UK

HS2: Bailiffs start evicting HS2 protesters from camp – as police move in to ‘keep the peace’

Bailiffs from HS2 today began evicting protesters from a makeshift camp near London’s Euston Station who had spent months secretly digging a dangerous 100ft tunnel.  

HS2 Rebellion activists climbed on top of cranes as enforcement officers moved to evict the environmentalists from the Tree Protection Camp in Euston Square Gardens, which was set up in September in protest against the £170billion rail project. 

A spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said the company could not comment on the specifics of protesters’ activities as it is yet to take possession of the land, but that ‘illegal’ actions could be a danger to people’s safety.  

However, HS2 Rebellion said an ‘illegal eviction’ of the camp began shortly before 5am today, and claimed that bailiffs from HS2’s private contractor, the National Eviction Team, ‘entered the camp under cover of darkness’.

They said tree protectors had entered the tunnels and were ‘prepared for a lengthy siege’, and believe they can ‘hold out in the tunnel for several weeks and hope in this time that a court will rule against HS2 for breaking the law by attempting an eviction without a court order and during the national coronavirus lockdown’.  

HS2 Rebellion said lawyers for the Euston Square Gardens Protection Camp have written to HS2 ‘advising them of the illegality of any such eviction attempt at this time’.

The Met Police confirmed a number of officers have been sent to the eviction site at Euston Square Gardens, but only to assist High Court enforcement officers should there be any breach of the peace.

Members led by veteran activist Swampy, who has been involved in several anti-HS2 protests, said the tunnel – codenamed Kelvin – has taken two months to dig and is their ‘best defence’ against being evicted.

The HS2 rail project, which is set to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and rebalance the UK’s economy, has been called ‘expensive, wasteful and destructive’ by environmentalists.

Anti-HS2 protesters claim the line will destroy or irreparably damage 108 ancient woodlands and 693 wildlife sites, and that Euston Square Gardens will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers.

A police officer watches a protester that climbed on a crane, during an anti-HS2 demonstration in Euston Square Gardens

Protesters being removed from a crane at the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network

Protesters being removed from a crane at the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network

Police officers wearing climbing equipment move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police officers wearing climbing equipment move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police officers escort a protester who had been stood on top of a lorry blocking traffic near to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police officers escort a protester who had been stood on top of a lorry blocking traffic near to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Enforcement agents watch over a makeshift camp where activists demonstrate as others occupy tunnels near Euston Station

Enforcement agents watch over a makeshift camp where activists demonstrate as others occupy tunnels near Euston Station

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy, after claiming the garden is at risk from the HS2 line development

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy, after claiming the garden is at risk from the HS2 line development

Enforcement officers remove items from an encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Enforcement officers remove items from an encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police seal the entrance to Euston Square as police and security bailiffs evict the HS2 protest camp

Police seal the entrance to Euston Square as police and security bailiffs evict the HS2 protest camp

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy, after claiming the garden is at risk from the HS2 line development

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy, after claiming the garden is at risk from the HS2 line development

Police officers watch a woman standing on top of a lorry blocking the traffic near to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police officers watch a woman standing on top of a lorry blocking the traffic near to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

HS2 protesters have spent months secretly digging a 100ft underground tunnel near Euston station in central London. Pictured: Campaigner known as Blue, 18, below ground

HS2 protesters have spent months secretly digging an elaborate 100ft underground tunnel near Euston station in central London

HS2 protesters have spent months secretly digging a 100ft underground tunnel near Euston station in central London. Pictured: Campaigner known as Blue, 18, below ground

They added that ‘tree protectors’ were prepared to occupy the tunnels, dug ‘in secret’ over the last few months, and would stay underground ‘for as long as it takes to stop HS2’.

However, HS2 bosses insist that most ancient woodland will ‘remain intact’. Responding to the Euston Gardens encampment, an HS2 spokesman said: ‘Protests such as these are costly to the taxpayer and a danger to the safety of the protesters, HS2 staff, High Court enforcement officers and the general public, as well as putting unnecessary strain on the emergency services during the pandemic.’

The first phase of the rail link between London and Birmingham will not open until 2028 – while the second, to Manchester and Leeds, has been delayed until 2035-40. 

HS2 Rebellion called on the Government to scrap the scheme ‘before it is too late’ and argued for a National Citizens Assembly to ‘lead the way out of the climate and ecological emergency’.

One protester, Blue Sanford, 18, from London, said: ‘I’m angry that the Government is still effectively ignoring this crisis despite declaring a climate and ecological emergency two years ago.

‘I’m in this tunnel because they are irresponsibly putting my life at risk from the climate and ecological emergency.They are behaving in a way that is so reckless and unsafe that I don’t feel they are giving us any option but to protest in this way to help save our own lives and the lives of all the people round the world.’

Video footage from inside, filmed by activists, shows a cramped, winding passage with wooden props against its walls. In some parts they can be seen removing loose earth with just a trowel.

A spokesman for the group said Swampy, real name Daniel Hooper, had been an ‘invaluable source of expertise’ in helping to dig the tunnel. The group said last night that it expects to face eviction ‘imminently’. 

It said tunnellers ‘worked around the clock, using pickaxes, shovels, buckets and shifts of two to 12 people at a time’. The entrance is concealed by a ‘fortified stronghold’, complete with a tower built from pallets, which activists have nicknamed Buckingham Pallets. 

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Security guards seal the perimeter as police and security guards evict protesters

Security guards seal the perimeter as police and security guards evict protesters

Bailiffs remove items from inside the structures of the protest camp

Bailiffs inside the perimeter of the square as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp

Bailiffs inside the perimeter of the square as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp

Bailiffs inside the perimeter of the square as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp

Bailiffs inside the perimeter of the square as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Police speak to protestors evicted from the protest site as police and security guards evict protesters from the HS2 protest camp in Euston Square

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, claim Euston Square Gardens, a green space outside Euston station, will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers

HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, claim Euston Square Gardens, a green space outside Euston station, will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers

The protest group said "tree protectors" were prepared to occupy the tunnels, dug "in secret" over the last few months, and stay underground "for as long as it takes to stop HS2"

The protest group said ‘tree protectors’ were prepared to occupy the tunnels, dug ‘in secret’ over the last few months, and stay underground ‘for as long as it takes to stop HS2’

The encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

The encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London, where HS2 Rebellion protesters have built a 100ft tunnel network, which they are ready to occupy

Activists demonstrate at a makeshift camp on a tree as others occupy tunnels under Euston Square Gardens to protest against the HS2 high-speed railway in London

Activists demonstrate at a makeshift camp on a tree as others occupy tunnels under Euston Square Gardens to protest against the HS2 high-speed railway in London

Activists are living in a main chamber of the tunnel, with stashes of tinned food and vegetables stored along its length.

One 18-year-old protester, identified only as Blue, told the BBC the tunnel was ‘very dangerous and life threatening’ but it was their ‘best defence’ against being evicted. 

Blue said: ‘It is not about us martyring ourselves, it is about delaying and stopping HS2. This is the only way I can effect change, I would sacrifice everything for the climate ecological emergency to not be happening.’ 

A tunnel rescue expert added: ‘They’re risking their lives and they’re risking the lives of those who actually go in to get them out.’ 

More recently tunnels were used by environmental campaigners in 2017 to prevent fracking in Coldharbour, Surrey. 

In an online environmental protest guide, written by ‘Disco Dave’, tunnelling is described as ‘the ultimate and desperate tactic of desperate people in desperate times’.  

Activists demonstrate at a makeshift camp on a tree as others occupy tunnels under Euston Square Gardens to protest against the HS2 high-speed railway in London

Activists demonstrate at a makeshift camp on a tree as others occupy tunnels under Euston Square Gardens to protest against the HS2 high-speed railway in London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

Police enforcement officers move in to the encampment in Euston Square Gardens in central London

HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, claim Euston Square Gardens, a green space outside Euston station, will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers

HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned high-speed railway, claim Euston Square Gardens, a green space outside Euston station, will be built over with a temporary taxi rank before being sold off to developers

The HS2 Rebellion squad set up the ‘Tree Protection Camp’ in Euston Square Gardens in September to protest against the multibillion-pound rail project.

The HS2 Rebellion squad set up the ‘Tree Protection Camp’ in Euston Square Gardens in September to protest against the multibillion-pound rail project. 

The group claim the tunnel, codenamed ‘Kelvin’, is 100ft long and has taken two months to dig

The group claim the tunnel, codenamed ‘Kelvin’, is 100ft long and has taken two months to dig

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