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Anti-Heathrow protest set to grow

  • Story Highlights
  • More climate change campaigners expected to join protests against expansion
  • Protesters say they have "legally occupied" site on route of proposed third runway
  • Organizers say 3,000 people will attend the week-long demonstrations
  • Action is expected to cause disruption during one of the busiest times of the year
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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- More climate change campaigners are expected to arrive on Monday to join protests against expansion plans at Britain's Heathrow airport.

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A policeman walks past protestors joining the Camp for Climate Action outside Heathrow Airport

The protesters began arriving at the "Camp for Climate Action" on Sunday, erecting marquees and setting up toilets on land north of Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports.

They say they have "legally occupied" the site, which is on the route of a proposed third runway at Heathrow and is around 800 meters from the headquarters of airport operator BAA, owned by Spanish construction and services group Ferrovial.

Organizers say up to 3,000 people will attend the week-long demonstrations due to start on Tuesday with "24 hours of mass action" promised for next Sunday.

"It will be direct action -- we will cost the aviation industry dearly," the group said on its Web site. "It will be civil disobedience -- we will act within the bounds we set not those of BAA lawyers."

A similar camp last year close to the Drax power station in Yorkshire by 400 protesters led to 40 arrests. The Heathrow protest is expected to cause disruption during one of the busiest times of the year for the airport, which is due to be used by 1.5 million passengers during the week.

Mark Bullock, managing director of Heathrow Airport, said many of them would be "innocent families going on their summer holidays". He said BAA had "always accepted the right of protesters to protest lawfully" but those using the airport had rights too.

"We believe that there is an important debate to be had over climate change, but we do not believe direct action against the airport is appropriate," he said. Gemma Davis, a spokeswoman for the Camp for Climate Change, said disruption to passengers was not the main aim.

"We're not here to try to disrupt passengers; we're here to try to disrupt BAA," she told the BBC, but conceded that disruption to airport users would be an unintended consequence.

"Climate change is the biggest issue going. If we don't take action now on climate change then we're really facing an enormous catastrophe," she added.

BAA won a court injunction on Monday barring one group of environmental activists from taking disruptive action during the protests, but peaceful and lawful protests can still go ahead.

The High Court ruling has restricted the actions of Plane Stupid, one of the organizers of the protest. BAA had tried to ban people from four different groups.

Environmental umbrella group AirportWatch said that would have hit millions of its members in its affiliated bodies, which include groups as diverse as Greenpeace, the National Trust and Friends of the Earth.

BAA runs London airports Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick, and four other airports in Britain. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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