Dying to make a statement about Heathrow expansion
Two die-ins, an airport drama and a mass cycle ride created a stir in and around Heathrow on Saturday 1st October.
Climate activists from Reclaim the Power organised the Day of Action with two events taking place in and around Heathrow to oppose airport expansion and highlight climate change.
At nearly 1pm, a stream of cyclists who had congregated in Sipson village, which has been repeatedly under threat from Heathrow expansion and would be left on the new boundary this time. Although one road, Blunts Avenue, would effectively be inside the airport with boundary fence on three sides.
The Critical Mass of cyclists were dressed in red to represent the climate change red line - should we cross it our planet would become unliveable. The mass meandered its way through the lanes of Sipson and Harmondsworth before arriving at the Detention Centre on the Bath Road (A4), where people from other countries are detained while awaiting deportation.
Simultaneously, protestors were staging a Flashmob die-in at Terminal 2 inside the airport. The "dead" were wearing smog masks to raise awareness of the pollution generated by airports.
Testimonies from climate impacted communities were read out, alongside a theatrical Frequent Flyers High Polluters Club.
There was even some musical entertainment with a new version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" retitled "Go Green". Staff had to be reminded to get on with their jobs and not to watch the performance.
Meanwhile out in the sunshine, the protestors on bikes had continued their journey along the A4 but found their way blocked when they tried to exit at a small roundabout and go into the airport tunnel. A mass of cyclists, including several rigged up with speakers for music and one bike carrying a wood burner to keep the tea warm, is a tricky thing to stop without creating gridlock.
After finally leaving the roundabout, followed by a short pause for tea, the cyclists headed back down the A4 to the village of Longford, an historic village with listed properties that would be completely destroyed if either the third runway or Heathrow Hub options were chosen. After a brief stop for speeches and refreshments (again!) a few of the group "died" in the road nearby. Not only was this a pretty risky thing to do but it involved a good soaking due to a sudden shower. The climate was certainly changeable!
Both protests were peaceful and made their point without causing huge disruption. Police were close by throughout and there were no arrests.
The action falls in the middle of a major UN conference (ICAO) aiming to address the emissions impact of aviation, but which has been criticised by NGOs, and just ahead of the decision, expected in October, from the UK government on whether to increase runway capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick. Theresa May has announced that she now has enough cabinet support to press ahead with expanding Heathrow.
As well as the call to ‘stop airport expansion’, Reclaim the Power is calling for a tax on frequent flyers to fund greater investment in climate-friendly transport.
The action was part of a coordinated wave of anti-aviation mobilisations globally – including in France, Austria, Turkey and Mexico (more information on the Reclaim the Power website).