On the 9th of October 2020 a non-violent protest took place outside the gates of a HS2 site on the outskirts of Maple Cross, Uxbridge, West London. A group of environmental activists erected (and in some cases ascended) temporary bamboo structures at the gates of the site, housing construction work and a quarry. Protesters remained in place for almost 10 hours. 21 activists were eventually arrested, without resistance and were later charged with Section 241 (D) of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act (watching or besetting a workplace, in order to compel a person to abstain from doing an act that person had a legal right to do – TU92006).
In the first round of cases that went to trial on the 5th & 6th May 2021 the case was thrown out as the judge deemed it failed on all three counts and the defendants were acquitted. The prosecution also cancelled the next round of cases on the 28th-30th June 2021, and the final round of cases from the 1st-3rd September on the grounds that they were unlikely to be successful.
However the prosecution has, in a strange turn of events, decided to pursue the upcoming trial dates of the 23rd-25th August 2021 for just 7 out of the full 21 activists originally arrested.
In a further surprise, the charge has been altered to Section 241 (C) (“Hide or deprive or hinder use of tools/clothes/property”). This is despite the fact that the activists arrested were protesting on the opposite side of the compound gates and were physically attached to bamboo structures at the time, displaying slogans such as ‘STOP HS2’ and ‘EXTINCTION IS FOREVER’ (a quote from UK prime minister Boris Johnson as part of the Leader’s Pledge for Nature just a month before the protest action). There is a livestream of the event (link) which clearly shows foot pedestrians and small vehicles being allowed to enter and leave the site.
Theresa Norton, one of the defendants said:
“I have witnessed first hand the wanton damage to wildlife, ancient woodlands, and human life being wrought by HS2. I have sent countless emails to my MP, I have signed petitions, walked the HS2 lines in the North and South, written to newspapers and the minister for transport.
There is never an adequate response…
So all that was left to me was to put my body on the line. That is what I did. And will continue to do until common sense prevails and this most destructive and mindless project is stopped. The public and our fragile ecosystem deserve nothing less, it is worth fighting for, at all costs.”
Jessica Upton, another of the defendants said:
“I’m driven to protesting against HS2 by the government’s lack of action on climate change. No amount of spin and greenwash by the government and HS2 can make it the right thing to do environmentally, and economically it doesn’t add up. The government’s own audit committee gave the project a red light saying it wasn’t fit for purpose. In these times the money could be spent in so many better ways (building affordable eco homes, creating sustainable jobs, pay rises for essential workers, support for people suffering due to covid, etc). As long as my actions can help bring attention to the wrongness of HS2 then I will keep protesting.”
View photos of the protest https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ozfQxUcUc2IjAqWuZ-j4hWI_1yLyTKdt (credit: Morgan Trowland) and https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1YD4SB6jdftYuO97dRWTsf0IqWaJKbgcM (credit: Jessica Upton).