UK police arrest 27 activists over alleged plans to disrupt airports

LONDON (Reuters) - British police said on Friday they had arrested 27 climate activists accused of planning to disrupt airports over the upcoming summer holidays.

The suspects, part of the Just Stop Oil protest group which has staged numerous high-profile actions, were arrested in raids across the country under a law which makes it illegal to plot to disrupt national infrastructure.

"We know Just Stop Oil are planning to disrupt airports across the country this summer which is why we have taken swift and robust action now," said Chief Superintendent Ian Howells who led the operation.

"Our stance is very clear that anyone who compromises the safety and security of airports in London can expect a strong response from officers or security staff."

Four were arrested at London's Gatwick airport on Tuesday and six others at a community centre in east London as part of an event which was promoting airport disruption, police said. The rest were detained at their homes around Britain.

Those arrested included several high-profile members of the organisation, police added.

Just Stop Oil accused the police of acting unlawfully.

"Being a Just Stop Oil supporter is now enough to make you a suspect," the group said in a statement. "Believing that no government has the right to tyrannise the entire world by encouraging the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, marks you out as a dangerous radical."

Last week, two of the group's members were arrested for spraying paint on Stonehenge and the following day similarly targeted private jets at London's Stansted airport.

Police have come under pressure from the government to take a firmer line with protesters to limit the disruption they cause, and have passed a number of laws in recent years to give them more powers.

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Elizabeth Piper)