Earlier this morning the Court Bailiffs and police moved in to evict the oldest and largest of the StopH2 protest camps at Harvil Rd near Uxbridge. You can view the farce via a video posted on the StopHs2 website here.
It’s interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it shows how few people are actually there. Whilst there’s a rag-bag of 20 odd tents very few of them seem to be occupied. It’s like they’ve been left there by ‘weekend warriors’ just to make the camp look bigger and busier than it really is. In fact, very few protestors can be seen on camera, just the same old faces such as Mark Keir, the serially failed Green Party candidate, plus Sarah Green, the ‘star’ of various PR stunts the antis have tried to pull. One of the things I found fascinating about these videos was just how poorly prepared these camps were for the arrival of the Bailiffs. They knew they would come one day, so what the hell have they been doing these past two years? Remember the old days when protesters dug tunnels to hide in and had aerial ropeways between treehouses so they could resist for as long as possible and make life as difficult as they could for the police and bailiffs? This camp was a shambles in comparison, a few scattered tents and pallets used as walkways across the mud. It looked more like the place where people went to hang out, drink beers and smoke dope whilst recording endless boring social media video’s where they’d bluster about how they were going to stop Hs2.
In the background to the videos you can hear what the protesters have utterly failed to stop – HS2 contractors continuing to build access roads for construction of HS2.
As usual, you have people like Green trying to argue black is white with the Court Bailiff, claiming that the eviction is ‘illegal’. Unsurprisingly, the Bailiff refuses to get drawn into a pointless argument. As it’s now almost afternoon and no more videos have appeared – much less a victorious one from the protesters) it’s probably safe to assume that they’re too busy packing their bags! I’ll update this blog when I have more news.
There’s an even more telling video which stophs2 haven’t put up on their website but you can view it on their Facebook page. It’s a 22 minute long cameraphone video filmed by Mark Keir. You can find it here. In it, you can hear him describing the police and bailiffs as ‘scum’, whilst (hypocritically) being nice as pie to people’s faces. In contrast, the Court Officers are unfailingly polite and helpful, offering the maximum co-operation and concern for the protesters whilst executing their duties and the court order. There’s an even more ridiculous video from Sarah Green here where Green rants on and on about the eviction being ‘illegal’ like a broken record as a protestor is restrained and removed with police observing. I can’t help but think of the old expression “Barrack-room Lawyer” every time I hear Green spout. Meanwhile the man being removed calls everyone “scum” and “criminals” in between his theatrical screams. What Green and the others completely failed to understand (despite the Bailiff explaining it to then very patiently) was that he was enforcing the eviction under the terms of a Compulsory Purchase Order warrant and this confers the legal right to evict them and no notice or ‘eviction order’ is necessary. A good clear explanation of the law regarding CPO evictions in exactly these circumstance is here.
In his video Keir constantly calls for assistance from imaginary Facebook/social media friends, bemoaning the fact that there are so few people at the camp as Twyford Down this ain’t! One of the great weaknesses of these protests is they’ve always been tiny in comparison to the efforts of the anti road building protests of the 1980s-90s. Partly because the protesters have fallen for their own social media hype. They’ve confused Twitter trolls and keyboard warriors with genuine support, then are incredulous when these ‘people’ fail to materialise in real life! There’s something else that’s telling. I’ve always said that social media is a double-edged sword. It can expose your weaknesses or highlight your strengths. As always with the anti HS2 campaign, it’s the former, not the latter. Look how few views or comments any of these videos posted to social media have!
Is this the end for the Harvil Rd protest? Probably. I doubt there’s anywhere else left for them to set up camp nearby without them rapidly being evicted. No doubt some of them may drift off to another of the handful of poorly supported camps on the route, but the end result will be the same. What have they stopped? Nothing.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced that infrastructure will be one of the main planks of its policies over the next Parliamentary term. Chancellor Savid Javid has promised an ‘infrastructure revolution’ in his March budget. Now, does that sound like a Government that’s about to cancel HS2 to you? Can you seriously imagine Javid standing up in a packed House of Commons to say “I would like to talk to you about my infrastructure revolution, but first I’d like to announce that I’m cancelling the biggest infrastructure project in Western Europe!”
The protesters friend in the media have now picked up on the story with The Guardian carrying it on their website. According to the Graun’, three protesters were arrested during the eviction. I’m assuming these will be for obstruction, so unless they’ve done something really stupid they’ll probably be released without charge as there’s little point in wasting the police and courts time prosecuting them – which is no bad thing. Misguided they may be, but they have a right to protest as long as they stay within the law and it’s important that right is upheld in a democracy.
Harvil Rd camp was the biggest and oldest of all five anti HS2 protest camps. It was set up in October 2017 but it’s achieved nothing. It’s never stopped work on the site, merely delayed it a few times. It certainly hasn’t stopped HS2. All it’s really achieved is keep a tiny corner of social media alive with pointless videos, polemics, conspiracy theories and fake news.
The irony of the Guardian covering this is that the newspaper has a very good gallery of the Twyford Down protests in 1992-93. These were against the building of the new M3 motorway and they really put today’s tiny StopHs2 ‘direct action’ protests into perspective. You can find the gallery here.
I suspect this setback is going to be quite an important one for the anti HS2 campaign. ‘Direct action’ was their last resort, but it’s clear that the number have never amount to anything more than a minor nuisance. With the forthcoming announcement on HS2 going ahead expected very soon this could well break the back of what’s left of their campaign. Whilst a few stragglers may remain around the camp it’s clear that their days are numbered as they’ve completely failed in their objectives. It seems some of the locals will be glad to see the back of them too, as this comment on the StopHs2 Facebook page to todays news shows!
Looks like StopHs2’s Joe Rukin better stop playing at being ‘Swampy’ and redouble his efforts to look for a real job!