White and privileged: These are the City Airport Black Lives Matter protesters

Three of them live on a Houseboat called ‘Northern Soul’

On Monday last week, a group of activists chained themselves to a bamboo tripod on the runway at City Airport. The group of nine activists, part of the group Black Lives Matter UK (BLMUK), were protesting that climate change was disproportionally affecting black people, with countries in sub-Saharan Africa to be the worst affected.

Black Lives Matter campaigns against violence and systematic racism against black people

However, the group of nine became the subject of controversy as all but one of the protesters were white and all were from middle-class, privileged backgrounds. Although BLMUK have defended the activists as an example of “white allyship”, many Black Activists have distanced themselves from the protest, seeing it as an example of white appropriation.

The group have very little presence online, with few pictures. One of the group, 27 year-old William Pettifer, who claimed to be plotting “the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, is an environmental activist who runs an Organic Farm in Somerset and is the son of a Company Director.

Another City Airport activist,  is 25 year-old, Natalie Geraldine Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, cousin of distinguished actor Ralph Fiennes. An LSE graduate in English Literature and Sociology, Fiennes regularly attends Climate Camp protests in a Cath Kidston tent and lives with her family in a £2 million house near Clapham Common.

Two of the City Airport activists, Esme Waldron (centre) and William Pettifer (right)

Natalie’s relatives also include the explorer Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes and the 96 year-old Baron of Sage and Sele, who resides in the family seat of Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire. The castle, built in 1300, has been in the Fiennes family since 1451.

Also among the group is Alex Etchart, 26, who studied Social Anthropology and Ethnomusicology at SOAS and is now a a Stage Director who also works in youth empowerment. On his LinkedIn profile he describes himself as “interested in bridging the gap between often elitist and inaccessible academia and tangible vocational life skills”.

The Gatehouse to Broughton Castle

He currently lives on a Houseboat called ‘Northern Soul’ moored in Roydon, Essex with fellow City Airport Activists Sama Baka, 27 and Sam Lund-Harket, a key activist in Global Justice Now.

The group, who appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday, were each given conditional discharges. Upon receiving the verdict, Natalie Fiennes reportedly said: “Go White Privilege”.