Police have been given the green light by the home secretary to use the “full force of the law” against climate change protesters who are planning to disrupt Heathrow airport.

Extinction Rebellion has been holding demonstrations over several days in key parts of London in order to get the government to take action on the “unprecedented global emergency”.

After several “non-violent civil disobedience” protests, the group announced it planned to “raise the bar” at the UK’s busiest airport over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

An activist is carried away in Oxford Circus
Image: An activist is carried away in Oxford Circus

In a statement, the group said: “There is a deep remorse for those whose holiday and family plans will be disrupted.

“It is not our intention to cause further separation.

“However, the aviation industry needs to be targeted and we are all aware of the deep, structural change that needs to come.”

After a briefing from Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I totally condemn any protesters who are stepping outside the boundaries of the law.

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“They have no right to cause misery for the millions of people who are trying to lead their daily lives. Unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated.

“I expect the police to take a firm stance and use the full force of the law. They have my full backing in doing so.”

Police carry away a protester in Oxford Circus
Image: Police carry away a protester in Oxford Circus

Heathrow says it is “working with the authorities” to address any protests which could “disrupt the airport”.

A spokesperson said: “While we respect the right to peaceful protest and agree with the need to act on climate change, we don’t agree that passengers should have their well-earned Easter break holiday plans with family and friends disrupted.”

About 247,000 people are estimated to be flying in or out of the airport on Good Friday and the airport is advising passengers to contact their individual airlines for information on their departures.

Extinction Rebellion wants the government to declare a climate emergency and take action on its three main demands: that the government tells “the truth” about how “deadly our situation is”, that it cuts carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and creates a “citizens’ assembly” to oversee the changes.

Activists on Waterloo Bridge
Image: Activists on Waterloo Bridge

Actress Emma Thompson joined the protests in London after taking a 5,400-mile flight from Los Angeles in the US.

She said: “I absolutely wanted to be arrested on my 60th birthday but I didn’t quite manage that.

“I’m so proud and thrilled to be part of Extinction Rebellion.”

More than 1,000 officers have been deployed daily to deal with the protests and more than 500 people have been arrested.

However, those arrests have resulted in only 10 charges.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “extremely concerned” about the possible disruption.

“This is extremely dangerous, illegal and is putting an unacceptable toll on our police force and our city,” he said.

Scotland Yard has warned protesters the force had “strong plans” in place with a significant number of officers ready to respond.

Disrupting the services of an airport that could endanger the safe operation or safety of passengers and staff is a crime.

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