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By Anonymous on September 6, 2016

Flights have been cancelled at London’s City airport after nine protesters from Black Lives Matter UK got on to the runway and chained themselves together.

The airport said all flights were disrupted and that police were at the scene. The Metropolitan police said nine protesters erected a tripod on the runway and locked themselves together just before dawn.

By 9.30am, seven of them had been arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass, being unlawfully airside, and breaching the airport’s bylaws. Two people remained locked together on the runway as officers negotiated with them.

There were chaotic scenes at the departure lounge as a large queue of passengers snaked through the adjacent DLR station with some expressing their anger at the protest.

The campaign said it carried out the protest to highlight the environmental impact of air travel on the lives of black people locally and globally. It posted images of protesters lying on the runway after unfurling banners.

Protesters reportedly swam or got a dinghy across the dock to reach the runway. A spokeswoman for BLMUK said she could not confirm or deny this. However, she did confirm that all the protesters who had chained themselves together on the runway were white.

The group issued a video that said the reason for the protest was that the climate crisis was a “racist crisis”.

Passengers in the crowded lounge were waiting at check-in counters and customer service desks to find out what was happening to their flights.

Departure information screens were awash with red, showing a significant number of cancellations, while airline staff handed out water and chocolates to aggrieved passengers.

Flights were cancelled to Geneva, Milan, Luxembourg, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Zurich, Florence, Majorca and Malaga. Flights to Dublin and Frankfurt were showing “indefinite delays”.

Sarah Antoniou, 31, from London, was set to fly to Malaga on holiday with her husband and two children, one aged two and one aged five months, but her 9am flight has been cancelled. The family were rebooked on to a flight from Gatwick, about 26 miles away, at 6.40pm.

“It is difficult flying with children,” she said. “They’re going to spend the whole first day of their holiday travelling. I’m running out of bottle for their milk. I allowed for some delay.”

Antoniou said she understood the protest was against the expansion of the airport but had little sympathy. “I understand the concerns, but there are other ways of making your point, which won’t impact on young families,” she said.

A 49-year-old passenger, who asked not to be named, had his flight home to Nigeria cancelled and he and his two companions were facing a 13-hour wait for the next one.


“I can only wait,” he said. “I’ve been given a voucher for some light refreshment. I’m angry.” Discussing the protest, he said: “It’s ridiculous. Life is life, black or whatever colour, I don’t see any difference.”

Pam and Lee Menzies-Banton, a married couple living in Bow, east London, were supposed to fly to Palma at 10am and were awaiting information. “The holiday is long overdue, we’re very tired,” said Pam, who works for a drug and alcohol treatment charity. “Many issues always affect the poorest in society,” she said. “But it has stopped these two black lives from going on holiday.”

An 86-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, was waiting in a designated area for wheelchair users. She had been set to fly to Nice at 9am, but the flight was cancelled. “I’ve given up hope that we’re flying there,” she said. “I have mobility difficulties and it’s very difficult to travel.”

In a statement, BLMUK said the protest was aimed at highlighting the economic disparity between the users of the airport and the people who lived in east London where it is based.

“The average salary of a London City airport user is €136,000 … 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.”

It added: “By 2020, there will be 200 million climate refugees globally. Whilst at London City airport a small elite is able to fly, in 2016 alone 3,176 migrants are known to have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, fleeing conditions that they did not create because cheaper, easier and most importantly, safer avenues have been blocked by the UK and other European countries. Black people are the first to die, not the first to fly, in this racist climate crisis.”

The group called for further protests on Tuesday over a deportation flight to Jamaica later this month.

Its statement said: “We note that the UK is willing to charter special flights to remove black people from the country based on their immigration status. We call on our supporters to join the demonstration against this, today at the Jamaica high commission.”

Black Lives Matter UK, was launched last month as an offshoot of the international movement was set up in the US following the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida four years ago.

Winnie Kirsch Well said.

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