Shortly before 5am this morning, HS2 began an illegal eviction of the Euston Square Gardens Protection Camp in Central London, endangering the lives of tree protectors and bailiffs during the national lockdown.
Bailiffs from HS2’s private contractors the National Eviction Team, or NET, labelled “lawless thugs” in the High Court due to their unnecessary violence during previous evictions, entered the camp under cover of darkness and began manhandling activists and threatening to cut the safety lines of people in the trees.
The tree protectors have been living in tree-houses as high as 80 feet up in the trees, tents and pallet homes in the park, immediately outside Euston train station, since August 2020, defending some of the most historic trees in Central London. Some are veterans of other evictions in ancient woodlands along the HS2 line. They have built complex defenses high up in the trees and a tunnel underground beneath the park. Upon the arrival of the bailiffs, a number of tree protected entered this tunnel, prepared for a lengthy siege. They expect it to take the bailiffs many weeks to remove them.
The Central London showdown, dubbed by protectors the “Battle For Euston”, takes place against the backdrop of a country in national lockdown and gripped with worry over the new highly contagious mutant strand of Covid. Serious questions have been raised over why HS2 is endangering members of the public and their own staff by carrying out a dangerous, illegal and unnecessary eviction at this time and why it could not wait until after the lockdown instead.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the protectors have written to HS2 requesting they put an end to this unsafe, illegal eviction. They have suggested that if HS2 considers it to be essential to proceed, even during a national lockdown, then they should allow a court to decide whether it really is safe and justified before going ahead with it. The suspicion is HS2 would rather break the law now and pay the fine later, safe in the knowledge that any financial penalty imposed upon them by a court will be picked up by the taxpayer and won’t harm bosses’ lucrative salaries.
Chair of Camden Civic Society, local churchwarden and food bank organiser Dorothea Hackman, 68, explains: “Unfortunately we have seen many times in the last year how reckless HS2 can be in risking the lives of peaceful protectors. Now that we are in full lockdown it is unconscionable for HS2 to evict these protectors and risk their lives by pushing them out of their community back onto the streets in these temperatures and to who knows where.”
The enormously destructive HS2 project is wildly unpopular and is costing taxpayers an estimated £230billion  at a time when the NHS is in chronic need of additional funding. Following a string of serious assaults, there is also a growing catalogue of injuries sustained by members of the public opposing HS2’s destructive activities, at the hands of HS2 security staff.
Dr. Larch Maxey, 48, explains: “We’ve seen a steady increase in the violence carried out by HS2 workers and the risks they take with protectors’ lives. There are a growing number of legal cases against HS2 workers because of this. Last year saw several hospitalizations of protectors by HS2 workers, including a broken collar bone, a broken jaw, a gaping cut to the head, a broken nose, my teenage son being choked out whilst up a tree, another teenager’s safety line being cut so he fell 20 feet, and protectors’ necks being knelt on. Given the height and complexity of the treehouses and defenses in Euston Square Gardens, I am extremely worried that someone could be seriously injured or killed.”
The centrepiece of the camp, which has provided free food, bedding and accommodation for scores of homeless people, is Buckingham Pallets. As well as concealing the tree protectors tunnel entrance, this has acted as the camp hub. It features two pallet towers, a kitchen, living room, compost toilet and art created by several local artists.
Clinton Samuel, 27, who has been street homeless for five years before joining the camp, where he has built a treehouse for himself and his friend, commented: “I used to sleep in these gardens before, under that tree in fact, but now I’ve not only learnt to climb and build my own house, I’ve learnt life skills, found a real community and a sense of purpose!”
Homeless Bradley, 46, commented: “Buckingham Pallets is like a Shadow Cabinet. The Government has failed us. We need to let everyday people run the show. We’ll make far better decisions that benefit everyone, not just the elite.”
Many groups and organisations are now calling for a National Citizens Assembly to lead the way out of the Climate and Ecological Emergency, to reassess the whole HS2 project and whether it is really the best way to spend £230 billion of taxpayers money.
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Notes to Editors
For more information or for interviews from those on the ground contact 07459055152 or 07726195412
Photos can be found here: HIGH RESOLUTION PICTURE LIBRARY
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About HS2 Rebellion
HS2 Rebellion is an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against HS2, including but not exclusively: StopHS2, Save Cubbington Woods, Crackley Woods Protection Camp, Denham Ford Protection Camp, Poors Piece Conservation Project and XR. It is entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion, but does form part of the Movement of Movements, alongside other sister groups like Wildlife Rebellion, Animal Rebellion and Global Justice Rebellion.