Twyford Diary – Part Two
Twyford Down has become a symbol of resistance, a training ground, a life changer and a kick up the arse to the British green movement! Below is a brief chronology of events at Twyford since 22 March. The reports of actions dating from mid-February to March 22nd can be found in ‘The Twyford Diary Part One’ - Do or Die Issue 2. To avoid security fuck ups mentions of monkeywrenching will be limited to quotes from DoT affidavits. Action at Twyford may seem hectic but what I cannot put to text was one of the greatest things to come out of Twyford. That is the camp, the community.
The last diary finished off on March 20th with the Arch Druid of Wessex cursing companies at Twyford. This is a transcript of the conversion he had with Mr. Chapman the Mott MacDonald officer. It is taken from DoT evidence in the Twyford 76 High Court case.
‘Druid - I will give you my title. This is an official message from the Arch Druid of Wessex, also a Bard of St. Catherine. This site has been declared officially a sacred site... We would like to inform you… that we have issued a curse against your company. This curse is not a curse against your workers, none of your workers need fear anything personal against them It is not a death curse but your company will find it will lose money, your workers will lose their jobs, your equipment up here will start breaking down and you will find this enterprise up here is a white elephant and this thing will not finish until you leave the landscape alone.
Mr Chapman - Wait a minute we understand – I just want to make it clear whose authority has put this
Druid - This authority is from the Order of St Catherine who are responsible for the site up there. St Catherines Hill and the environment around.
Mr Chapman - Responsible for - and who declared this on the site as well then?
Druid - This is declared by the Council of British Druid Orders which contains all the Druid Orders of the country including Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Manx, Brittany and suchlike.... I promise, you will find every one of you will be out of a job.’
Over the next few months these words were in many ways to become true, as protest activity increased and equipment started ‘breaking down’.
17 protesters hightailed it around the site causing much havoc, no work is done due to the combined effect of protester intervention and Mother Earth pouring fourth buckets.
Ten people as above.
According to a DoT affidavit, ‘There was fairly substantial vandalism to Hockley bridge overnight’. 22 people including a number of Nicaraguan activists, split into three groups and ran all over the site, dodging flying tackles from group 4. It was a half day and we caused a total of seventy five minutes down time.
It rained, no site work done.
We arrived 26 strong at 7.45am. How we managed to get up this early, god only knows! We succeeded in occupying one of the large excavators. Two group 4 men pushed an activist off the top of the digger arm 25 foot up, this resulted in a number of chipped ribs. After three attempts six protesters succeeded in stopping a smaller mechanical monster. The hockley road was then blocked by a sympathetic driver while demonstrators swarmed onto the stranded digger caught in the middle of the road. Up the hill comes an assortment of vans and landies containing over fifty of our local constabulary. Hopelessly outnumbered and standing in a sea of black hats, most demonstrators leave the digger with two people locked to the arm. Two people are arrested on the small digger and by midday the remaining locked on activists have been cut off by hydraulic bolt croppers We then went down to what was the dongas site and blockaded the entrance causing a tail back of three dumper trucks. Group 4 eventually got their act together and pulled us off the road. ‘The actual loss of production was four hours’ (DoT Affidavit). Police later arrested two demonstrators for Criminal Damage to batter rails - charges were not pressed.
30 of us once again spent the morning from 7.15 onwards stopping this and blockading that. As well as group 4 we were once again confronted with thirty police officers. Our numbers were a third of the opposition and due to this we were not as effective as the day before. During the protests there were six arrests including the co-editor of The Ecologist magazine. Five out of the six in the nick went on hunger strike. This lasted until after the court case three days later.
10 Minutes after midnight two people are caught by group 4 amongst the machines in the cutting. When the police arrived they found another two others hiding. None were equipped to cause criminal damage so they were released with cautions. The courtcase of the six arrested on the 27th resulted in them all getting unconditional bail. However one defendant was done for contempt of court - eg he punctuated the Tarmac laccies sentences with bleats.
23 of us arrived on the site at 7am, after stopping the work for a short while and after various hair raising events including the tipping of a dumper trucks full load of chalk onto an activists head, group 4 managed to get us off the site. A number of people then started to ‘Dance through an area of wet concrete which had just been laid’. This happened several times until a contractor kicked down one dancer and while two held him down, tried to hit him over the head with a spade. Luckily the demonstrator came off with a fair amount of bumps and bruises and nothing worse. On this action as on others a number of female activists were groped and had some articles of their clothing pulled off. This led to group 4 being nicknamed grope 4 and a recommendation that considering the violence of contractors, security and police towards specifically female activists, we should not go onto the site in women only groups, or in groups under twenty.
A number of group 4, we are unaware of the figure, had by this time been injured. Injuries ranged from sprained knees, from slipping while trying to rugby tackle us, to more serious fractures. Whenever we tried to occupy a digger the drivers spun the shovels like psychopaths, none of us were hit but group 4 were not so lucky. Tarmac and the police have often cited these incidents to back up the idea that Twyford Activists are a violent mob. This is not true, we are not in any way responsible for the accidental injuries and deaths of DoT employees. It simply shows the idiocy of some security guards and the danger of putting macho men in charge very big hunks of moving metal.
We sauntered home, rather disempowered. As we left the site ‘the police arrived in force’ immediately arresting three people for breach of bail conditions. At this time the courts were often giving out outrageous bail restrictions saying we couldn’t go within an exclusion zone 3 miles long. This included the railway, the A33 and large parts of Winchester itself they even banned us from going to St. Catherines hill, of course we were still observed on site and figures were often seen in the trees of St. Catherines.
For much of this period the sky opened up and our feet got muddy. This made the contractors work impossible and once again mother earth did our job for us. For various reasons our numbers lowered. However the situation soon changed....
An overwhelming day of action attended by over 250 people, led into the cutting by David Gee (Ex-director of FoE). Media reports concerning rampaging mobs and Security guards receiving fractured skulls were very imaginative and came originally from surprise, surprise the police. However back on the real world the consultative engineers in court evidence said ‘Two group 4 men received minor injuries in the scuffle’. Another DoT affidavit goes on to say:
‘The protesters came to the top of the hill arriving on site just north of Arethusa clump.... Almost immediately 50 or so protesters rushed the line of group 4 guards who fell back to the position of the nearest machine. Another machine was overrun by protesters almost straight away. Group 4 fell back to the second machine in an attempt to keep it working. The protesters actions were very vigorous and within a short time (3 minutes) one protester got onto the machines boom and this stooped work.’
No work was done in the cutting all that day and:
‘There was considerable damage done to machinery all taking place during the protest’. Tarmac claim that about a dozen machines were ‘seriously’ damaged, some written off while others remained inoperative through till May. Needless to say no-one or nothing was caught.
About 10 of us occupied the Mott MacDonald office in Winchester. This and the previous raid/ occupation, (see Twyford Diary - part 1) was not only useful in that it disrupted work, but also in that it brought to light just how dodgy they are. From ‘Obtained’ documentation we found that not satisfied with being one of the most hated Consultative engineers in Britain, they are also involved in building a logging road through the Venezuelan Rainforest, ‘Urban redevelopment’ in Jakarta (knocking down slum dwellings!), the horrendous World Bank Bangladeshi Flood Action Plan and they are even building a bypass around Baghdad!. Well I think we can truly say BASTARDS! One minor was arrested for Breach of the Peace, eg being locked onto a radiator and singing, but was released six hours later with no charge.
We attended the opening of the nearby controversial M36 Salisbury Bypass enquiry. One activist being infuriated with the actions of the Inspector did a sit in with his coat over his head to the chorus of ‘I am being muffled’, much to the outrage of the Inspector who closed the Inquiry for the day.
Second day of the Salisbury Inquiry. Outside the hall where the Inquiry was being held was a riot van and a police landie. Inside a collection of sturdy Security men were making their presence known. Three of us were removed by police while trying to ensure a democratic Inquiry. Our actions, in the end, secured the production of written & audio transcripts of the proceedings, an objectors office, a crèche and evening sessions.
It rained and rained and rained, I love the rain!
‘Environment Day’ at Winchester Cathedral. The protest camp set up stall. A large banner was hung saying ‘Has the environment had its day?’ on scaffolding outside the cathedral, and some happy twyford campers were subsequently chased around the grounds by Cathedral vergers.
Meeting with Ecover to discuss boycott.
The request by the Department of Tarmac for an order to Injunct the Twyford 76 was adjourned as the judge ruled that the governments ‘case evidence was inadequate’. Much jigging outside the high court.
Beltane gathering of the tribes. 2-300 came to stay for the weekend. The gathering lasted all weekend, and was the first. (and unfortunately one of the only) free festies of the year. The greenwood was once again awoken.
Work was stopped on three sites by 150 people. According to a DoT affidavit:
‘At 8.45 hrs a group of protesters raided one of the small earthmoving operations at Shawford Down and did some very severe damage to the excavator before making off. There were between 35-50 of them and they seemed to know exactly what to do to cause the most damage to the machine. At the time much of the detailed setting out of the structure in the area of the site was destroyed’.
The graffiti on the digger indicated that it was one of the cat 245’s only just back in service after the 17th April. The driver of this digger the next week jacked in his job and moved to the Skye Bridge contract in an effort to escape ‘eco maniacs’. Bad location for an escape!
‘At 1020 another group of protesters were at the top of the down and they then started to invade the site as they usually do until... the Blackwells foreman decided to park up the machines to prevent damage... There were many scuffles with protesters in the intervening time where they succeeded in partially stopping several machines... At 10.25 another group of 40-50 protesters went to the Bar End Bridge and succeeded in stopping all works for an hour or so until they started to walk up to join the other group on the top of Twyford Down. There were two machines damaged adjacent to the Bridge, a bulldozer and a grader’.
On the way to meet action group 2 we spotted dumper trucks whizzing here and there, and after a few minutes we managed to stop them. Then without warning one of the drivers revved up his engine and drove straight into a group of protesters, most jumped out of the waybut two held their ground. Alex from Aire valley EF! (Leeds), was knocked over by 17 tons of dumper truck and for 10 minutes or so had one of its tyres on his chest, for a while we thought he was a gonna. An Ambulance came & took him to hospital, amazingly he only sustained a sprained shoulder! Guess who’s got the goddess on his side! He is pressing charges so if you were there, contact Aire Valley EF! NOW.
2nd of May
The festival of Fire. Another great day of celebration. It was however marred slightly by a couple of hundred police evicting the techno rave in the adjacent field. A very violent situation was narrowly avoided. The ravers after two days of dancing didn’t have the energy to resist, so many a riot shield wielding policeman didn’t get the fight they were so obviously looking forward too.
3rd of May
This day turned out to be another bizarre one. Overnight two people had been arrested for ‘criminal damage’, for allegedly cutting down the fencing around the cutting. One of the activists was badly ruffed up by grope 4 while waiting for the police. The sun came up and the action began. We didn’t need to take action against the main site at Olivers Battery as the ravers were still using the site as a carpark. Eager not to be outstaged two groups hit the cutting while a third allegedly hit the compton site. In the words of yet another DoT affidavit, (stacked they now reach a foot and a half):
‘9.30 hrs the first group were now moving up plague pits valley... Blackwells decided to suspend operations and move all plant at the top of the site down to the Hockley traffic lights, where they felt Group 4 could contain the trouble more easily. Unfortunately the protesters were too quick and succeeded in stopping one of the excavators ...and preventing another from coming across... A second group of forty came onto the site and started to create problems. 10.00hrs. The three large motorscrapers were parked up and the Protesters tried to rush the larger excavators and there was a serious incident, when one Group 4 man was hit hard in the back by one of the excavators... He collided with another Group 4 man who was also injured’.
Howie who the police are busy framing with an assault charge on a site he wasn’t even at, on the 17th of April, was seen on the demonstration, (a breach of his bail conditions) and, ‘two constables gave chase but he eluded them’. A car chase around the South of Hampshire then commenced. We believe the Tarmac Site Supervisor broke speed restrictions on numerous occasions! Tut tut. Howie however once again eluded them, Hurrah!
‘At 10.40 hrs the machines were parked up and left. At 11.00hrs there were reports of damage to machinery at compton by a group of people in 8 cars who stormed the area of the site when no work was in progress. They did a severe amount of damage to a medium excavator and to another medium excavator, a large road roller, a track shovel and compacting plate. A large amount of setting out detail was also destroyed’.
Shortly after the time these incidence are alleged to have happened those who just happened to have been there were confronted by a horrific site. A quarter of a mile away and running towards us were 60 grope 4, and coming down the opposite end of the road were about the same number of police. Now knowing that the Group 4 would almost definitely beat us up and the police only probably we decided to run towards the police. We could not get off the road due to a 20 root metal sound barrier skirting down the side of the road. Our cars were no where to be seen as a crash had happened causing a massive tailback with our vehicles about half a mile away. About thirty seconds before we would have met with the police the jam cleared and our cars appeared. Two carloads raced off, resulting in more car chases but the police then blocked the road and six cars were left stranded, some even pushed onto the hard shoulder by police cars. The cars, the site, and everyone present was searched by the police, no tools were found. After all this was a bank holiday excursion of The Roadside Botanical Society. We were interested in the rare Yellow Cradwort, not horrible greasy monkeywrenches. Two people were arrested under suspicion of Criminal Damage but were later released and the charges dropped. The whole fracas caused great inconvenience to many Mayday holidaymakers, ‘These incidence happened on the North bound carriageways of the A33, causing a large traffic jam in both directions for 45 minutes’. Oh dear!
4th-21st of May
Many EF! actions in other places, injunction hearings and gatherings etc, resulted in a drop of activity. The camp was also evicted by Ideal Homes and moved to an abandoned army camp nearby.
Greenfly, Market Gardens and the Pernicious Tarmac Weed.
On 22 May an amazing overnight action took place at Twyford Down. In order to stop Tarmac the planet wreckers from building a massive construction bridge over the bypass (codenamed Operation Market Garden by the Dept. of Roads), 300 activists gathered at the protest camp that day for the counter operation - Operation Greenfly. There was an overwhelming sense of pessimism and helplessness as reccys had shown that Tarmac were preparing for battle by erecting razor wire barricades all around the site. Group 4, we learnt, had taken the precaution of hiring hundreds more guards and giving them instructions to use ‘more than usual force’. The police were there in large numbers and the situation looked pretty fucking scary.
Well, we worried, we workshopped, we briefed, we painted our faces, gathered ourselves and set off to get to the site before the bypass closed down for the night.
The procession of 200 activists looked amazing. Our courage and determination grew as we walked through the watermeadows towards the ready built bridge which was about to be pushed across the road. The next sequence of events is amazing and shows what a group of determined people can do. It surprised even the most experienced and seasoned of activists. We formed into a tortoise formation, linked arms and marched onto the site. Rope was tied onto the razor wire, it was pulled away, the other fence was pulled onto it and we stormed in, united. There was nothing Group 4 or the police could do! As Paul said; ‘We almost seemed to fly over the wire. It was as if we were carried.’ The greenfly buzzed all over the 30 foot high, 200 foot long bridge, WOW WHAT A FEELING!
For 5 hours we held that bridge drumming into the night, until the police had to call in reinforcements from all over the south to get us down. By 2am, there were in total 550 police and 320 group 4. There were 52 arrests for obstruction of the police and the whole action had been carried out, from our side, with a amazing lack of aggression. It was so empowerinng. About another 150 people had gathered on the other side of the razor wire, fires burned and a man breathed fire. On the bridge it was Party time. Night fell, the road closed down, the arc lights roared into action.
A horrific event unfolded as one activist while under arrest, was run over by a Tarmac tractor and fuel tank. The driver, laughing, parked up on the site road obstructing an ambulance from entering. Darren received serious injuries and was critical for a while. Darren’s injuries included: a flailed left chest, (i.e. 6 multiply broken ribs), punctured and collapsed left lung, 5 pelvic fractures, ruptured urethra, and a broken ankle. Darren remained in Hospital for about a month and a half and was on crutches for longer.
Meanwhile the rest of the action was going much better. We drummed on the monster structure and the deafening metallic beat echoed across the valley. One man climbed a 40 foot lighting rig and flew the dragon flag and the dragon dancers took the road!
A bank of TV cameras and press photographers lapped up this spectacular action, there was live footage on TV. It was splashed all over the national press the next day.
What was not reported was that, according to Blackwells, during that morning several excavators and water pumps had been trashed. That night as the greenfly fired up the night on the bridge, elsewhere an excavator was torched, a stretch of Tarmac burned and part of the worksite flooded. People have cost Tarmac and the DoT millions in lost time and ‘damaged’ machinery.
24rd of May-July 1st
No major action happened at Twyford in this period. The time was taken up with a concoction of smaller actions, court cases and even an invasion of Tarmac’s AGM in London on the 16th of June. There was a large Twyford contingent at Glastonbury festival, (a consumer hype if ever I saw one), who gave talks and direct action training all through the festival.
Tarmac’s injunction against 76 protesters was finally given the nod in the High Court only two days before a planned mass trespass of the worksite. This injunction, and others that have appeared since, are near direct copies of the American S.L.A.P.Ps, (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public participation), and as a legal precedent it brings situations into the fray that EF!ers in this country have not encountered before. Firstly, a possible stay in prison, for contempt of court, for all named injunctees who break the injunction. Secondly, all the injunctees become ‘jointly and severally liable’, for all legal costs and damages. The DoT is intending to claim damages of £2 million, and theoretically under this injunction one injunctee who was on the site once could be held entirely responsible for the two million pounds the DoT is claiming. An appeal against the injunction has now been setup and is contactable via, David Plumstead, 0303-265737. (For more details of SLAPPS read ‘SLAPPS come to Britain’, Sept/Oct 93 issue of The Ecologist).
It was evident to all how tyrannical the injunction was and it was decided that it should be made a laughing stock from the very beginning. Two days after the passing of the injunction a ceremonial mass trespass entitled ‘reclaiming the land’ was held. 600 people including a group of injunctees who put their liberty on the line, surrounded the cutting in a massive circle, climbing over into the cutting. This was the biggest Twyford action yet and it seemed, (happily) more like a festie than anything else. There was a healthy mix, sabs, travellers, doctors and EF!ers. Police vans were circled around and the sun blazed down reflecting on the chalk.
Tarmac had learnt its lesson and had moved the machinery out of the cutting and into a compound, the machinery out of the cutting and into a compound at the other end of the Bailey Bridge. There was no way the police were going to let us in there. An attempt was made but only resulted in exhaustion and twenty or so arrests. There was a severe problem with the lack of drinking water so many just jumped into the River Itchen and cooled off. Needless to say, no site work was carried out and from the onset we had made a mockery of the injunction.
23rd of July
In the High Court, ‘the lord’ Just-us Alliot, who had passed the injunction a month earlier, ruled that seven injunctees who had taken part in the Reclaiming the Land demo, were in ‘Contempt of Court’. He said in his summing up that there was one more important thing than nature and that is the rule of Law! Well he would say that I suppose, being the law.
He sentenced them to 28 days in Prison, (more than many wife beaters get!),and hearby created the biggest PR disaster the DoT had ever seen. There was condemnation against his decision from all sides and the prisoners, serving in Holloway, (women) and Pentonville, (men), were visited by many ‘notables’. These including Carlo Ripa da Meana, the EC minister who resigned in rather suspicious circumstances, after initiating legal action against the English government over Twyford and Oxleas. The prisoners received much media coverage and about fifty letters of support a day from all around the world.
They were finally released after serving thirteen days of their sentence. Other injunctees face a spell inside if the combined forces of Bray’s detective Agency, the police and grope 4 catch up with them. Considering this and the likely spread of these injunctions we can expect many of us to be prisoners in the future. However, we must not let the government’s intimidation tactics work.
The cutting at Twyford gets ever deeper and the down, the watermeadows and of course most of the dongas are now destroyed, but its destruction has given birth to a movement and the fight goes en. The road is doomed. We invite all like minded folk to come to the M3 extensions ‘opening’ ceremony next year with a pick axe, and we will dig this abomination up! But in the mean time... Please show your anguish at the loss of this precious place, your solidarity with the injuncted protesters and your commitment to fight earth rapists everywhere!
Lots of Love and no compromise, ever!!
Boudicca and Snufkin.
- The main part of the Diary was written by Snufkin, and ‘Operation Greenfly..’ by Boudicca. Both are small round shiny red insects from Camelot EF!