Air expansion fatcats shamed by Tower Bridge protest.

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aviation conference critical mass

29.11.2005

Air industry executives were forced to scuttle from coaches to the safety of Tower Bridge tonight, as a small but noisy protest took them to task over the UK's air expansion plans.

Delegates arriving for a morale boosting dinner high above Tower Bridge were shielded by a line of police whilst subjected to jeers and chants of "Shame". A WPC blocked me from photographing the event until I provided a Press Card.

City of London Police closed off the western side of the bridge, creating a protest pen some hundred yards from the arriving guests. To drive home the point they occasionally filled the gap with a couple of alsatians.

FIT filming on the eastern side was more subtle than usual, but police had unearthed an ancient bye-law preventing anyone from standing still.

As a bye-law this is of course not an arrestable offense.

Except that City cops decided that refusing to comply - such as stopping to give out leaflets - is an arrestable offense, after which they made arrests under Section 25 of PACE.

Protesters made up a wide spectrum, from Critical Mass (who made two passes), Rising Tide, HACAN and NOTRAG (No Third Runway Group). Being by no means full time activists, the Heathrow based groups expressed surprise and disgust at the level and manner of policing. Several passed me their names to forward in case they were arrested.

Air transport is the fastest growing contributor to climate change. Fuelled by the cheap flight revolution, flights have doubled in the UK in the past 20 years, and are set to double again in 15. The UK plans to build 4 new Heathrow sized airports by 2020.

And as Blair bangs on about fighting climate change, aviation fuel remains untaxed, so each individual taxpayer subsidises the aviation industry to the average tune of £500 per year.

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aviation dinner 1
aviation dinner 2
aviation dinner 3

among various attempts to protest and disrupt the aviation conference, tonight's gala dinner at the tower bridge rooms was the target of critical mass, and an attempt to delay delegates by locking on across the embankment.

the three day conference of aviation bigwigs sees them discussing airport expansion at the waldorf hilton in london. tonight, they planned to have a gala dinner at tower bridge. there have been various actions called, which were designed to disrupt the conference at the hotel, and plans for the dinner included 'tango on the bridge', a samba band, a noisy boat protest, and a critical mass.

i joined the critical massers who met at london bridge. they numbered around 30 cyclists, including a sound system, and a model aeroplane. messages from spotters kept the mass informed as to the whereabouts of the delegates, and the plan was to disrupt the travel by coach from the waldorf to tower bridge.

the bridge itself was under massive police protection, with cops all along the bridge, plus virtual blockades at each end, including dogs. no expense was spared to protect the climate destroyers from any inconvenience. police stopped, questioned and sometimes searched anyone they thought fitted the stereotype of protester. one pavement of the bridge was closed down except for a very small 'free protest zone'. the other side was monitored and people had to keep moving.

the mass set off from london bridge and headed north across the bridge, with half a dozen cycle cops in attendance. they then headed in a long circle towards southwark bridge, while waiting for news of the delegates' coaches. coming back along the embankment, the signal came, and suddenly, cyclists dismounted, lock-on pipes emerged, and the road was very nearly taken. police moved swiftly and aggressively to try and stop the lock-on, and although it was partially successful, word came through that the coaches had slipped down another route, and so the action was called off. despite this, and in fact after it had been made clear that the action was over, at least two of the demonstrators were arrested, one for 'obstruction of the highway', the other presumably likewise.

the rest of the mass continued on to tower bridge where there seemed to be even more police. a slow (and very loud, thanks to the sound system) procession made its way once more south and then back north over the bridge, and then headed off to toynbee hall to discuss the action and make plans for any further moves that evening.

the last day of the conference is tomorrow, so there is still time if you wish to plan your own action at the waldorf hilton.

your climate needs you!

www.roadalert.org.uk
www.earthfirst.org.uk