Heavy police response and threats of arrest to three peaceful anti-HS2 protesters in Bucks
Three peaceful protesters blockading a HS2 site in Steeple Claydon yesterday were approached and questioned by up to a dozen police officers before being threatened with arrest.
As part of HS2 Rebellion's 'Shut The Sites' day the campaigners sat at the entrance to the HS2 site preventing vehicles from gaining access. Similar actions were taking place all along the line from Euston to Warwickshire.
In Steeple Claydon they were displaying a banner reading 'NHS not HS2', referring to the public funds being spent on the high speed rail link which they say would be better spent on the health service, especially during a pandemic.
A HS2 Rebellion spokesperson said in a statement: “In Buckinghamshire, three local women successfully blockaded a HS2 compound in Steeple Claydon, sitting beside a banner, stopping vehicles going in to clear trees and hedgerows and highlighting the non-adherence of HS2 workers with covid-19 guidelines.”
For clarity, we can confirm that one of the protesters was in fact a man.
The Bucks Herald has seen footage showing approximately 12 police officers and at least two police vehicles attending the scene.
The footage appears to show the protesters first being asked to move, which they seem to comply with, but then being pursued by the officers who demand to know their identity and threaten to arrest them while they are trying to leave.
At one point five male police officers surround a female protester who is sitting down, having been prevented from leaving by the officers.
In another moment, after a police officer has accused the protesters of flouting coronavirus restriction rules, it is pointed out to the police that HS2 workers are themselves not social distancing. The police officer replied: “You'll need to take it up with their employers.”
Local campaigner Lindsey Batham, who is a member of the Anti-HS2 SOC (Save Our Countryside) group and who was not actually taking part in yesterday's protest but saw what was happening while taking her daily exercise, said to us: “I was surprised at the number of police officers and HS2 staff who were in attendance today in Steeple Claydon.
“The covid-19 rules were not applied to the HS2 contractors even though their lack of social distancing was pointed out to Thames Valley Police.”
This newspaper asked Thames Valley Police if coronavirus laws apply to HS2 workers as well as protesters.
We also asked why they sent so many police officers to a peaceful protest by three people.
Thames Valley Police provided the following statement: “Thames Valley Police officers received reports of a protest by anti-HS2 protesters in Steeple Claydon yesterday (4 May).
“Officers attended and found three people who were in breach of COVID-19 regulations and who were also taking direct action against HS2’s lawful activity.
“Officers engaged with them and encouraged them to move, but when they did not, they were reported for summons for suspected breaches of both COVID 19 legislation and the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 before they dispersed.
“People have the right to peacefully protest but also to conduct lawful business. Public safety will remain our policing priority in dealing with the impact of the HS2 railway.”
One of the three campaigners at the site in Steeple Claydon yesterday told The Bucks Herald: “I followed all instructions to the letter. A PC asked me to pack up my belongings and leave. He gave no time frame but I complied immediately. He asked me to "wait a sec" while he sought advice and I did so. I left on his return when it became apparent that he did not have any further instruction for me to follow.”
The police statement contradicts video footage not only showing protesters leaving when asked to but also showing two police officers acknowledging this to be the case.
During a section of the video (which can be viewed on this page) where a police officer is informed by a protester that they are leaving, he replies: "Which is why you are not under arrest at this time - if you'd failed to leave then you would have been arrested."
HS2 Rebellion was formed by activists from StopHS2, who gave been campaigning against HS2 for many years, some for over a decade, joining forces with some activists from Extinction Rebellion. It is however entirely distinct from Extinction Rebellion.