London (CNSNews.com) - Hundreds of environmental activists will descend on Heathrow Airport this week to protest climate change supposedly caused by an expanding economy. They said they want to strike a blow against the "corporate climate criminals of the world."
Organizers behind the Camp For Climate Action said they intend to open up a "temporary eco-village" next to one of the world's busiest airports on Tuesday, charging that it was time for governments and corporations to get serious about global warming. Proponents say air travel is a major contributory factor.
Coming at the peak of the British vacation season, the camp will monitored by scores of police officers, potentially setting the stage for internationally televised clashes between demonstrators and law enforcers.
On Sunday, an advance guard of 150 activists began setting up tents, compost toilets, and kitchens in a sports ground just north of the airport perimeter fence.
The Guardian newspaper reported that police, in turn, blocked all approaches to the camp, as well as stopping and searching anyone suspected of planning to join the protestors.
The camp is scheduled to run for seven days, with most of the time spent on a variety of workshops on climate change.
However, organizers also are planning 24 hours of mass action and civil disobedience, beginning at noon on Sunday.
Spokeswoman Alex Harvey said the exact nature of the mass action would be decided by camp participants during the week.
Despite speculation that protestors would invade the airport itself, Harvey said that any action would steer clear of the runways or doing anything that would endanger lives.
The British press has been reporting on the planned camp in recent weeks, but London police say they have very little firm information about what is going to happen.
Jo Kaye, the commander in charge of security operations around the camp, told reporters on Friday that organizers have not been open about their plans.
He acknowledged that Heathrow is a potentially hazardous environment, but said the London Metropolitan Police is "very experienced" in handling these kinds of protests.
"We've planned for what we know and looked at a huge range of contingencies," Kaye said. "The plan that we have in place is based on our experience and is flexible enough to deal with a range of events."
Police in northern England made over 35 arrests at last year's Camp For Climate Action, held outside one of Europe's largest coal-fired power stations.
Kaye urged organizers of the Heathrow camp to work more closely with police.
"I would like to stress that what we want to do is facilitate lawful and legitimate protest," he said. "That is our role and we want the protestors to work with us so we can safely make it happen."
In the run-up to the camp, the British Airports Authority (BAA), which operates Heathrow, tried to get a court injunction against protestors.
However, despite warnings that the camp could be a dangerous distraction in a time of possible terrorist attacks, BAA was only successful in banning three named activists from entering the airport.
A BAA spokeswoman said Heathrow security has been planning for the protest camp for months, together with police. Travelers from the United States should not have to worry about any disruption, she said.
All three major British political parties have endorsed the need to combat "global warming," but the Camp For Climate Action organizers say mainstream solutions are not enough to "save the world."
They argue that it is not possible to have an endless expanding economy "on a planet that's not getting any bigger," dismissing as a myth the view that consumers can avert catastrophe by becoming more green-minded.
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