THIRTEEN environmental activists accused of chaining themselves to a Heathrow airport runway joined protests outside court on the first day of their trial yesterday.
The members of Plane Stupid campaign group cut through a perimeter fence and chained themselves to the north runway railings last July in protest at airport expansion plans.
They are charged with aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome. Their action caused severe delays and the cancellation of 22 departure flights.
The group took action after the Airports Commission released a report, three years in the making, that recommended a new runway be built at Heathrow rather than at Gatwick to provide “urgently required” extra capacity.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett joined dozens of protesters with banners and signs outside Willesden magistrates’ court in north-west London.
She said: “Our party applauds the determination of the Heathrow 13. We stand up for the activists just as they are standing up for our planet.”
Supporters who filled the court’s public gallery applauded when the defendants entered the dock.
District Judge Deborah Wright warned them: “If you start behaving like that, I will exclude you. This is a court. It isn’t a theatre.”
The group said in a statement that they pleaded not guilty as their “actions were a reasonable, proportionate and justified response to the scale of the problem of climate change.”