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Date: Sat, 05 Jul 1997 13:47:55 +0100
From: Earth First
Subject: Action Update - June email edition


After a long hard winter in Devon and the rapid, violent evictions of Allercombe and Trollheim it looked like Babylon had caught up and many people predicted the end of onsite campaigning. Now it's all different: undersheriffs everywhere are wondering who's next; Surrey County Council couldn't afford to fight in Guilford; and Manchester Airport is counting the cost of another mammoth eviction. There the baddies made the same mistakes all over again with the security costometer spinning outta control. The vindication of tunnels and the press attention at Fairmile brought confidence, publicity, new people and energy to the campaign against a second runway at Manchester Airport. Underground the much hyped "men in black" had their high tech operation reduced to hammer and chisels for most of the time and so are learning to appreciate how much work goes into defending the earth.

The eviction finally began in mid May at Zion Tree where tree dwellers led the first line of defence whilst the tunnellers held out for almost a week. Undersheriff Randall Hibbert managed to get his PR operation off to an appalling start as the first person out of the first tunnel in the eviction had been sprayed with what the bailiffs said was CS gas (though in reality it was water). To complete the blunder a journalist was truncheoned on the head when dragged from a bender despite making it clear that he was not going to resist. The media reaction to the violence set the agenda for the rest of the eviction - identifying the protesters as the 'good guys' although it's still difficult getting away from the lifestyle focus.

The fence constructed around the camps before the eviction meant that once the undersheriff appeared on the scene security levels were not necessarily stepped up though the several complete deconstructions of the fence, with security collaboration, was probably about the same cost. This cooperation meant that protesters were still able to gain access to the site even when the fence was up; many of the security were quite blatant about their support and acknowledged that they were 'doing a job' but no more. If this meant turning a blind eye to avoid confrontation then they were often prepared to do so. When the undersheriff foolishly banned the delivery of food and water to camps still awaiting eviction (a decision reversed after three hours in the face of protester and media outcry) the bailiffs pooled their lunches and delivered the food to one camp declaring that they disagreed with the dictat.

The eviction is now in its fourth week - the undersheriff having taken on one camp at a time and the tunnellers doing an excellent job at restricting the use of cherry pickers on site and ensuring that the eviction process lasted a significant time. Manchester Airport saw not only a strategic and effective use of underground burying but also a successful experiment with a 'scab-proof platform' on a treehouse. The four-storey construction, the Battlestar Galactica, managed to withstand four days of onslaught from the sheriff and his men and an increasingly infuriated Richard Turner and was eventually only defeated when a crane was brought on site.

What Newbury did for the south, Manchester Airport did for the north in terms of attracting thousands of new people and cementing the network for a sunny summer of actions. Aviation is firmly on the agenda and for more people than ever before it's clear that it ain't just about cars. Regular Sunday Fundays in the lead up to the evictions brought hundreds of locals on site and their support was phenomenal. These so called green wellied 'nimbies' and the equally mythical 'ecowarriors' ignored the marginalising definitions and worked together on the vision of real progress. On going to press there's still one person down the Cakehole tunnel and there is still potential for visits to AMEC, TARMAC, Randell the Vandal and other greasy palms. The latest media guestimate has the costometer flashing like mad at Six Million Pounds and rising. Well done to everyone who came to cost, a bigger chunk of the population is thinking about sustainability with a whole bunch of them now prepared to fight for it.

Airport Support

On the same morning that Undersheriff Randalf Hibbert began an attempt to evict Flywood, the longest standing camp at the Manchester Airport protest site, his staff back in their elegant Chester offices must have thought they were far from the scene of the action.

Activists however didn't want them to miss out and took the protest straight back to Hibbert's offices. They managed to outwit two security guards, and gain entry to demand a meeting with the Undersheriff to discuss his refusal to allow independent legal observers access to the protest site. One activist locked onto a radiator, others inspected offices and made urgent phone calls and several more found their way onto the roof. Most of the staff seemed happy to have an early coffee break and a chat about the issues but two security guards (no doubt feeling a bit silly) kept wanting to try out armlocks on people and had to be scolded by police.

Eventually activists agreed to a chat by telephone instead of a meeting in person with Randy Hippy, as the Undersheriff has come to be known. He denied the need for legal observers, claiming that the eviction had been safe and gentle and refused to come to his office, claiming to be busy elsewhere.

Activists left after two hours, waving goodbye to the many police now occupying the garden. One person thinks she was arrested for breach of the peace - or maybe using the phone - but she's not sure...

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