19 SEPTEMBER 2016
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Airport and airline authorities reacted angrily last week after nine protesters who disrupted operations at London City Airport by invading the runway were given conditional discharges in court. In the absence of any further punishment, Judge Elizabeth Roscoe also ordered them to pay court costs of £95 each. It is not a penalty and does not go on their record.
Observers, including BTN, who had called for strict penalties said the judgment sent “completely the wrong message” about an incident occurring only days before ceremonies marking the anniversary of 9/11.
The protesters chained themselves to structures on the LCY runway after crossing the Thames in rubber dinghies and scaling perimeter fences. They said their objective was to draw attention to what they termed “racist climate change”.
One of the strongest comments came from the Daily Mail, which contrasted the leniency shown to the group in court with what might have happened to a member of the public or passenger who defied security warnings.
The Mail described the police response as “pathetic”, adding: “Instead of turning a fire-hose on them, sending for bolt-cutters and a bulldozer, they let them stay put for six hours while negotiators attempted to talk the protesters into giving themselves up. They even handed out bottles of water to prevent the poor lambs becoming dehydrated.”
Meanwhile, the article went on, 9,000 paying passengers trying to go about their lawful business were cooped up in the terminal. “The cost in terms of lost connections, cancelled business meetings, disrupted holidays and – who knows? – missed funerals, weddings and family reunions is incalculable,” the paper continued.
Perceived wisdom was that no-one could expect to cause a full-scale security alert at an international airport and get away with it, the Mail explained, adding: “Well, not unless you’re a double-barrel-named, middle-class layabout and you bring London’s City Airport to a standstill.
“They weren’t acting out of frustration at the mindless, routine aggravation we are all subjected to when we travel by plane, you understand. So was it too much to hope that when they turned up in court they would be given a rude awakening?
“Sadly, yes. Instead of handing down exemplary sentences, Judge Elizabeth Roscoe didn’t even fine them.”
The Mail said it was no wonder the defendants were hugging each other and laughing their heads off outside the court afterwards. The case was “an insult to the thousands of people who had their lives disrupted by this ridiculous juvenile demonstration”.
As the paper said, what does it say about the courts’ attitude to airport security, 15 years after 9/11?
One has to wonder what Elizabeth Roscoe's attitude would have been if she had been one of the passengers delayed by this action! BTN refuses to name the group. As with COMMENT EXTRA last week (12 September), we prefer to call them anarchists.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Keith Robinson, United Kingdom
Would such a protest be allowed to fester for six hours on London Underground? I doubt it! Don't airports have the equivalent of British Transport Police with a remit to remove trespassers.How long would they last if they broke in and squatted on Elizabeth Roscoe's best Axminster??
I very much hope that the airport and/or airlines affected pursue a civil action in respect of costs incurred and revenue lost b
David Bentley, Manchester/UK
What exactly is racist climate change I wonder? The decrease in black clouds? I agree with both these observations, by Messrs George and Morris. Then when the fire brigade and courts have finished with them, off with their goolies.
David George, Northampton / UK
They have excellent fire appliances at LCY. Why did they not use the water cannon to clear the illegals quickly from the runway? Why, also, did the media publicise what they cloaimed to be protesting about.
John Morris, United Kingdom
It will be enlightening to understand whether the Airport will pursue a civil case for damages. Given BTN's readership base, why doesn't BTN encourage an action on behalf of delayed passengers, afainst the 'anarchists'?