Extinction Rebellion take to Luton streets for environmental protest
Extinction Rebellion took to the streets of Luton on Saturday as part of Operation Mad Hatter to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
The group was also protesting against the proposed expansion of London Luton Airport.
Extinction Rebellion paraded from the airport to St George's Square in Luton, on Saturday, January 18, they also had samba bands, disobedience dancing and spoke to the audience about the proposed expansion and the climate crisis.
Jim Peacock, from Extinction Rebellion Luton, said: "Saturday's demonstration went very well, we had over 150 people from across the country come and support us.
"We had a procession from the airport down to the town centre and the red rebels attended.
"We were demonstrating about Luton not caring about climate crisis, but recently the council has declared a climate emergency and have set out a plan to reduce carbon emissions in the town, which is really positive.
"But they have not addressed our main concern, and for us the key point, which is the proposed expansion of the airport.
"We have been to lots of the consultations, as many people in the town have, and we have voiced our opinion but it almost feels like our voices do not matter. We believe that expansion will be the biggest problem for the town's pollution.
"We are not going to give up and we will keep putting our message out there, most of the town is supporting us and we have not done anything in Luton to disrupt the public, we just want to get our message across."
Luton Council has declared a climate emergency and set up a cross party working group which is working on an action plan at pace to support the drive for Luton to reach net zero carbon by 2040.
The council's action plan to reduce carbon emissions across the town includes encouraging more walking and cycling, the use of public transport and electric vehicles, developing proposals to improve air quality and investment in new heating system and additional insulation in properties.
Robin Porter, chief executive of Luton Council, said: "We would like to thank the organisers of Saturday’s demonstration who worked with the police, council and other partners to ensure people were able to exercise their right to peaceful protest.
"London Luton Airport is absolutely vital to the region and future growth will bring economic and employment growth which is desperately needed to tackle poverty which is far too prevalent in our town.
"At the same time we do absolutely understand and share the concerns around the environment so the right balance must be found.
"Our airport company, London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL), consulted in the autumn on long-term sustainable growth of the airport.
"As part of this they outlined a number of measures for actively managing future environmental impacts, including carbon-neutral infrastructure for the second terminal, ground fleets switching to zero or low-carbon and the provision of clean electric standing power to aircraft.
"There was a lot of support for the proposals due to the life-changing benefits it would bring to people, but also a very clear message that climate change is still a major concern.
"Updated proposals will therefore be the greenest, most environmentally responsible that they possibly can be. We want LTN to be the greenest and most socially conscious airport and will do whatever we can to make this happen.
"LLAL’s £225m investment in the Luton DART fast transit, which is due to open in 2021, underlines this commitment with a target of 45 per cent of all passengers using public transport to get to the airport.
"LLAL will also be taking a lead on working with the airport’s operator to consider other measures that could further improve the airport’s existing environmental footprint."
Bedfordshire Police had a total of 40 officers helping to facilitate the demonstration at London Luton Airport and in the town centre, one arrest was made.
A spokesman for the force said: "This included a mix of existing airport policing officers already deployed for the day, as well as protest liaison officers and community officers.
"We also had seven volunteer special constables on duty to support the operation.
"One person was arrested for breaching a bye-law but the event passed safely without incident."