DAY OF ACTION 22ND MAY NAPIER BARRACKS

Many grassroots groups will be meeting at Napier Barracks in Kent on the 22nd May in a show of solidarity with asylum seekers housed at the site. The gathering stands in protest of the brutal and inhumane conditions at the barracks. It is also a chance to reach out to those held there, to share legal support, play games and connect with people.

Check Freedom for more info:

https://freedomnews.org.uk/2021/05/08/close-the-camps-day-of-action-at-napier-barracks/?fbclid=IwAR1SJy_GdE1AmOFDyxIQeC93_QNh7g1-thAaMVduULFfWGG0OYtDN8ov1FU

MAYDAY: London 2021

A brief roundup from the day’s demo in the capital:

Known variously as Mayday, Labour day, Beltane, International Worker’s Day, however this poignant day is configured, May the 1st carries a lot of weight in the socio-political calendar.

This year the prominent group in the turn out for Mayday were those protesting the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. Many began to gather as early as 8am as the carnival of resistance block galvanised in Brixton. Led by a samba band this group brought the sound from South London to meet other protesters meeting at Trafalgar Square. When different groups assembled in central there was a decent turn out of a few thousand people.

Whilst those rallying to ‘KILL THE BILL’ were the majority out on the day, there were many other groups and causes interspersed in the crowd. From ‘Free Julian Assange’ to individuals bent on anti globalisation, the crowd was a medley of civil unrest.

The march was upbeat and everyone was in high spirits throughout the long route through central London. An open topped London bus was leading the crowd projecting tunes through the streets keeping the troupe animated.

At the close of the afternoon the crowd eventually came to halt as Vauxhall’s Pleasure Gardens, meet by two sound systems already set up on the green. A rented truck hosted a generator and a small stack playing high energy disco and dance tunes. Nearby a bicycle sound system blasted tekno and punchy rave music. The party in the park made for a refreshing close to the demo, a knees up in South London ever more preferable than a kettle outside Downing Street.

The impending criminalisation of trespass: why we must resist.

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has enraged many in recent weeks. Amongst many disparate proposals with in the act, (most notably at present being the increased police powers to restrict protest) is the criminalisation of trespass, relating specifically to ‘unauthorised encampments’. Due to the public outcry at the oppressive measures, the bill’s processing has been delayed delayed until June the 24th where the public bill committee will publish its report.

The terms of the proposed measures in part 4 of the bill are an unveiled attack on the Traveller community and are tantamount to an ethnic and cultural cleansing. Not only is this discrimination intolerable, this bill will have an immense impact for all those who also seek access, for all manner of reasons, to the countryside.

The trajectory of the tory’s plans to crackdown on Traveller sites has grown in severity over the last year. As it looks now, not only will it create a new criminal offence of trespass with intent to reside but also willl strengthen the police powers to enforce penalties against trespassers. An ‘unauthorised encampment’ will be defined as anyone accompanied with a vehicle, even intent to bring a vehicle onsite will fit the conditions. Refusal to vacate will be punishable by arrest, vehicle seizure, fines of up to £2500 and up to a 3 month prison sentence. 

Vilifying the Traveller community

Primarily, this legislation launches an attack on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. By targeting road site camps it criminalises a whole way of life. This bill can further banish families from ancestral stopping places, by extending the period of prohibited return from 3 to 12 months. Homes can be seized and held for up to 3 months or longer should court proceedings exceed this. Already horrendously marginalised by larger society, the bill brings in to focus the blatant discrimination faced by Travellers both in law and at a local level.

The government intends to criminalise roadside sites without offering any kind of alternative. As Families Friends and Travellers continue to highlight, even the police respondents do not support the prospect of this new legislation and point to the problem being lack of legal site provision. Critically, the GRT people are being pushed out of any lawful manner to pursue their birth right of a life on the road. FFT continue; “there is a chronic national shortage of places to stop. The Government should not imprison people, fine them and remove their homes for the ‘crime’ of having nowhere to go.” In light of the current housing crisis in the UK an ever growing number of people are opting to live in vehicles. This bill vilifies all those who choose to live nomadically and enforces an ideology that housing ought to be private and sedentary. We must stand in solidarity with Travellers facing the brunt of this racist legislation. 

Restriction of Protest

Criminalising trespass is connected to a larger narrative of quelling any kind of insurgent behaviour. The eviction of protest sites will also be streamlined with this widening of the goal posts of what defines a criminal encampment. Undoubtedly first to feel the flexing of new eviction muscle power will be the camps dotted all along the HS2 line. These sites are are already facing daily repression through encroachment of boundary fences, evictions using archaic common law and abusive security. Criminalising trespass with intent to reside on the land will cast all once legal land occupation in to legal precarity, thereby stumping a hugely important means of creating autonomous space.

Unhappily, this legislation also runs alongside new laws on ‘public order’ intended to crack down on rights of protests and increase penalties for those who partake in them.This bill will increase the police’s power of crowd control and dispersal at demonstrations thereby imposing new restrictions on rights to assemble in protest. There is frequent overlap between what can be described as a protest and encampment, as occupying an area is a vital method of protest. The conjoining of these new oppressive measures means we are facing authoritarian encroachment on our rights to demonstrate freely. Priti Patel’s efforts to outlaw any kind of resistive activity must not quell our efforts, and only spur on a redoubling of them. 

Erosion of land rights

From the enclosures to the present day HS2 land grabs criminalising intentional trespass is part of a long succession of land dispossession from ordinary people. The bill protects the interests of wealthy landowners that monopolise vast swathes of the English countryside.We are already divorced from 92% of the land by existing civil law of trespass. This bill further enshrines the doxa of private property in criminal law. In England 1% of the population, (a third of which is the Aristocracy), owns 50% of the land. This galling disparity of access to green space is taken as a given. Our rights of access to these huge areas of natural beauty is a question never ventured, a notion fenced off by naturalised lines of barbed wire in the mind. A year in lockdown has made the therapeutic importance of the natural world even more evident, yet simultaneously enforced on us is legislation to further divide us from it. People should be entitled to lawful access to the bounty of green space present in the UK, and this is of foundational importance to those who live on the road. 

Impact on free party culture

The past year has been numbing for the free party scene, with the imposition of extortionate fines on crews and party goers alike as well as the proliferation of bad press surrounding ‘super spreader’ events. However, this bill represents the biggest threat to underground culture since the infamous Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The aftermath of the famous Castle Moreton party prompted the creation of new anti-rave legislation criminalising amplified music “predominantly characterised by the emission of succession of repetitive beats”. It also forged the offence of ‘aggravated trespass’. These new laws outline amendments to that Criminal Justice Bill that broaden the types of harm that can be caught by the power to direct trespassers under that provision, to include damage, disruption and distress.” It is significant for parties that sucha cause of ‘distress’ emitted by ‘unauthorised encampments’ is listed as “excessive noise”as a supposed harm. This emphasis on sound pollution in conjunction with vehicle relatedtrespass offences might well be the final nail in the coffin for the the rave scene in swelling the ammunition in the police’s legal arsenal for shutting down gatherings.All manner of parties will be impacted by the new emphasis on ‘intent to reside’ indicated by vehicle presence. The most obvious target being the standard large volumes of vehicles on private and public land at outdoor parties, but even a few vehicles parked outside a squatted building will also fall in to this new category of criminal offence. Ultimately, the cops are likely to use the conditions with in these new powers very loosely in order to shut down raves more easily and impose greater penalties on attendees as a deterrent. We ought to wise up on these changes now in order to be better equipped to challenge them. 

Resistance

So, the time ripe for planning our defiance. The current protests (#KILL THE BILL) are galvanising opposition across the country. We can learn from a history of land struggle both in the UK and around the globe to see that resistance is fertile. Many different groups are rallying opposition to the bill and it is vital like minded people learn from, support and connect with them, (check out links below). We wait with bated breath to see how the specifics of the legislation will be decided. Crucially, we must never stop trespassing, squatting, occupying, roaming and residing. Criminalising these activities will only make them all the more politically powerful.

Join your local networks, form new active groups and join the resistance of anti-trespass laws.

Sources:

The Book of Trespass, Nick Hayes

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-police-powers-to-tackle-unauthorised-encampments/outcome/government-response-to-the-consultation-strengthening-police-powers-to-tackle-unauthorised-encampments-accessible-version

https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/news/government-announces-plans-to-introduce-harsh-laws-for-roadside-camps/?fbclid=IwAR2OZG8h1WNWhN9bLge71r5qiH4FohzzHYh9KuAJp-CnScdXwrOeNFdOaek

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/33/contents

Some Relevant Groups and Campaigns:

NFAt -No Fixed Abode Travellers : https://nfats1.wixsite.com/nfatscollective

RAT – Resisting Anti-Trespass : https://ra-t.org

FFT Family Friends and Travellers : https://www.gypsy-traveller.org

Right to Roam : https://www.righttoroam.org.uk

Moving for Change : https://www.movingforchange.org.uk

SAVE THE TREES: HIGHBURY CAMP EVICTION

6am this snowy morning brought another eco camp eviction at the Highbury site in North London. Once surrounded and barricades were breached, climbing bailiffs quickly disassembled ariel platforms and coerced those in the trees in to harnesses for a forced descent. The ace card however remains to be the tunnel chambers occupied underneath the site. Unfortunately however, the eviction team has already started digging down to the protesters.

The small site at Dixon Court, Islington has been occupied by the Save The Trees campaign since October. The plot was originally occupied by Extinction Rebellion who left on securing a deal with the council to include the planting of more saplings in the development plan. Unsatisfied with this compromise, Save The Trees campaign took over the site in their stead.

The site hosts seven mature trees, including Sweet hestnut, Sycamore and Norweigan maple. The proposed development will destroy this small but vital green space to make way for another 6 story block of flats, 14 of which will be private luxury apartments.

SOLIDARITY WITH OUR HIGHBURY BADGERS

Euston Square Gardens – ANTI-HS2 CAMP ONGOING EVICTION

In early hours of Wednesday morning, around 4:30am, the National Eviction Team (NET), arrived in full force to evict the camp at Euston square. Balaclavered bailiffs brutally dragged any protesters still on the ground off the small site. Blatant assaults and inappropriate use of force went completely unremarked upon by the police over seeing the scene. By the time the sun had risen, they had cleared the camp of any boots on the ground and quickly gridlocked the entire perimeter of the gardens.

The cops increased in volume and density surrounding the camp. Fencing was quickly assembled and the remaining activists were paddocked in for the long haul. Since, friends of the campaign have been circling the area, monitoring the actions of the police and security. Onlookers are repeatedly threatened by police to move on or slapped with covid fines. The effort of one comrade jumping upon the cherry picker arriving by lorry to the scene delayed the removal of people situated in the trees by several hours.

Numerous tree houses, a pallet tower structure and a network of tunnels remain the camp’s ultimate defence. The NET are employing disgusting strategies to grate down those remaining suspended in the trees and the tower. The removal of shelter, food and water along with terrible weather conditions have made the last few days a grinding test of strength. For those in the tunnels, relentless rain and increased movement on the ground from cherry pickers makes their situation even more precarious by putting pressure on the subterranean network. The NET are repeatedly breaching health and safely conduct by endangering the lives of those in the tunnels. Their dangerous actions have resulted in tunnel shafts being inundated with water and increasingly inadequate air supply due to collapses and blockages.

The camp, first established in August, is one of many along the planned route of a new High Speed Railway line from London to Birmingham. The eviction of the Euston camp, the first along this trail of destruction, is incredibly pivotal in the campaign against HS2. This valiant show defence of the camp is a war cry and a warning that this development must halt immediately.

Show your solidarity by going down to the site to observe, document and cry out your support. Keep updated with with hire out companies are being employed and hassle them by phone to stop their part in the eviction. Give court support to those arrested.

SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE REMAINING UP HIGH AND DOWN BELOW

(Photo credit: Rose Merry)

Dont Criminalise Trespass Debate-25th January

”Write to your MP – ask them to attend the debate on trespass 

Thanks to the 134,000 of you who signed our petition, ‘Don’t criminalise trespass’, MPs will debate this issue in Parliament. The Petitions Committee have scheduled a debate in Westminster Hall for Monday 25th January 2021. To speak, MPs have to register with the Speaker of the House by Friday 22nd January. It’s vital we get MPs attending representing your views.

Please contact your MP using and adapting the template email below. You can look up your MP and their email address on the Parliament website here. Remember to include your postcode when you send your email, to show you’re a constituent, otherwise they won’t have to respond.

Template email for you to adapt and send to your MP:

Dear ____MP,

Subject: Don’t criminalise trespass – please register to attend the Petitions Committee debate on 25th January

As your constituent, I’m very concerned by the Government’s proposals to criminalise trespass. Together with over 134,000 other people, I signed this Parliamentary petition to oppose the criminalisation of trespass (here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300139). If you follow the link, you can click through to a map showing how many other of your constituents also care deeply about this. 

The petition is now scheduled for a Petitions Committee debate in Westminster Hall on Monday 25th January 2021 at 4.30pm, and I would like you to attend to represent my concerns. Please register to take part in the debate with the Speaker of the House by Friday 22nd January.

I’m concerned because criminalising trespass would be an extreme, illiberal and unnecessary attack on ancient freedoms that would threaten ramblers who stray from the path, wild campers, Travellers, peaceful protestors and the wider public keen to enjoy nature. Fear of criminalisation may even deter amateur naturalists from carrying out wildlife surveys, as some scientists have warned.

Access to nature is vital for everyone’s physical and mental health – something lockdown demonstrated vividly. Last year’s exceptional spring, combined with the coronavirus regulations, meant many people stopped to observe and experience nature in ways they hadn’t since childhood. With restrictions on overseas travel, many more people enjoyed their summer holidays in the British countryside. Sales of camping equipment have soared; British Canoeing has seen a 40% jump in membership; and National Parks have seen huge numbers of visitors from sections of the population who’ve never visited them before.

Criminalising trespass would create a massive chilling effect on visits to the countryside. Many people are already put off visiting rural Britain through unfamiliarity, poor transport links, existing civil trespass laws and a general sense that they don’t belong or aren’t welcome in the countryside. Such feelings are multiplied greatly for Black, Asian and ethnic minority Britons.

Criminalising trespass isn’t just draconian, it’s completely unnecessary. Landowners who wish to sue trespassers can already do so via the courts. Police forces have stated they don’t want or need any additional powers to deal with unauthorised encampments, whether by Travellers or protestors (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/14/police-oppose-traveller-and-gypsy-camp-crackdown-foi-shows). Gypsies and Travellers are already amongst the most marginalised communities in the UK, and criminalising trespass or increasing police powers of eviction would compound the inequalities they experience.

Criminalising trespass is opposed by numerous access and environment groups, from the Ramblers and British Mountaineering Council to CPRE and the British Horse Society, who wrote to the Home Secretary earlier this year urging her to reconsider the proposals (see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rethink-trespass-law-ramblers-urge-priti-patel-8ghgj3m8n). It is also opposed across party lines: the chair of the Conservative Environment Network, Ben Goldsmith, wrote an article in the Telegraph this Autumn calling on the Government to drop plans to criminalise trespass (see https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2020/10/22/ben-goldsmith-calls-government-drop-plans-criminalise-trespass/). 

The Petitions Committee has scheduled a debate on this subject for Monday 25th January. I’m therefore calling on you as my representative to please attend the debate, and to relay my concerns and those shared by people up and down the country.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and postcode]”

taken from: https://www.righttoroam.org.uk/mpletter

Unrecorded historical public Rights of Way will be erased from January 2026

From the 1st of January 2026 unrecorded bridlepaths and footpaths created before 1949 on Government registered maps will ceased to be recognised as valid routes.

With Big Brother -esque logic, the government classifies this erasure as a simplification (1). This quiet legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to further restrict the public from rights of way, stopping places and access to their countryside.

The action group nfAT, (No Fixed Abode Travellers) emphasises that byways, stopping places and common land have little community campaign support (2). This erasure will have often unvoiced implications for the nomadic traveller community when any unrecorded rights of way are lost to those who wish traverse them. This policy, although seemingly slight on its own, is further erosion to and marginalisation of the traveller lifestyle being possible to achieve lawfully.

The Government press release on the plans clearly iterates their priorities for land access once old paths are erased from the records; “no redundant routes and unsubstantiated rights of way claims will be prevented from getting in the way of farming and business interests(3)”. Such a disgusting statement emphasises the capitalist ideology that land is another marketable resource. Business is first and foremost, pesky people out of their place just get in the way. These “redundant routes” are ancient trails of a lost Albion, ever more out of reach with policies such as these that seek to divorce us forever from connection with our land.

Of course this ties in with the more pressing issue of the impending criminalisation of trespass, due to be discussed in Parliament on the 25th of January 2021. Should this bill go through these rights of way will be all the more important for those wish to make safe passage through private lands legally.

We must try to record as many of these lost trails as possible. Many groups are already making headway with tracking them, check out some links below to get involved.

Add to the map through the ramblers site: https://www.ramblers.org.uk/dontloseyourway

https://www.bhs.org.uk/our-work/access/campaigns/2026

More detail on the legislation: https://www.oss.org.uk/what-do-we-fight-for/footpaths-rights-of-way/the-deregulation-act/

nfAT: https://nfats1.wixsite.com/nfatscollective/campaigns

Relevant article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/11/walkers-urged-to-help-save-historic-footpaths-before-2026-deadline

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-plans-to-simplify-recording-rights-of-way

2 https://nfats1.wixsite.com/nfatscollective/campaigns

3 https://nfats1.wixsite.com/nfatscollective/campaigns