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Thursday 19 September 2019 – For Immediate Release

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Photos and videos available here:


  • 20 people risk years in prison by carrying out drone flights in act of self-sacrifice unseen in civil disobedience for generations and unprecedented in the environmental movement
  • Roger Hallam issues Message from Prison video from Wormwood Scrubs calling upon others to join him in prison rather than see all they love perish 
  • Independent journalist Guy Smallman is arrested as police finish their operation as they began it, by targeting the free press

Heathrow Pause Phase One concludes with the 20th drone flight marking the largest act of self-sacrifice in civil disobedience since the 1960’s, alongside the issuing of a video from Roger Hallam calling for others to join him in prison and the arrest of independent journalist Guy Smallman.

Unprecedented Acts of Self-Sacrifice

The last drone flight in this phase of the Heathrow Pause action took place yesterday, with two activists arrested alongside an independent journalist (more details below). The flight took place outside the Heathrow Rail Customs House Escape Shaft Building. Video available here.

In total 20 drone flights have taken place over six days with 24 people arrested, many having their homes raided and belongings confiscated. The vast majority of these took place after it became clear that the Heathrow Airport Authorities would not be grounding flights in response, in clear contravention of their own health and safety protocols.

Nevertheless, ordinary law-abiding citizens continued to break the law by flying drones in the exclusion zone, in the full knowledge that the only likely outcome from this would be that they might go to prison for several years. They have declared that going to prison is their reason for doing it since all other forms of protest have failed.

This level of self-sacrifice, in terms of people willingly giving up their liberty by carrying out acts of nonviolent civil disobedience which carry lengthy prison sentences as a potential consequence, is rewriting the history of civil disobedience in this country. Nothing like it has been seen since the 1960s. As a response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency, nothing like it has been seen ever.

The people who have carried out these peaceful acts of civil disobedience and self sacrifice are not zealots but ordinary (mostly older) people who are deeply concerned about the catastrophic direction in which we are heading and felt moved to act out of a sense of conscience and necessity. They include:

  • Sarah , 52, a GP from Birmingham who is jeopardising her career, as well as her liberty, and says she has done it out of a sense of duty to society. 
  • James, 54, a Paralympian gold medalist from Exeter who says he’s compelled to take this action after his daughter said she doesn’t want to bring children into a dying world. 
  • Sian, 70, a retired secondary school teacher from Bristol who had to convince reluctant police officers to arrest her, said her grandson asked, “what are the chances of me dying of old age?”
  • Mel, 48, a carer from mid Wales who cycled all the way to London in order to fly a drone and says that this is the last chance to avoid extinction.
  • Sylvia, 61, a retired IT business analyst from Totnes who says Heathrow expansion is genocide by neglect.
  • Vicky, 71, a professional gardener from Machynlleth in West Wales said she had marched, written letters, and not a damn thing had been done about it. As far as she was concerned it was now gloves off.

Drone pilots are available for comment upon request.

Roger Hallam’s Message from Prison video

The astonishing level of self-sacrifice displayed by these brave individuals is exemplified by Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion and key figure in the Heathrow Pause, who has deliberately broken his bail conditions in order to be placed upon remand and go to prison.

Having been preemptively arrested on Thursday and released on Friday, Roger was rearrested attempting to fly a drone in the exclusion zone on Saturday, went before a judge at Uxbridge Magistrates Court on Monday and was sent to Wormwood Scrubs to await trial in about four to six months.

A video of Hallam imploring others to follow his lead in going to prison has just been released and can be viewed here. In it, Hallam asserts that almost everybody should be willing to go to prison in order to avert the apocalypse and that doing so will be easy compared to the consequences of not doing so. As he puts it: “You might lose your job, you might lose your partner. But losing your job, losing you partner isn’t the end of the world. What is the end of the world is… the end of the world.”

The other Heathrow Pause drone pilots have hinted that they may also soon breach bail conditions in order to join Hallam in prison.

Arrest of independent journalist Guy Smallman and Policing of the Pause

The last drone flight of this phase of the Heathrow Pause action was made additionally remarkable by the arrest and detention of independent, press-card carrying journalist Guy Smallman. Smallman is in no way affiliated with the Pause group and was merely documenting the drone flight in his capacity as a well-respected journalist of long standing.

Smallman was arrested for attempted public nuisance and conspiracy to commit public nuisance, at around midday. He was released without charge late last night, following the intervention of various outraged colleagues and peers, the National Union of Journalists and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP.

The arrest of Smallman serves to bookend a policing operation which also began with disproportionate heavy handedness and interference with press freedom but which has at times displayed a light touch bordering on the nonexistent. It has been characterised throughout by a total lack of consistency and wildly differing treatment of different people.

The operation began on Thursday with a series of raids on homes, seizure of possessions and preemptive arrests involving dogs and helicopters, more appropriate to serious criminals or terrorists than nonviolent conscientious protestors. Dr Larch Maxey was severely bitten by a police dog while meditating on a lawn and was denied access to medical attention for over 26 hours.

The police also targeted a press officer, whose only function was liaising with the media, holding him for 24 hours and confiscating his phone and laptop. This prevented existing arrangements with the country’s main broadcasters and newspapers from taking place, directly interfering with the functioning of a free press, essential to democracy.

At other times, the police have proved reluctant to arrest drone pilots, even when drones have been flown right in front of them and in front of a police station. The dedicated phone line which was provided for activists to turn themselves in has been placed on answerphone and pilots have been asked to prove that they have actually flown the drone they are carrying. This disparity in treatment suggests a policing operation less concerned with public safety, criminality or justice than with controlling public perception of the action.


Notes to Editors:

More about Heathrow Pause:

Our Three Objectives: 

UK Government must:

  1. Tell the Truth about global heating; comply with Parliament’s declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency; work with other institutions and influencers to communicate the urgency for radical new policies to halt and even reverse climate change
  2. Act Now to reverse biodiversity loss and reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Go Beyond Politics by creating and being led by the decisions of a competent, well informed and properly resourced Citizens’ Assembly on Climate and Ecological Justice.

Safety Measures and Protocols:

To ensure no living being is harmed, the action will have strict safety measures and protocols:

  1. Head height – Drones will be flown no higher than at head height. The relevant government legislation, (The Air Navigation Order 2016 SI 2016 No. 765), deems 400ft to be hazardous. A 6-foot (183cm) maximum height is not in breach of this and clearly no risk to aircraft.
  2. Small toy drones – Drones will be small and lightweight. The relevant government legislation, (Air Navigation Order 2016 SI 2016 No. 765), deems 7kg (excluding fuel) to be hazardous. Our tiny toy drones are clearly no risk to aircraft.
  3. Not within flight paths – If deployed as part of a planned action, drones may be flown at just above head height in the restricted 5km zone surrounding Heathrow but NOT within flight paths. As an example, advance notice could be given that a drone might be flown just above head height in a public park in West Drayton, presenting the airport authorities with the advance decision to safely close air space for the duration of this action.
  4. 1 hour’s advance notice – Heathrow Airport Authority will be given at least 1 hour’s advance notice before each drone flight.
  5. Early start – Drone use will start early (3am) before most night flights which run 4.30- 6.00am, and scheduled flights, which run from 6am-11.30pm. The airport authority will therefore have the choice of not initiating flights when drones are in the air.
  6. Call the police once completed – Drone pilots will telephone the police after their drone flight is completed for the day and wait peacefully to be arrested.
  7. Regular intervals – Drones will fly at regular intervals throughout the day. Continual drone flights during the day will ensure that, to comply with Heathrow’s own rules, no aircraft flights take place.
  8. Emergencies – In the case of a genuine emergency all drone use will stop immediately. A direct communication hotline between the authorities and the action groups will be set up, to ensure fluent communication.
  9. Advance notice – The authorities and public will have suitable advance notice of the start date and time. We hope this will also give members of the public sufficient time to make alternative travel arrangements if needed.

If a breach of these protocols should occur we can stop the action immediately, and advise the authorities accordingly through the ‘hotline’ set up for this purpose. Our protocols ensure this will be a nonviolent action. There is nothing violent about flying drones when there are no scheduled flights in the air. Initiating those scheduled flights is the sole responsibility of the airport authorities.

Likely Legal Consequences:

All participants flying drones know they risk arrest and imprisonment, and are prepared to be arrested peacefully. Our readiness and courage are based on the conviction that:

  1. Our actions are a humanitarian act intended to save millions of innocent lives that will be lost if carbon emissions are not drastically reduced.
  2. This is an act of conscience. We cannot live in peace with ourselves knowing that inaction will cost us the future. Faced with the prospect of such disaster, no rational, mindful person can live with the thought of having done nothing to prevent it. Our moral code is rooted in the principle of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. We seek to save the lives of strangers because we believe they would do the same for us. Our conscience dictates that we act, for the good of us all.
  3. This action is proportionate with the threat we face. If anything, it is comically modest. The death of millions versus flying a drone at an altitude of six feet? Really? It is a citizen’s right and duty to bypass a law if not doing so will result in greater harm to life and property. We act out of necessity to protect our children, our fellows, and all the other lives that travel with us on this Earth.

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