- Who's involved?
- How successful?
- Philosophical background
- Turning Points
- A Chronology of key events
- Twyford Down
- M11 Link Road
- Stringers Common
- Reclaim the Streets
- 100 Days of Protest
- A Corporate response
In 1996, the year which marked 100 years of the car, anti-roads campaigner Emma Must won the 'Goldman Environmental Prize', & road spending in the UK was slashed by four billion pounds. 77 planned roads were withdrawn completely, with many others reassessed.
"Civil disobedience on the ground of conscience is an honourable tradition in this country & those who take part in it may well be vindicated by history"
Lord Justice Hoffman, during an appeal by TwyfordDown protesters.Deep Ecology & earth-centred 'Pagan' spirituality, road building became a symbol of all that's wrong with our culture. The movement has come to embrace health, pollution, human rights, land rights, big business & the power of the Law itself.The process began with the campaign against the 'Criminal Justice Bill', which united anti-road protesters, animal rights activists, Trade Unionists, football supporters, ravers, ramblers, squatters, & others.Meanwhile, the activities of 'Shell' in Nigeria catalysed the road protest movement into greater involvement with human rights issues. Reclaim The Streets has always had a range of related aims, & has most recently formed alliances with the Liverpool Dockers. The flowering of this is the 100 Days of Protest campaign, which brings together apparently diverse issues which are all related to the power of the oil industry; pollution, Global Climate Change, the destruction & oppression of the Ogoni people, road building, car culture, oil slicks, etc. etc. But perhaps it has always been "a single issue campaign that's not single issue at all". Senseless Acts of Beauty, George McKay.
Although the majority of those involved are young radical & counter-cultural, there has always been support from mainstream society. Roads protests have attracted support from across all age, social & political boundaries; school children to pensioners, working, middle & upper classes, Tory, Labour, Liberal & Greens.The M3/Twyford Down protest had considerable support from local Tories, while the M11 campaign established a model alliance between local people & experienced eco-campaigners.
The Newbury protest has very active support from Peers and local self employed business people, while the M77/Pollok campaign was notable as an alliance of eco-radicals with the local working class community.
Historically, there has been a lack of involvement from ethnic communities. Both mainstream & counter cultural groups are aware of this, & the pattern is changing, though many ethnic communities have too many other, more pressing social problems to deal with.
How do we measure the success of such a broad based campaign? Specific roads have been completed, but UK Government policy has shifted considerably. In a memo allegedly leaked from the U.K. Dept. of Transport, Government civil servant Mr. Wenban-Smith admited that the protests have been effective. CHECK Steven Norris, the Tory transport minister who approved the Newbury bypass, finally admitted that protesters were right to oppose the road building programme (Panorama, 17.03.97).
Deep Ecology has two basic principles: Self-realisation & Biocentric equality. According to Deep Ecology self-realisation brings us to understand our connectedness to the greater Universe.
Murry Bookchin, the founder of the Social Ecology movement, describes Deep
Ecology as 'eco la-la'.He considers it to be New Age nonsense masquerading
as philosophy, & his comments on it generally consist of phrases like
'mish-mash' & 'half-baked'.
Social Ecology originates in Socialist Anarchist philosophy, & focuses on the social causes of the environmental crisis.
Bookchin believes that oppressive hierarchies & inequality are at the root of the problem, & that only a true community can solve the environmental crisis. Social Ecology is less well known in the UK than Deep Ecology, but deserves to more widely studied.varieties of anarchism, & 'Everything you ever wanted to know about...' is well worth reading before you use the word 'anarchist' again!The image on the left came via the band, The Levellers, who have been very supportive of the whole process of change.
The potent mix of politics art & performance in many protest actions, especially the M11 campaign & Reclaim the Streets appear to be influenced by the Situationist International. But that's another whole web site...
There are several campaigns which seem to me to be key turning points in the history of the movement.
M3/Twyford was where the radical 90's anti-road protest movement really started. EarthFirst! & the Dongas Tribe brought Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) to anti-road protest, & established a pattern for others to develop.The destruction of a place as beautiful as Twyford Down for the sake of a few minutes saved on a car journey disturbed many 'middle-Englanders', creating an sympathetic climate for the protests to come.
The M11 was a media coup for the protesters. Close to central London, & run by media aware, articulate & idealistic campaigners from a broad social mix, it hinged around a series of visual & imaginative 'situations', including the Chestnut Tree House, Wanstonia Free State, & the art street community of Clairmont Road. The M11 campaigners invented or re-discovered many of the techniques used & developed by later campaigns; nets, tunnels, concrete lock-on points, 'Art Actions', etc.
The M11 was also significant as an urban campaign to protect a community of homes as well as trees, presaging the shift from a focus on the natural environment ( e.g. Twyford Down & Newbury) to more social/environmental campaigns (RTS/Dockers alliance).
Newbury was significant in that it's timing coincided with an attitude shift in the UK. Although the M11 & Twyford Down protests received considerable public support, Newbury almost became a mass movement. Friends of the Earth became very involved at Newbury - Far more so than at any similar campaign, as an alliance broken at Twyford was re-formed.
M77/Pollok was significant in that it brought together eco-radicals with the local working class community. No-were else has this been achieved in quite the same way, & it remains an important development in what many saw as a middle class movement.
The A30 is important in several ways: It was the first major protest against a privately funded, 'Design, Build Finance & Operate' (DBFO) road. It become dubbed 'the University of Road Protest', & was where tunnelling technology came into it's own.
Sepember 29, 1997: Liverpool Dockers/RTS Mystery Tour
August 23, 1997: Start of "100 Days of Action" against the oil industry.
August 27, 1997: M11 Link Road raft action carried out by R.T.S. & the London Cycling Campaign stopped contractors constructing a bridge over the River Lee.
June 2, 1997: Fairmile camp in East Devon reoccupied & re-evicted
May 12, 1997: A320 Guildford to Woking road scheme scrapped
April 20, 1997: March for Social Justice
January 30, 1997: Last Fairmile protester evicted after 7 days underground
January 23, 1997: Fairmile (A30) eviction starts
January 12, 1997: Eviction starts at 'Independent Free State of Trollheim' (A30)
August 1996: Government announces that traffic presents a serious health hazard.
December 27, 1996: Allercombe camp (A30) evicted
February 1, 1995: Construction work starts at Pollok Estate Glasgow
March 22, 1995: Eviction of 'Pollok Free State'starts
June 20, 1995: 'Munstonia', the last house on the M11 route evicted in a seven-hour operation
July 1995: Newbury bypass to go ahead.
September 5, 1995: M11 'GreenMania' camp evicted, after 10 hours of resistance
November 1995: Over 300 road schemes axed in £18 billion cutback, the biggest in 20 years.
January 1994: D.o.E. calls for increased spending on public transport
February 16, 1994: M11 'Autonomous Area of Wanstonia' evicted in an 11-hour operation by 700 police & bailiffs.
March 14, 1994: Work starts on A46, Solsbury Hill, Bath
March 15 to April 15, 1994: Operation Roadblock, a month of daily M11 protest action.
May 1994: First camp at Cuerden Valley Nature Park against M65
May 22, 1994:1200 people march at Solsbury Hill
June 13, 1994: M11 camp "Leytonstonia" illegally evicted
July 2, 1994: Over 1500 people join a Mass Trespass against the Criminal Justice Bill at Twyford
July 1994: Government starts the 'Great Car Debate'.
May 1994: Government.sponsored research shows that more roads create more traffic.
August 20, 1994: 'Pollok Free State' established in Glasgow
September 1994: Tree-felling began at A30, Devon.
October 1994: Royal Commission on Transport & the Environment attacks 'Great Car Economy'
October 1994: Camps set up at Fairmile and Allercombe on A30 site
November 3 1994: Criminal Justice Act became law. Mass trespassing of M11 construction site
November 28 to December 2, 1994: M11 Claremont Road eviction
December 19, 1994: Newbury bypass postponed
December 20, 1994: The Independent newspaper wrote: "1994 was the year that the pro-roads lobby lost the ear of the Government."
June 1993: Trees in Jesmond Dene, Newcastle occupied by the Flowerpot
July 4, 1993: Over 500 people invade Twyford site.
September 13, 1993: M11 Construction starts. Contrators are greeted by 70 protesters
December 7, 1993: 200-year old tree in Wanstead felled after an 10-hour Battle of George Green
February 1992: Start of direct action at Twyford
December 9, 1992: Violent eviction of Dongas Tribe at Twyford
1991 and before
December 1991: Government rejects EU appeals to reassess several road proposals.
1990 :Thatcher resigns.
1989 : Government announces the "biggest road building
scheme since the Romans".
Send suggestions for updates to email@example.com