Belfast Telegraph

Paralympian from Northern Ireland called police to say he was Heathrow drone protester

James Brown, a former Paralympian, being detained by police following his protest by flying a drone near Heathrow Airport
James Brown, a former Paralympian, being detained by police following his protest by flying a drone near Heathrow Airport
James Brown with his bronze medal from the London 2012 Paralympic Games

By Gillian Halliday

A former Paralympian from Northern Ireland is reported to have called police on himself after attempting to stage a drone protest at Heathrow.

James Brown (54), who won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Games, was arrested at the airport on Friday.

According to media reports, the Portaferry native had joined the 'Heathrow Pause' drone protest against the airport's planned third runway.

Attempts by protesters to disrupt flights were successfully thwarted by Heathrow's newly operational military-grade anti-drone system.

Services were unaffected despite attempts by the activists to fly drones within a three-mile exclusion zone.

Mr Brown, who is partially sighted, thwarted his own plan by removing batteries and his drone from the air because he was "conscious of his poor sight", according to The Sunday Telegraph.

The protester then took a seat in the airport's Costa Coffee outlet in Terminal 2 and notified the police himself, and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.

He told the Telegraph that while he feared prison, the price was worth paying if more people woke up to the climate crisis.

Explaining why he stopped his drone, Mr Brown explained that he thought it may be difficult to fly the device safely and didn't want to put anyone at risk.

His passive act of aggression, he told the newspaper, is still illegal if done within the designated exclusion zone around the airport, prompting his decision to alert police to his actions.

He was released on Saturday evening.

The 'Heathrow Pause' protesters are a breakaway group from Extinction Rebellion, which deploys controversial tactics such as civil disobedience, including the blocking of roads, to protest against climate change.

Roger Hallam, leader of the 'Heathrow Pause' campaign and Extinction Rebellion co-founder, was arrested twice ­- first on Friday and then again hours after being released from custody.

It has been reported that a total of 20 people have been detained by the authorities in three days.

A spokesperson for the airport said its priority is enforcing its anti-drone policy.

"Flying a drone within 5km of Heathrow is illegal and any persons found doing so will be subject to the full force of the law," they said.

"Alongside drone detection capabilities, we will mitigate the impact of this illegal action and operate in a way that is safe at all times."

They added: "We agree with the need to act on climate change but driving change requires constructive engagement and action. Committing criminal offences and disrupting passenger journeys is counterproductive and irresponsible."

Laurence Taylor, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "We will be arresting anybody who commits unlawful offences."

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