- Today, Monday 4 May, 80 HS2 Rebellion protesters blockaded and shut down 17 entrances to HS2 compounds from Euston, Central London to Crackley Woods in Warwickshire.
- The action was designed to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines and legislation, something HS2 is not managing itself.
- Pairs of rebels with banners in full PPE and maintaining social distancing took their daily exercise in the vehicle entrance ways of eleven HS2 compounds.
- Others, including Paralympian James Brown, occupied and dropped an NHS not HS2 banner from a tree by the HS2 compound outside the main entrance Euston train station.
- A cherry picker was also occupied preventing its use for chopping tree branches and removing people from treehouses, blocking a road and delaying other HS2 vehicles.
- The response from HS2 was a brutal and bloody unprovoked assault by HS2 security staff on three peaceful protesters, with one hospitalised.
- Alongside this, an online and telephone campaign is targeting the Government, HS2 Ltd and its various subcontractors with comments and complaints.
- HS2 Rebellion is calling for all work on HS2 to be halted, the project scrapped and the roughly £200bn it is costing to be invested in the NHS instead.
- HS2 Ltd is using the COVID-19 lockdown to push ahead with its most controversial and destructive work, endangering workers and the general public, whilst causing irreparable damage to nature.
Today, HS2 Rebellion’s Shut The Sites day of synchronised actions saw around 80 people successfully blockade and shut down 17 vehicle entrances to 11 HS2 worksite compounds spread across the country, from Euston in Central London to Crackley Woods in Warwickshire.
The actions were carefully designed to comply with COVID-19 safety measures and legislation – guidelines HS2 Ltd is not following. Evidence shows that workers continue to flout COVID-19 rules amid reports that the virus is rife at HS2 sites, despite management attempts to keep cases secret. HS2 Ltd has been criticised for using the lockdown to rush through the most destructive and controversial felling of ancient woodlands, during bird-nesting season.
HS2 Ltd is risking the wellbeing of its workers, their families and communities by prioritising a few weeks of work over their safety. The money being funnelled into this over-budget project could be spent on our under-funded healthcare system.
In Euston approximately 15 people, working in shifts, blockaded two vehicle entrances to one HS2 compound. Three people at a time, wearing full PPE and observing social distancing measures and holding a banner reading NHS not HS2 prevented equipment, workers and deliveries from accessing the site.
Despite asserting their rights to protest and to outdoor exercise, the protesters were ultimately dispersed by police citing new Covid-19 powers to threaten arrest. In answer to questions from campaigners and journalists, an officer went so far as to state that the Coronavirus Act now prohibits all protest, as despite being an inalienable human right, it is deemed non-essential, where work on HS2 has been determined by the Government to be essential. .
Three protesters also climbed a tree scheduled for felling next to the HS2 compound by Euston station and dropped a banner reading NHS not HS2. They included Paralympic gold medalist and multiple world record holder James Brown, who said: “It’s been great to see so many protectors up and down the route coming out today to show the country what a catastrophic white elephant the HS2 project is. It must be stopped and we must divert its funds to supporting the NHS.”
Colne Valley, Uxbridge
In the Colne Valley, Uxbrige, ten people maintained existing occupations of a HS2 compound entrance and a garage, blocking HS2 from destroying woodland, wetland and a residential home. Trucks attempting to deliver aggregate for road building were denied entry to the compound today. At one point, a suspected HS2 boss was filmed assaulting a protester, risking his life by tearing off his protective face mask, as can be watched here.
The blockaded compound is where HS2 plans to drill into an aquifer, risking contaminating a water source which supplies 3.2 million Londoners. Harvil Road wildlife protection camp are facing eviction from a site they have been occupying, and the nearby woodland camp, which would render their occupants homeless in the midst of a pandemic. Similar to evictions in January no eviction court order or formal eviction notices have been provided by HS2 for this action.
Mark Keir, Harvil Road Wildlife Protection Camp resident, said: ”HS2 is a symptom of a greater malaise. That they can threaten the water supply of 3.2 million people, and threaten the future of our children is unconscionable. One thing stands in the way. Whether they like it or not, corporations, governments, national and international systems all depend on people. That’s you. You must be the change. Stand for the trees, stand for the water, for nature, for life. Stand with us.”
In Buckinghamshire, three local women successfully blockaded a HS2 compound in Steeple Claydon, sitting beside a banner, stopping vehicles going in to clear trees and hedgerows and highlighting the non-adherence of HS2 workers with Covid-19 guidelines.
Caroline Thomson-Smith, 53, hairdresser and Steeple Claydon resident said: “HS2 wildlife crime at Steeple Claydon has been blatantly and complacently executed in plain sight of residents, protectors and the police. Some local farmers have endured loss of income for 18 months without any compensation. But the real cost cannot be counted in pounds and pence. Two residents facing eviction lost their lives prematurely through stress related stroke and heart attack. This all makes a mockery of HS2 claims of being ‘a sustainable and good neighbour’”
In Warwickshire, around 40 people blockaded 13 vehicle entrances shutting down eight HS2 compounds currently being used to destroy the ancient woodlands of Cubbington, Broadwells, Diamond and Crackley Woods. These old growth forests date back hundreds of years, are rare genuine havens of biodiversity and their destruction is being keenly felt and mourned by locals.
Warickshire police threatened the young with arrest and the older with fines, demonstrating the disparity of treatment inherent in the discretionary nature of their new powers. Protesters believed the blockades could have gone on indefinitely were it not for these powers or with just a few extra people.
At a blockaded entrance to the Cubbington compound near Kenilworth, HS2 staff drove their car into three protesters and then dragged them across the floor and severely beat and hospitalised one of them. Shocking footage which can be viewed here shows them stealing the phone of the badly wounded man, in order to conceal the evidence of this which he had filmed. The man, who wished only to be known as Badger, said: “Today’s assault and theft highlights the ineptitude and disregard for law that characterises the whole HS2 project.”
In addition to the compound blockades, Samantha Smithson, 37, a former fashion designer from Nottingham, climbed onto a cherry picker on Crackley Lane, preventing its use to remove her friends from a treehouse and blocking traffic of predominantly HS2 vehicles on the road all day.
Samantha comments: “I’m doing this because I have no choice. None of us have a choice. Time is up and we are in a Climate and Ecological Emergency. This is our Amazon. It is not the time for chopping down hundreds of the UK’s few last remaining ancient woodlands. It is the time for planting saplings to tackle climate change.”
NHS not HS2
The repeated slogan of the day of actions, as seen on banners across all four counties, read “NHS not HS2”. £200bn of public money is being ploughed into the project while healthcare workers’ lives’ are endangered by the Government’s refusal to invest properly in the NHS despite advanced warning of the pandemic we now find ourselves in. The parallels with its steadfast refusal to adequately address the even greater threat posed by the Climate and Ecological Emergency, which Parliament declared on 1st May 2019, are stark.
HS2 Rebellion is calling for work on HS2 to cease immediately, for the project to be cancelled and for the estimated £200bn it is costing to be invested in the NHS instead. There is an urgent need for a drastic upgrade of democracy through the immediate introduction of a representative Citizens Assembly, with the powers to guide us through this and the still greater crises to come.
Notes to Editors
About HS2 Rebellion
HS2 Rebellion was formed by activists from StopHS2, who gave been campaigning against HS2 for many years, some for over a decade, joining forces with some from Extinction Rebellion. It is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion, which has sworn off actions for the duration of the Coronavirus lockdown, but does form part of the Movement of Movements, alongside other sister groups like Wildlife Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and Global Justice Rebellion.
This people-powered campaign has been formed to stop the ongoing corruption, deceit and devastation of HS2 Ltd. Lives are being threatened, laws flouted and precious ecosystems are being destroyed while the country is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, a time when the nation is worried and distracted, and widespread protest difficult. To make matters worse, these crimes against democracy, decency and nature are being committed during bird and bat nesting season. As The Woodland Trust recently pointed out, the areas where HS2 work continues apace are facing ‘imminent death’ at exactly the time they should be ‘bursting into life’.
We cannot stand by and watch this happen. As the NHS goes underfunded, money is being burnt and ancient trees are being torn down, we are rising up.
HS2 is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands and almost 700 wildlife sites. As well as costing the UK tax payer well over £200 billion, the high speed rail project is already causing extensive and irreversible damage to the environment and will be a vast new source of carbon emissions for at least the next 120 years, as well as enabling mass airport expansion.
HS2 Ltd has repeatedly failed to produce a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, despite this being a legal requirement.
The Government must scrap HS2 immediately, instead using the money to improve and invest in the NHS, and in local services and projects that adapt to the reality we face in this COVID 19 pandemic and Climate and Ecological Emergency.