Nine activists attached to the Black Lives Matter UK group (BLM UK) have pleaded guilty to trespass charges following a climate change demonstration at London City Airport last week.
During the early hours of Tuesday 6 September activists put up a tripod on the airport's runway and chained themselves to each other in what they said was a protest to raise awareness of the aviation industry's contribution to climate change, which the group called a “racist crisis”.
Three of nine Black Lives Matter UK activists leaving Wastminster Magistrates Court, September 14.
All nine were arrested and charged with aggravated trespass, being unlawfully on a runway, and breaching the airport’s bylaws.
Appearing at Westminster magistrates' court this afternoon, William Pettifer, 27, of Radford; Esme Waldron, 23, Brighton; Natalie Fiennes, 25, of Wandsworth; Deborah Francis-Grayson, 31, of Slough; Richard Collet-White, 23, of Kempston; and Ben Tippet, 24, of Wandsworth pleaded guilty to the charges.
Sama Baka, 27, Alex Etchart, 26, and Sam Lund-Harket, 32, all of whom live in a houseboat in Roydon, also appeared in court and pleaded guilty to the charges.
All nine were sentenced to conditional discharges of between 18 months and two years, The Guardian reported.
District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe said the protest appeared to have mixed motivations and that she could not see the link to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Evening Standard reported.
"It's quite clear this caused a lot of disruption to a great many people, doubtless many of whom were the people you were aiming at...It may have caused a real upset to people who had similar beliefs to yourself," Roscoe said.
After the sentences were announced, BLM UK said it would continue its demonstrations "until black people are no longer seen as disposable".
"Today the [nine protesters] who supported our statement that the climate crisis is a racist crisis received conditional discharges," a statement said.
"Until black people are no longer seen as disposable, not worthy of the care afforded to other people, then we will be there, shutting down, taking space, building locally and saying loud and clear ‘Black Lives Matter’."
BLM UK had faced faced criticism after it emerged that all nine activists were white, with some people on social media questioning whether the movement had been hijacked by white middle-class activists who were using the BLM name to create awareness about environmental issues.
However, Alexandra Kelbert, a spokesperson for BLM UK, told BuzzFeed News the group was a “black-led” network of activists. She also said it was a strategic and necessary decision that all nine activists be white.
"It’s people taking responsibility for climate change, but it’s also important to bear in mind the treatment of black people at the hands of police," Kelbert said. "The people on the runway know very well that black people would be treated very differently in that same situation."
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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