For the first time, the Black Lives Matter movement has stopped planes from taking off. Just before dawn on Tuesday, nine Black Lives Matter UK protesters chained themselves to each other on London City Airport’s runway. Flights across Europe were cancelled and delayed, not resuming until lunchtime, after all nine protesters were arrested.
In a video and series of tweets explaining the protest, the group called out the UK’s contribution to the disproportionate impact of climate change on countries in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighted the income disparity between wealthy airport passengers and the low-income, predominantly black neighborhood surrounding the airport, and criticized the British government’s willingness to charter planes to deport migrants after over 3,000 migrants died in the Mediterranean this year due to the denial of safe border crossings by the UK and other European nations. “Black people are the first to die not the first to fly. This is why London City Airport has been #shutdown,” the group tweeted.
While many Black Lives Matter protests have taken over highways and disrupted road traffic, this appears to be the first airport shutdown, as well as the first major BLM protest bringing climate change and migration issues to the forefront.
The airport protest also highlighted the decentralized nature of the Black Lives Matter movement. The UK branch has a decidedly more global, migration-focused orientation, although its primary demand remains tied to the movement founded in the US: The end of police violence.