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HS2 protesters in Euston hold tight in underground tunnels during eviction day three

Tree protectors accuse hired bailiffs National Eviction Team of breaching their human rights

29 January, 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Tree protector Scott Breen, aka Digger Down, inside the tunnels below Euston

PROTESTERS remain underground in Euston as attempts to evict them stretches into its third day.

Around five activists are currently inside the 100-ft tunnels which consist of two branches known as ‘Calvin’ and ‘Kristal’, including Dr Larch Maxey – a geography teacher and one of HS2 Rebellion’s main organisers.

The others include Daniel Hooper, known as ‘Swampy’ and Scott Breen, nicknamed, Digger Down. They are joined by  20-year-old Lachlan Blaze Sandford, called Lazer, and his sister Blue, 18, who is also in the tunnels.

Another four members are situated on top of the tower, known as Buckingham Pallets, guarding the entrance to the tunnels.

One of them, John, an American-born student, told the New Journal: “There’s definitely a visceral fear of being underground… but there’s no use thinking something is a bad idea if you’re not willing to sacrifice something for it.”

The group has said it hopes to occupy the tunnels for weeks, with one member revealing the hope to beat a previous record of six weeks.

HS2 Rebellion supporter handcuffed and led away by police [SIMON LAMROCK]

Those guarding the trees were the first to be targeted by the National Enforcement Team (N.E.T), the private company hired by HS2 Ltd to evict people from its construction sites.

After bringing six of the tree protectors down on the first day of the eviction operation on Wednesday, two remained in the treehouse known as ‘Heaven’ without shelter, safety ropes and food and water supplies.

Bradley, one of the remaining tree protectors, wrote yesterday (Thursday): “I’m so cold in the rain to be honest with you I can barely type. They took our blankets, food and water to try to get us to come down and even the risk of hypothermia hasn’t stopped us yet!”

But by today (Friday) it had gotten too much for the pair and they come down of their own accord.

They have since claimed to have been told by NET officers they would be free to go if they came down but were instead led to police and given an option between arrest or a fine. One chose the fine, while the other was arrested.

Two tree protectors climb down from treehouse after night with no shelter

The Metropolitan Police said officers were deployed only to help bailiffs should there be any ‘breach of the peace’. 

Out of 13 arrests so far, only one person has been arrested for breach of the peace and they were later de-arrested.

Six have been arrested under the Coronavirus Regulations, five under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation Act) and one for an alleged public order offence.

Protesters underground have complained of not being allowed essential supplies such as water, sleep deprivation from loud machinery operating and works being carried out through the night.

The group is blaming heavy machinery, such as cherry pickers, being brought into the park for five tunnel collapses in the last day, and say attempts by NET officers to dig into the tunnel have endangered lives.

Because of this, HS2 Rebellion have accused NET of breaching their human rights and going against the company’s own safety regulations.

A barrister they consulted with yesterday, Tim Crosland, director of Plan B, which brought the legal action against a third runway at Heathrow, said: “The denial of food, water, sleep and essential provisions to the protestors in an unlawful interference with the right to protest. It is also a breach of Article 3, ‘no-one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. 

‘Stop lying’: Cyclist walks with anti-HS2 placard [SIMON LAMROCK]

“Further, there is a serious risk that the actions of the NET (which include cutting the line of descent) cause substantial harm to the protestors. This is a breach of the NET’s duty of care to the protestors and an act of negligence. I urge the NET to reconsider their actions or face the legal consequences.”

NET denies breaching the human rights of protesters or their safety practices. 

A specialist NET worker was filmed on Thursday night saying no machinery had been near the tunnels and that if there had been collapses they must vacate for their own safety.

NET said in a statement: “The unlawful activists appear to have put themselves in danger of a further tunnel collapse, and potentially of intercepting nearby gas and water pipes, leading to risks of suffocation, flooding and drowning.”

Speaking in a video update from the tunnel last night Dr Maxey said the treatment from the enforcement agency had somewhat improved, due in part they believe to ongoing media scrutiny of the eviction.

He added: “We’re doing really well, we’ve got over the worst of it as the bailiffs on the first night were a bit rough and reckless with us but tonight [Thursday night] they are staying distant.

NET officer talking to tree protector on top of ‘Buckingham Pallets’

“We heard the cherry picker had been brought into the park against the rules and regulations to destroy our tree house near the tunnel, and that’s why we’ve suddenly had five collapses today.”

In his update on Friday morning he said he was not worried about collapses due to rain and shared that he had enjoyed weetabix for breakfast.

Mine rescue team and the Health and Safety Executive were seen on site yesterday, and one of NET’s specialist officers was filmed telling a member of the public: “HSE and the fire service are happy and they are the ones we answer to in terms of legislation.”

Meanwhile HS2 workers have erected tall green fencing around the park and begun work felling trees.

It is believed NET’s next action may be to evict those above ground on top of the tower.

A HS2 spokesperson said: “Illegal action such as this is costly to the taxpayer and a danger to the safety of the activists, HS2 staff, High Court enforcement officers and the general public, as well as putting unnecessary strain on the emergency services during the pandemic.”

Camden Council say they are concerned protesters are putting their own lives and the lives of emergency service personnel in danger, but added: “We expect all citizens to be treated properly and with respect at all times.”

Councillor Danny Beales, communities chief, said the council expect HS2 Ltd to stand by its promises to mitigate the worst impacts of the scheme.

“HS2 Ltd must now step up and deliver fully on all these assurances, including their pledge to plant a tree for each tree removed in the borough, on which they are currently missing the mark. We will hold them to account on this,” Cllr Beales said.

 To date HS2 have felled 174 trees and have provided the council funding to plant 140 trees in and around the Euston area.

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