Brave #Heathrow13 Won Massive Boost for the Movement to Stop Airport Expansion

  • Court took U-turn over a prison sentence in the face of huge community support to and solidarity with climate activists
  • 6 weeks suspended sentence for 12 months

By Rumana Hashem

The 13 amazing climate activists at Plane Stupid, who faced final sentencing on Wednesday for protesting against new runways and for attempting to protect the communities from catastrophic climate change, have won a massive boost for the movement to stop new runways in the UK. Although the brave #Heathrow13 were accused of aggravated trespass and entering restricted area of an aerodrome, the district judge was impressed by the defendants’ good character and commitment. They were given sentences of six weeks suspended for 12 months.

The thirteen activists were able to avert prison, following a remarkable protest of more than 300 climate activists who gathered outside the Willesden magistrates’ court in north-west London and demonstrated against the final sentencing of the #Heathrow13, and opposed possible expansion of the airport. The suspended sentence now means that if the 13 activists break the law within a year, they are likely to serve the sentence. This verdict is not fair judgement; however, it is undeniable that the court’s U-turn over a prison sentence was an outcome of the unprecedented support that the passionate #Heathrow13 had received from the community people.


The #Heathrow13 returns  from the court by averting jail on 24 Feb 2016

The #Heathrow13 returns from the court by averting jail on 24 Feb 2016. Photo: Plane Stupid

During the trial at Willesden magistrates court in north-west London, over 300 passionate throng of protesters gathered outside the court while thousands of national and international climate activists had shown virtual support, and were vigilant online throughout the day. The support of community activists and environmentalists outside the court was powerful. Supporters had spilled into the road, waved banners protesting against a third runway at Heathrow, chanted slogans, and made robust speeches amid heavy state security. Speakers at the demo include Heathrow’s MP John McDonnell, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

As the incredible #Heathrow13 defendants had argued, their actions were reasonable, proportionate and necessary to prevent death and serious injury via air pollution and climate change. They pointed out correctly that 31 people a year die prematurely around Heathrow due to its pollution, and thousands die due to the effects of climate change. Their trial  was not a great a outcome though what it means is that community volunteers will return to community work in near future.

In a published statement Plane Stupid  noted:

This is a huge relief for the activists and their families, and a massive boost for the movement to stop airport expansion. The court’s U-turn over a prison sentence is a vindication of the right to peaceful protest.

As they denounced that: It’s because of people power that we don’t have a third runway now. People power will stop new runways again. We’re in it for the long haul. “No ifs, no buts”.

Phulbari Solidarity Group stands with the #Heathrow13 and colleagues at Plane Stupid who will continue to work on to stop new runway at Heathrow. It is time to join our shoulders, and work hand in hand to prevent climate change and to protect our planet from destruction. Evidently, emissions from aviation are destroying people’s lives. People in the Heathrow area, who already have to breathe illegal levels of air pollution and suffer intolerable noise, would now see their homes destroyed. People across the UK have been flooded at Christmas, and every year hundreds of thousands more people die due to climate change – mostly in countries in the Global South, like Bangladesh, the people least responsible for emissions.

The UK Government is expected to make its decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick – or neither – this year. It is important for us to succeed to persuade the Government to act appropriately and to cancel new runways.  It’s one or the other: build new runways or protect us from climate chaos. The people in the Global South who are dying due to climate change already have no voice in the debate. We can show them that jailing peaceful protesters will not silence those of us who do.

Therefore, we need to continue to show our support to #Heathrow13 and the campaign against airport  expansion.

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