Protesters resisting HS2’s ecocidal and financially ruinous destruction of our natural heritage are spending a record 44th day in a network of underground tunnels in Staffordshire.
Now into their seventh week underground resisting eviction, the anti-HS2 protesters have gone well beyond the previous record for most time spent underground in a tunnel protest.
The tunnels were dug under what was known as Bluebell Woods Protection Camp, near Swynnerton, ST15 0QS. This is the sixth tunnel eviction which has taken place on the campaign against HS2. Previous subterranean protests along the proposed route have lasted for 28 days in Wendover, Buckinghamshire and 31 days in Euston, London.
Campaigners continue to assert HS2 is a social and environmental catastrophe. They moved underground after bailiffs arrived to evict the camp on 10th May. HS2 will never be carbon neutral and its ecocidal construction actively hinders our ability to sequester carbon.
Only one person has left the tunnel so far. Those still underground do not have access to the internet and are unable to share images from where they are. However, they do have occasional phone signal and have been able to pass messages to us saying they are in good spirits and remain resolute in their battle to challenge the government’s war on peaceful protest.
From the tunnel, an unnamed protester said, “We are happy and settled in. We don’t miss many material goods from above ground. We live a simple, stripped-back life down here. Except for the noise torture and sleep deprivation that HS2’s bailiffs are subjecting us to.”
They continued, “Morale is high, but we have all had our personal challenges to overcome. We are staying healthy, with plenty of water and an underground galaxy of vitamins. That said, confined spaces are not easy on the knees.”
Another added, “We are encouraged to stay because deforestation in the UK is planned to continue and the climate and ecological emergency jeopardises our futures. We hope to inspire a culture of resistance and need to hold the government to account. We are relying on our sheer willpower, determination and stubbornness. We aren’t going anywhere!”
Regarding the record, “Breaking the record for most time underground in a tunnel protest is purely incidental. We stand on the shoulders of giants. What we are doing shows the lineage of radical culture and resistance against ecocide and authoritarianism.”
Another tunneller said, “We must act now to resist deforestation in the UK. I will not be intimidated by HS2 lawyers, no matter the personal cost. The climate and ecological emergency, and the role HS2 plays in exacerbating it, is too serious to be ignored.”
While the protest has been taking place, Priti Patel’s war on peaceful protest has continued. The Conservatives attempted to add a new amendment to the Public Order Bill, which could see protestors who use tunnelling as a tactic jailed for up to three years.
The Public Order Bill is the government’s latest attempt to re-introduce the draconian amendments, that were rejected from the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by the House of Lords, which will effectively ban protest, and gives the government increasingly authoritarian powers to silence those who speak out against them.
We also await a judge’s ruling on a first of its kind mega-injunction, which has been described as “an affront to democracy.” HS2 is seeking an injunction to criminalise anyone who sets foot in an area covering approximately 33 square miles, which will last for two decades.
“Protestors are not the ones endangering other people’s lives. It is the government who are endangering everyone through projects such as HS2 which is destroying lives, livelihoods and threatening all our rights to exist by destroying precious eco-systems. It is those in government who are the real criminals, yet it is peaceful protestors who are increasingly being jailed.” Nancy Livingstone, spokesperson for Bluebell Woods Protection Camp
“The UN reported this week that we are “moving towards a global collapse scenario.” Now more than ever, we all need to be able to use our voices to call out for social progress and environmental justice. Instead, our government is trying to silence us.” Adam, HS2 Rebellion Spokesperson
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This Post Has One Comment
Willpower, determination and stubbornness may be good things to have but a little knowledge might not go amiss. Using emotive terms such as ‘ecocide’ and ‘deforestation’ is of little value if you can’t measure what it is you are describing. For example, the area of ancient woodland being felled for HS2 represents some 0.018% of the UK total – even windfarms consume more.
The one measurable fact that we are given – that HS2 will never be carbon neutral – comes from a very conservative estimate of modal shift from planes and roads and does not reflect the experience of the French high speed rail network that resulted in a massive reduction in competing internal air services. Freeing up space on the classic rail network for freight services will also have a large impact on carbon emissions.
The Staffordshire site of this protest is on the line of Phase 2a of HS2 (Lichfield to Crewe). That is not due to commence until 2024 – so it is not obvious what the tunnellers hope to achieve.
I respect these people’s concern for the environment but simply because a major infrastructure project cuts down trees – as it inevitably has to do – doesn’t make it bad. If HS2 is authoritarian then that authority has derived from Parliament and the near unanimous vote of MPs of both major parties. The Green Party policy on High Speed Rail seems to be ‘have your cake and eat it’ – oppose HS2 but support high speed rail in principle. There is also a dissenting group called ‘Greens for HS2’.
I often think that, if anyone is being authoritarian, it is those protesters who refuse to engage the argument and make it seem that only they have an interest in preserving the environment.