Both Heathrow and Manchester airports were targeted Monday with the domestic departure lounges of both airports simultaneously occupied by protesters. In London over 500 people defied airport bylaws by staging a sit-down dinner forcing airport operator BAA to close 18 check-in desks. In Manchester police used powers under Section 14 of the Public Order Act to contain up to 100 protesters on the ground floor of Terminal 3 and there was one arrest.
The Climate Rush actions were timed to coincide with MPs return to the house of commons with the government expected to announce the decision on the Heathrows airport expansion during week. Meanwhile, Greenpeace revealed that a plot of land within the proposed expansion site had been purchased in an attempt to delay the construction.
Despite media speculation that the announcement would be delayed, by Wednesday nght the media were reporting that the expanision plans have been given the green light. After the official announcement on Thursday, 'climate suffragettes' smashed the windows of the Department of Transport and on Saturday 500 flash mobbed at Heathrows terminal 5.
Newswire Reports : Climate Rush Heathrow images, 12.01.09 | Heathrow Terminal One Climate Rush Picnic a success! | Northern Climate Rush at Manchester Airport | Northern Climate Rush Photos (video) | Protests against airport extension in Frankfurt | Why I renounce my vote | Suffra-jets smash windows
Campaign Links: Plane Stupid | Airport Watch | Climate Rush | T5Flashmob"> | HACAN ClearSkies | No Third Runway Action Group | Stop Heathrow Expansion | Campaign for Better Transport | Airport Pledge | Stop Bristol Airport Expansion
On the stroke of seven o'clock, the coats and backpacks fell aside to reveal flowing white dresses, patterned waistcoats, cummerbunds, and an impressive array of picnic items. Four people who seconds earlier had been avoiding eye contact morphed into a string quartet, flourished their instruments, and began to play. Airport staff and an array of police officers looked on in slight confusion as the picnic got going.
It could only be the Climate Rush, which with impeccable timing hit Heathrow in the week where the government's decision on a third runway is supposed to be announced. Following their earlier protest at parliament, the ladies, gentlemen and street urchins of the Edwardian-inspired protest group shared sandwiches, threw beach balls around, and chatted as commuters streamed past, including perhaps a few MPs returning from their Christmas break and pondering the impending decision on Heathrow.
As protestors chanted ‘deeds not words' and conga'd around the dingy terminal, it felt a bit like reality had been temporarily suspended. (Particularly when I stumbled into a toilet crammed with bulky police officers in fluorescent jackets). But chatting to a few of the hundreds who had made the tube journey to the airport, the serious purpose behind the event was clear - to highlight the gap between the government's support for aviation expansion, and the realities of climate change, which mean we need to cut UK emissions rapidly. The location was significant as Terminal 1 caters mainly to short-haul domestic flights to places like Leeds or Edinburgh - the flights which are really indefensible, given the direct trains servicing the same routes. That's probably why the people I spoke to came from across London, across age ranges, and were members of organisations ranging from the WI to the Labour party.
A couple of hours later the music stopped and we boarded the tube for the journey home. Whatever happens at Heathrow over the coming weeks, it's clear that the decision on a third runway won't be made quietly.
More details at the Climate Rush website, and on the theme of ‘deeds not words' at Heathrow, check out Airplot - we've got a deed and you can have a piece of it too.