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Tuesday, December 16, 1997 Published at 15:43 GMT


UK

Wheel protesters end demo

After a day on the wheel, demonstrators decided they'd made their point

Two environmental protesters who spent more than 24 hours perched at the top of London's Millennium Wheel have ended their protest.

The activists, who scaled the 450ft high structure on Monday morning, spent the night chained to the wheel in a demonstration against dam projects in India and Spain.


[ image: A protester comes down to earth]
A protester comes down to earth
The first of the protesters began to abseil from the top of the wheel at approximately 1245 BST.

After reaching the central hub of the wheel, he was returned to the ground in an engineering lift.

The second demonstrator, abseiling in tandem with a police climber, began his descent at 1320 BST.

BA not pressing charges

Both men, who descended to cheers from their supporters, were questioned by police.

But British Airways, which sponsors the wheel - officially known as the London Eye - said it would not be pressing charges.

The men are said to have given up the protest after feeling they had achieved their aim of raising awareness of the campaigns against the dam projects.

Supporters on the ground said one of the two men - named only as Dany - comes from the area in the Basque region of northern Spain which will be flooded if the dam against which they are protesting is built.


[ image: The men had unfurled banners supporting their cause]
The men had unfurled banners supporting their cause
Earlier, speaking from a mobile phone at the top of the wheel, Dany told reporters he and his colleague, a Spaniard called Bibi, had slept through much of the night, but had felt the cold.

The demonstrators were part of a group who evaded security and climbed the1,500-tonne wheel on the banks of the River Thames at approximately 0600BST on Monday.

Seven of the activists, who are from Basque environmentalist group Solidarios con Itoitz and Indian group Narmada UK, came down voluntarily from the wheel on Monday and were arrested for suspected criminal damage.

'Symbolically banal'

The group are angry over the Narmada dam project in India and a similar, though smaller scheme at Itoitz in Spain.


[ image: The demo began early on Monday]
The demo began early on Monday
A spokesman said: "We chose to protest here because the London Eye is symbolic of the sort of banal projects which are being built while ordinary people are being forced from their homes by these dams."

The protest has prompted a security review by British Airways.

A spokesman said the wheel will have "airport style security" when it opens on Millennium Eve.

The wheel is London's fourth-tallest structure and will stay in position for at least five years, with a capacity to carry 15,000 people a day.

But British Airways had warned that a prolonged hold up by the demonstration could affect the planned opening.

Police had negotiated with the activists, who spent the night in a mountaineering-style bivouac tent, using a mobile phone passed to them by police climbers.




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