Thirteen individuals who blockaded a runway last summer to protest against expanding Heathrow airport avoided being sent to prison. A court has handed them six-week suspended sentences in addition to community service. The group known as the Heathrow 13 has previously been warned to expect jail sentences, which would have marked the first prison sentences for climate protesters in the UK. 350.org issued the following reactions:
350.org Europe Team Leader Nicolò Wojewoda said: “As the climate crisis unfolds and politicians still fail to act, we need people like the Heathrow 13 more than ever. We should be immensely grateful for their courage to take action at high personal risk. The past teaches us that ordinary people taking extraordinary action can change the course of history; and more and more people are preparing to take civil disobedience to prevent the climate disaster from spiraling out of control.”
350.org’s Global Managing Director Payal Parekh said: “Where politicians fail, it’s up to ordinary citizens to take action. As the temperatures rise, so do people around the world. All over, people are getting ready for civil disobedience to keep the coal, oil and gas that is cooking our climate in the ground.”
Groups around the world are currently preparing mass mobilisations to shut down major fossil fuel projects on six continents in a series of actions from 7-15 May. The Break Free wave of actions will target oil wells in Nigeria, coal mines in Germany and Australia, fracking in Brazil and coal plants in Turkey and the Philippines among others.
It is clear that climate change, not peaceful protest, is the real threat, Friends of the Earth said as they receive the news that 13 activists have been given a suspended sentence following a protest at Heathrow airport.
Last July, the activists occupied a runway at Heathrow over plans for a controversial third runway and its impact on health and climate change. Aviation already makes up nearly 7% of the UKs overall CO2 emissions and this is growing rapidly.
Reacting to news of the sentencing, Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth campaigner said “It’s right that these activists have not been imprisoned for protesting to protect the planet but a suspended sentence is still deeply unjust. Peaceful protest is an important part of any democratic society.
“Climate change is one of the most urgent threats to people in the UK and around the world. Extreme weather has already destroyed homes and livelihoods here in the UK and this is set to get worse unless we take urgent action to prevent further global warming.
“History will judge the greater threat to our society; climate change or those who protest peacefully in a bid to protect people from its devastating effects.”