The Battle of Euston

Peaceful tree protectors cling on as HS2 recklessly flouts lockdown with illegal and violent evictions

Tree protectors have been living in tree-houses as high as 80 feet up in the trees, tents and pallet homes in the park, immediately outside Euston train station, since August 2020, defending some of the most historic trees in Central London. They have built complex defenses high up in the trees and a tunnel underground beneath the park.

Yesterday, bailiffs from the National Eviction Team (NET), labelled “lawless thugs” in the High Court due to their unnecessary violence during previous evictions, stormed the Euston Square Gardens Protection Camp before dawn, and began violently dismantling it.

This is happening despite a national lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with HS2 putting the health of activists and bailiffs at risk in order to build a temporary taxi rank.

Chair of Camden Civic Society, local churchwarden and food bank organiser Dorothea Hackman, 68, said:

We have seen many times in the last year how reckless HS2 can be in risking the lives of peaceful protectors.

Activists at the camp are resisting to stop HS2 at its source, and to highlight the environmental, social and economic damage the infrastructure project is already causing.

Activist Blue (18) in the tunnel under Euston

Yesterday, six tree protectors were removed by NET bailiffs from the treehouse 'Heaven', the largest of the treehouses in the Euston Square Gardens Protection Camp, using climbing teams and a cherrypicker. Two tree protectors were left there overnight however and were only being removed this morning.

The activists in the tunnel had substantial quantities of spoil and heavy objects dropped on them from height, resulting in injury and in one protector being largely buried. This violence is standard for HS2. Dr. Larch Maxey, 48, explains:

We’ve seen a steady increase in the violence carried out by HS2 workers and the risks they take with protectors’ lives. There are a growing number of legal cases against HS2 workers because of this. Last year saw several hospitalizations of protectors by HS2 workers, including a broken collar bone, a broken jaw, a gaping cut to the head, a broken nose...

The tree protectors are now receiving advice about taking legal action to defend their human rights from further abuses.

The entrance to the camp - photo credit: Gareth Morris

Bradley, one of the two remaining tree protectors in the ‘Heaven’ treehouse comments: “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! I'm doing this because I want a future where we still have green spaces for all. HS2's corruption needs to be laid bare and the people making these decisions for our country need to be held to account. I'm taking a stand and anybody else should go for it too!

Tim Crosland, barrister, said:

The denial of food, water 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").

The enormously destructive HS2 project is wildly unpopular and is costing taxpayers an estimated £230billion at a time when the NHS is in chronic need of additional funding. Following a string of serious assaults, there is also a growing catalogue of injuries sustained by members of the public opposing HS2’s destructive activities, at the hands of HS2 security staff.

Activists are risking their lives high above the ground - photo credit: Gareth Morris

A combination of tactics is necessary to put a stop to HS2 in its tracks. There are many ways in which people can help. Whilst signing petitions and writing to MPs and other elected representatives is crucial, more people need to come together and apply pressure to the government through non-violent direct action (NVDA).

The tunnel that activists have dug in Euston has taken NVDA one step further, but other methods are effective in delaying construction works until the government reassesses their position. Along the proposed railway line, protection camps have been resisting for months. Find the nearest one to you, talk to the activists and get involved.

Monetary and material donations to the campaign are also necessary to keep it going. Other ways of applying pressure from home are possible: from sharing information about the damages caused by HS2 online, to having conversations with family and friends about it.

We must demonstrate that public opinion on HS2 has shifted dramatically over the last year, and keep reminding the public and our elected representatives of the irreparable damage it is causing to our environment and our communities.

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