Protesters block HS2 building sites amid ongoing coronavirus lockdown

Protesters against HS2 hold a banner
Peadar O'Cearnaigh

Activists protesting the continued construction of the HS2 high-speed railway have blocked access to building sites in London and Warwickshire. A group called HS2 Rebellion is protesting construction work continuing amid the coronavirus crisis. It’s also protesting the environmental damage this project is doing to “our ancient woodlands”. The group claims this work is non-essential and it’s putting the lives of workers and their families at risk.

Furthermore it believes the money spent on this project would be better spent on health workers. As a result of the Tory handling of the pandemic, health workers remain without the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical support, both physical and mental.

Threatened arrests

While respecting coronavirus restrictions, protesters were threatened with arrest outside the Euston site:

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said officers were called at approximately 7am on Monday following reports of a protest, alongside members of the British Transport Police (BTP). It says officers engaged with the group but no arrests were made.

Lockdown restrictions

The UK went into coronavirus lockdown on 23 March. The government ordered “certain businesses” to close. The exception to this was key providers like supermarkets and retailers offering “essential goods and services”. And while other forms of work can continue, protesters say:

Our nurses and doctors are without PPE, yet these workers can continue because the Government deems them key workers,” said one, in a video posted online.

Our real key essential workers are without PPE because of projects like this.

HS2 protest
Police talk to a protester in Euston, London (HS2 Rebellion/PA)
The protest

Protesters held banners reading “NHS not HS2”. HS2 Rebellion did so to highlight the difference between the Government funding this project and the “chronic underfunding” of the NHS. Some protesters scaled a tree using climbing equipment in front of the main building at Euston station and displayed similar banners.

HS2 Rebellion says it has blockaded more than 20 other sites around the UK from London to Crackley Woods in Warwickshire. Protests have also been carried out in the Colne Valley, where an HS2 compound has been blocked since 3 March by demonstrators asserting squatters’ rights at its entrance.

An online campaign dubbed Risky Business will see others take to social media to target other Government projects, including 5 Rivers, Flannery Plant Hire, Hartwood, Midlands Ecology and Adas.

HS2 protest
Another group demonstrated at the HS2 site in Colne Valley, Greater London (HS2 Rebellion/PA)

Other protests

A statement said the group:

[wishes] to emphasise the public resistance to HS2’s destruction of our ancient woodland and wildlife habitats, and HS2’s failure to stop construction works at multiple sites breaching HSE Covid guidelines and exposing their workers, protesters, families and communities to unnecessary risk during a national health crisis.

It came as a former Paralympian was due to appear in court charged with criminal damage at another HS2 construction site. James Brown, 55, was arrested after allegedly climbing a drilling rig to prevent work from going ahead. His hearing has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak and a trial is now due to be scheduled at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on 15 June.

HS2 Rebellion said Brown was due to take part in the protest at Euston on Monday, despite the conditions of his bail forbidding him to be near any HS2 construction sites. Brown said in a statement:

My wife is an NHS doctor, my daughter a carer. I run a charity that supports many of the UK’s most vulnerable disabled individuals.

To see HS2, the most carbon-intensive infrastructure project in Europe, being pushed forward by the Government at this time is infuriating. There’s no rational justification for it.

I cannot sit back and watch this without taking action. I’m going to do all I can to prevent this insane project from going ahead.

Police previously arrested Brown in connection with similar protests by Extinction Rebellion in October. On that occasion he glued himself to the top of an aircraft at City of London Airport.

In a statement, HS2 Rebellion stated it wishes:

to emphasise the public resistance to HS2’s destruction of our ancient woodland and wildlife habitats, and HS2’s failure to stop construction works at multiple sites breaching HSE Covid guidelines and exposing their workers, protesters, families and communities to unnecessary risk during a national health crisis

Featured image and additional reporting by PA

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  • Show Comments
    1. Protesters block HS2 building sites amid ongoing coronavirus lockdown
      ///
      H.S.2 -Cp**p privately run but paid for by our taxpayer money WHY?
      ////
      Some point for Tory Govt plus our Local Tory M.P. Andrew Stephenson of Lancashire/Pendle/Colne areas over seeing this C**P H.S.2 private doggy rail link (funding)
      /////
      P-1—WHY are we British taxpayer paying for this H.S.2.C**p that is emerging cash at every build site now and the privet people behind this C**p live possibly (main backers) outside the U.K. in over country why should we British taxpayer keep funding a dead project also paying into the rich already Broad member Bank accounts?
      //////
      P-2– Why as our local Tory M.P. Andrew Stephenson of Lancashire/Pendle/Colne aera not applied for more C/19 Virus funding in our area –yet is seeking more of our public taxpayer money for the H.S.2 C**p he is in charge of now for Tory Govt as Transport Minister (promoted by Boris in 2020 to this post)
      /////
      P-3—If this H.S.2 C**P is run by privet firms with big cash amounts
      Hidden from public view or Govt view in off shore accounts Including, big rich broad members it’s up to them to find privet funding not for us British taxpayer to bail them out Mr. Stephenson plus Boris remember it is emerging cash now going no where at all so should be kill off now and our money used to revamp our county after C./19 Virus outbreak is over not wasting our public cash on H.S.2 C**p Tory party members.
      /////
      P-4—Remember this true’ FACT all resident + voters in Pendle/Colne area, this C**p H.S.2 will never come our way? In addition will we NOT be able to afford to travel on it (ticket prices) would be beyond our low paid wages round this area -So I ask our local Tory M.P. Andrew Stephenson running the H.S.2 C**P what C**p transport needs will we get in Pendle area??
      Has you for many years have failed to deliver our Bypass + rial-link we desperately needs now with more & more traffic is coming our way off M65 LINK flooding Colne roads plus petrol fumes killing off us residents every day on our Valley road + our Town center now.
      /////
      Finally!
      I ask all residents + voters of U.K./Wales/Scotland/N/Ireland
      What would you wish our public Taxpayers cash spent on H.S.2 C**p failing now (emerging cash) or reenergizing our country for us all to benefit from after C/19 Virus come to an end not just the rich people on big firms braid members running the H.S.2 C**p now at a loss.
      So Andrew Stephenson + Boris will we in Pendle/Colne get our Bypass, Or a new rail link to Skipton you tory have been promising for many years now but delivered anything /nothing for us residents in Pendle area come next G.E. we will not forget this failing now plus wasting of our public taxpayer money on H.S.2 C**p Boris.

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