Environmental activists who have occupied key thoroughfares in London for four days demanding the UK government declare a climate emergency failed to disrupt road traffic at Heathrow airport on Friday morning.
The protest at a roundabout outside the country’s biggest airport on what is expected to be a busy day as people leave for Easter holidays was led by a dozen members of XR Youth, young people affiliated to Extinction Rebellion, the group behind the demonstrations.
Organisers had said the action was meant to “shut down” Heathrow but only a handful of activists, most of them children, turned up and they were quickly surrounded by police. Five teenagers held a banner saying: “Are we the last generation?”
Mia, 13, from London said: “I am really scared, I am 13 and have been threatened with arrest for speaking the truth.
“We have been at the protest in London for most of this week. I got involved through the Youth Climate Strike and am a grateful for meeting XR Youth because they have given me a voice,” she added.
Samar, aged 14, said: “There is a lot that needs doing that is not being done. And the people that have the power to make the changes that need to happen aren’t doing enough to ensure the safety and quality of life for my generation and others to come.”
Heathrow said there had been no disruption to services. “We are working with the authorities to address any threat of protests which could disrupt the airport,” a spokesperson said.
“While we respect the right to peaceful protest and agree with the need to act on climate change, we don’t agree that passengers should have their well-earned Easter break with family and friends disrupted.”
Scotland Yard confirmed that more than 500 people had been arrested in connection to the protests as of 7.30pm on Friday evening. Ten people have been charged under the public order act.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police also confirmed that some officers’ leave days had been cancelled.
The protesters continued on Friday to occupy their four main sites in central London: Parliament Square, Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch. They have vowed to remain for two weeks or until the government agrees to talks.
Sajid Javid, the UK home secretary, had on Thursday said the police should use the “full force of the law” to combat demonstrators breaking the law, without specifying what action the Met, who have operational independence, should take against what have been largely peaceful protests.