2016 | 07:42

Aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Police vehicles gather at one end of the landing strip at City Aiport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Passengers queue at City Aiport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
A police dinghy sails past as aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
Aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
A police dinghy sails past as aircraft stand idle at City Airport after a protest closed the runway causing flights to be delayed, in London, Britain September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Seven people have been arrested following an airport protest - though passengers remain grounded, with disruptions to flights in and out.

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The activists were from the nine-strong Black Lives Matter group who stormed the runway at London City Airport shortly before 6am.

The Metropolitan Police said the seven have been held on suspicion of aggravated trespass, being unlawfully air-side and breaching airport by-laws after eyewitness reports that the group swam across the Thames to gain access to the Royal Docks site before locking themselves to a tripod frame.

Two people remain locked together on the runway.

Police are currently negotiating with the nine activists, who have locked themselves together after apparently swimming across the Thames to gain access to the Royal Docks site.

Flights in and out of the airport were seriously affected, with no departures or arrivals expected until 10am at the earliest.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We were called at around 5.40am to reports of a number of protesters who made their way air-side.

"There are currently nine protesters on the runway at the airport. They have erected a tripod and have locked themselves together.

"Officers are currently on scene and are negotiating with them. We are awaiting the arrival of specialist resources that are able to unlock the protesters.

"No arrests have been made at this stage."

It is the latest demonstration involving the anti-racism activists, who brought traffic to a standstill outside Heathrow Airport - and carried out similar protests in cities around the country - in a co-ordinated day of action last month.

The campaigners, whose international movement was set up following the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida four years ago, said Tuesday's action was taken "in order to highlight the UK's environmental impact on the lives of black people locally and globally".

In a statement, the protest group's UK division cited expansion plans at the airport as the cause of their action.

They said: "Recently London City Airport was given approval to expand its capacity, a move that consigns the local community in Newham to further deterioration of their environment. The average salary of a London City Airport user is 136,000 euros (£114,000) and 63% of them work in business, finance or other business services.

"It is an airport designed for the wealthy. At the same time 40% of Newham's population struggle to survive on £20,000 or less. When black people in Britain are 28% more likely to be exposed to air pollution than their white counterparts, we know that environmental inequality is a racist crisis."

An airport spokesman said: "We're currently experiencing disruption to all flights due to protesters at the airport. Police are currently on the scene."

Passenger Casey Collins said customers were unaware of the protests until after 8am, and assumed the delays were related to IT glitches at Heathrow and Gatwick.

The freelance management consultant from Devizes in Wiltshire, was supposed to be on a 7.35am flight from City to Luxembourg.

He told the Press Association: "The board was saying all BA flights were on hold, and that there would be updates at 8am, so we thought it was a continuation of the problems at Heathrow and Gatwick with BA.

"We then realised that things were more serious because all flights were being affected.

"It started to get a little bit out of control in terms of staff letting people know.

"We didn't know why we were weren't being called to board, it just said the next information would be at 8am and that people were being encouraged to queue up at the info desk.

"But the problem was that there were only two or three staff there and the queue was about 150 yards long so it was impossible.

"Pretty soon they realised they would have to do a queue-walk to inform everyone. People were behaving themselves, they know it was not the airport's fault, but for a time it was a bit chaotic."

He said passengers were offered refunds for cancelled flights, while delayed passengers were also given refreshment vouchers.

Press Association

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