Beds Man Admits Black Lives Matter Charges

14 September 2016, 14:16 | Updated: 14 September 2016, 14:33

A 23 year-old man from Kempston and other others, who grounded up to 131 flights with a Black Lives Matter protest at London City Airport, have pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass.

Richard Collet-White, 23, of Spring Road, Kempston and 8 others locked themselves together after storming the single runway of the east London airport on September 6 at around 5.30am, London's Westminster Magistrates Court heard.

All 9 protesters all pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass by disrupting a person engaged in a lawful activity, when they appeared in the dock at the central London court. 

They used inflatable rafts to cross the water and then climbed up from the dock and on to the runway.

Still wearing their wetsuits, the group then set up a tripod and one man chained himself to it on the runway.

The other members of the group fixed themselves together with armlocks which contained a metal tube and expandable foam.

Prosecutor Philip McGhee said:

"The police attended. The runway had to be closed to traffic. The group had been wearing wetsuits. They were chanting various things including Black Lives Matter, and about climate change.

When the police attempted to engage with them, they gave no comment.''

By the time it was possible to safely separate the group, up to 131 flights had been cancelled or affected, along with around 9,000 passengers who would have been on business and personal trips.

Mr McGhee also said the disruption had "inevitably" caused a negative impact on the revenue and reputation of the airport operators with other airlines and passengers.

He said it "is not possible to quantify" the costs involved, but the airport is "worried" about the damage to its reputation.

Mr Collet-White and another man from Wandsworth were the final  two members of the group were arrested nearly six hours later and the runway was reopened at midday.

The demonstration resulted in all flights in and out of the airport being cancelled, delayed or diverted.

Mr McGhee said:

"Whilst the trespass was taking place the defendants were filming themselves and uploading the product to social media."

Black Lives Matter is an international movement which was set up following the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, in the US, four years ago.

These campaigners said they were taking action "in order to highlight the UK's environmental impact on the lives of black people locally and globally".

The prosecution has called for the destruction of items which were seized. These include two rafts with engines, nine lifejackets, banners, the tripod, along with the equipment used by the protesters to fix themselves to it, and the cameras.