Source AP ©

Climate change activists have skirmishes with police during London protest

Climate change activists in a camp near London's Heathrow airport had clashes with police Sunday, but everything ended with a largely peaceful day of marches and music.

Several hundred protesters walked through villages likely to be affected by a proposed new runway at the airport, Europe's busiest, and congregated at the nearby headquarters of airports operator BAA PLC.

Three young women climbed a steel-framed structure close to the building to hang a banner emblazoned with the slogan "Make Planes History."

Other demonstrators were involved in minor scuffles with police officers - many wearing riot gear and armed with batons - in country lanes and fields surrounding the airport.

Watched by lines of police, some on horseback, around 350 people crowded the car park of the BAA building to create a carnival mood, playing music, donning fancy dress costumes and chanting slogans as they closed the weeklong protest.

Police said they were attempting to hold talks with protesters, amid worries that dozens of demonstrators plan stage a sit down protest at the car park site as BAA staff return to work on Monday.

"We have had a very limited dialogue with the organizers, and I would call for more, especially as they are continuing with their phase of mass action," said police commander Jo Kaye. "Our policing plan will continue through the night and during the course of tomorrow."

Several hundred people have attended a makeshift camp set up in a field north of Heathrow's perimeter fence Aug. 12 in an attempt to focus attention on climate change.

Organizers held seminars, talks and video presentations, but said Sunday would be a day of "direct action."

A fifth terminal is scheduled to open at the airport in March 2008, and the government has said a proposed third runway could open around 2020. Demonstrators claim it likely would require several villages to be cleared.

"We'll all be affected if the third runway happens, my family has been here for six generations," said Roy Barwick, who watched a march through his village of Harmondsworth, which lies in the path of the proposed runway.

Philip Sherwood, 78, from the neighboring village of Harlington, said he first attended a meeting to oppose a third runway in 1949.

"This has been going on for 60 years, and I'm very pleased to see this today, anything that brings attention to what the aviation Mafia are trying to do," he said.

London police said a total of 24 protesters from the Heathrow camp had been arrested since last weekend over a range of minor offenses. A total of 23 others have been arrested in related protests across the British capital.

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