Black Lives Matter protest at London City Airport was absurd, the expansion of the travel hub will create jobs for the capital's poorest

Christian May
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Nine protesters who blocked a London City Airport runway were arrested yesterday (Source: Getty)

Your holiday may be over but there are still plenty of people keen to jet off from London City Airport. Sixty-three per cent of passengers travel on business – a higher proportion than any other UK airport.

Indeed, according to the airport's own figures nearly two thirds of those passing through their doors work in banking, finance or wider business services. This tendency for “a small elite” to make use of City Airport provided a perfect excuse for the UK's latest pop-up protest movement to occupy the runway and bring operations to a stand still.

Black Lives Matter UK claims to have been born out of solidarity with their more high-profile US counterparts, whose movement emerged in response to a wave of shocking incidents in which unarmed black men died at the hands of police.

Read more: Brexit would leave London "isolated" says City airport chief

Here in the UK, the protest group seeks to highlight issues such as deaths of black men in custody. However, the grievances that lead to yesterday's runway invasion were a little more woolly. According to the group, rich passengers are selfishly befouling the air in a poor London borough and contributing to a “racist climate crisis”. Unfortunately, the group's noble aims don't come off well from an encounter with the facts.

For starters, the impending expansion of the airport (which the group is expressly against) is not being forced upon a downtrodden local population. Indeed, according to ComRes 68 per cent of Newham residents support the development with 84 per cent agreeing that the airport brings advantages to the area. Chief among such advantages are jobs, something cited as important by 70 per cent of residents. Furthermore, the expansion plans (first blocked by Boris then given the green light by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan) will allow the airport to transition to cleaner, more fuel efficient aircraft.

Read more: City Airport expansion is a boost for London

In other words, if the protesters get their wish and block the expansion then the people of Newham will miss out on much-needed jobs and investment while the airport will be less able to accommodate quieter, more environmentally-friendly aircraft. It was a rather muddled and bizarre protest, set on affixing the crime of racism to the more established issues of class war and climate change. The chances are that a criminal record is all they'll have to show for their efforts.

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