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‘We must resist Heathrow’s 3rd runway’


© Kristian Buus

These three activists took a leap of faith; we need to respond in kind, writes Arthur Franklyn.

Yesterday morning three individuals from the group Rising Up! chained themselves to a vehicle blockading the main access road into Heathrow, disrupting the surrounding road network serving the airport.

During the ensuing disruption, videos were released outlining the motivations of those involved, including one individual who broke conditions imposed upon him by the courts. They told us that we must resist Heathrow’s 3rd runway with a ‘wave of civil disobedience’, to stand in the way of a ‘system which favours profit over people and planet’. They demanded unwaveringly the need to act now. We must listen to them.

What’s clear to these protestors is the need to connect our peaceful demonstrations with a wider strategy of escalation for mass mobilisation. We need a movement of sustained mass participation of civil disobedience; somehow we must absorb the grief and rage that people evidently feel up and down this country. This will require a programme of trainings and workshops which use this frustration to facilitate mass involvement in peaceful, disruptive action.

The goal must be to get as many people participating as possible, in as many ways as possible, to reach a critical mass of people which leads to change. Our peaceful demonstrations must galvanize the energy of the passive allies – the question is, how are we to mobilize the next 100 or 500 supporters into taking peaceful, disruptive action?

We, the people, have the power. We misunderstand if we believe that justice is brought about by the authorities above us; we have been raised in a culture that teaches us that power lies in the hands of an elite few. Rather, it is our collective consent which keeps institutions and hierarchies in place, preserving the status quo. If we are to remove our support of the systems which enchain us – like a tyrant, toppling from the weight which supported them, the pillars of this society will collapse. We would see that it is ordinary people, all of us, who hold the power.

Photo by: Kristian Buus

We must frame demands that are both instrumental (achievable, winnable demands that can put the authorities in a dilemma) and visionary (calling for a new, participatory democratic system). What shall we demand? That the will of the people be listened to. That our dignity be heard. Respect our wish for self-determination. We must demand a participatory democracy, decision making which has the direct involvement of people in matters that affect their lives. These ideals should not be viewed as an end-point in the future to be reached; the tension of holding power to account and democratizing it will be a perennial human challenge.

But specific demands can be made right now for ‘no new runways’, to ‘end detention centres and deportations’. The recent news that an Austrian court has just blocked the construction of a new runway at Vienna’s airport on climate grounds, underscores how achievable this might be if the political will was there.

As these protestors yesterday made clear, this crisis is urgent. We are witnessing climate genocide. Climate change is allowed to happen because it’s black and brown people suffering the acute effects of drought in the Sahel; it’s the plundering of their cultural heritage, land, ecosystems and health in Northern Alberta for the extraction of fossil fuels. The global elites are engaging in this genocide by knowingly not taking the necessary steps to avert this ongoing catastrophe.

Photo by: Kristian Buus

We, the privileged few, must face up to the arrangements that have benefited us so, we must acknowledge our duty, make peace with this responsibility – to act in solidarity with oppressed groups where we can. It’s time for other voices to tell their story of the world, their experiences of colonialism, patriarchy – their joy, euphoria and pain. It’s time for the privileged few to step back and listen – to be guided to action by voices of the marginalized.

Whilst the leader of the world’s dirtiest economy may be a passionate climate change denier, our government’s support of Heathrow’s 3rd runway is nothing less than active engagement in this same life-destroying logic. This system has left us with no alternative but to keep breaking the rules, rejecting conditions imposed upon us by courts, risking prison if we’re in a position of privilege to do so.

We are living amidst climate genocide, and must now come to terms with what it is we must do – in our families, in our communities – as human beings. We must maintain a fierce resolve, remaining relentless in our demand for dignity for all human beings and life on earth. Here is our moment. Let our voices be heard. It is time for all of us to stand up – refuse to co-operate – refuse to comply. It’s time for everyone to decide where they stand. Whose side they are on.

Rising Up! are holding an open public meeting on March 2nd in Hammersmith to discuss ways to fight Heathrow expansion.

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