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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
'Runway will kill our village'
Demonstrators in Parliament Square
Parliament Square was full of protesters

Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside Westminster to demonstrate against government proposals to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Tourists looked on bewildered as shouts of "No third runway!" competed with "Stop the executions in Iran!"

The two demonstrations merged into one mass of dissent in Parliament Square, under the watchful eye of Winston Churchill.

Samuel Rawlings (top) and Mark Steed
Youngsters fear losing their school
Although the battle of the megaphones sounded well matched, the 600-odd Heathrow Airport protesters outnumbered the few dozen campaigning about human rights abuses in Iran.

Sandwiched between the two camps was Brian Haw, continuing his 24-hour, one-man protest over sanctions against Iraq.

"He should complain about noisy neighbours," joked a policeman.

There were a few experts on noise complaints among the Heathrow campaigners.

But for some, it was more than a matter of pollution, it was about keeping their home, school or church.

Charles Key (left) and Fr Phil Hughes
St Mary's Church faces demolition
Derek Strevens, 69, is one of 260 home-owners facing the bulldozers if the third runway goes ahead.

Reflecting on the trauma of moving after 30 married years in his house, he said: "This is very distressing, and it's not something you want at this time in your life.

"Where are they going to put us?"

Schools are also under threat, campaigners say.

Sandwiched

Samuel Rawlings, seven, made the journey to Westminster from West Drayton with cousin Mark Steed, 29, in the knowledge that Harmondsworth Primary School may have to close.

Mr Steed said: "I want to see him have the best possible start in life, so I'm here to voice my opinion."

Protesters
The Iran protest is on for five days
Harmondsworth is one of five villages which will find itself sandwiched between runways if the expansion goes ahead.

The high street may be split in two by the development and St Mary's Church and graveyard face demolition.

One banner read: "You are going to kill our villages and dig up our dead."

Fr Phil Hughes, parish priest of the 11th century church, said: "This church is alive and for some it is their life."

Caroline Griffin
Stansted was also represented
He said some homes would be left stranded in the middle of an international airport.

"The pollution would make it uninhabitable," he added.

Coaches were laid on for the protesters - many of them elderly - to make the trip from west London.

There was also a show of solidarity from other parts of the aviation-troubled South.

Caroline Griffin, from Thaxted, Essex, said the proposed extra runways at Stansted Airport could wreak havoc on her medieval village.

"The very fabric of the town will be ruined," she said.

Then the protest relocated into the Houses of Parliament, leaving the Iran demonstrators to take centre stage.

See also:

16 Oct 02 | England
20 Sep 02 | England
05 Sep 02 | England
02 Aug 02 | England
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