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ROAD PROTEST IN THE HEART OF OXFORD
(updated: 19th Sept 1998)
update: 18th Sept 98 (report from SCHNews)
The countries first ever heritage protest camp in Central Oxford was finally evicted last Friday evening after 60 hours and 17 arrests. Taking 10 times longer than predicted by the acting Sheriff Nicholas Blandy, (he of Newbury by-pass fame), the eviction cost Oxford University up to 1/2 million!
The listed London Midland Scottish railway building had been squatted to stop a new six-lane road junction and a University Business School (part funded by a dodgy arms dealer) The plans by Oxford University were never open to public consultation, and fly in the face of over 10,000 protest signatures.
Arrests included Green Party Councillor Mike Woodin who was nicked after complaining about the wrong trees getting the chop!!(Eight officially to be chain-sawed, but clueless blunderers still got the wrong ones!) Damage was also done to the listed building - one copper even falling through the roof. This whole saga has rekindled a centuries-old feud : Town vs Gown. Thanks to widespread press coverage, the whole of the County has seen Oxford University run riot over the Gateway to Oxford. One activist told Schnews "The time has come to show the University that Oxford is NOT their playground, it is our HOME."
(update: 11th Sept 1998)
DRAMATIC PICTURES! on the Undercurrents website
The eviction of Oxford's LMS Action Station enters it's second day. Today expert potholers are begining to work on the "Ghost Train" tunnel where at least two protestors are waiting. There are possibly upto six more protestors hidden in other parts of the building, locked on.
This development will further embarrass Oxford University, who struggled all day yesterday to clear the site. The University has already been slammed by Oxford City Council for chainsawing three trees that were to have been preserved. City Councillor Mike Woodin was arrested while trying to raise the matter with Under-Sherrif Nicholas Blandy (of Newbury infamy). Britain's largest cherrypicker, and the notorious team of Sheffield eviction climbers, were led a merry dance by agile and determined protestors.
Contrary to Mr Blandy's comments to the press, adequate care was not taken to safeguard both the Grade II* listed building and the lives of those involved. Chainsaw operators worked without gloves in contravention of health and safety regulations. Bailiffs smashed through an original interior wall (itself a criminal act) while removing a protestor. Then a policeman came crashing through the asbestos roof to the floor below and was seriously injured.
Let us hope that they begin to act more responsibly over what promises to be a lengthy continuing campaign of direct action.
Baliffs have moved in and begun the country's first Heritage Protest Camp eviction in central Oxford. Protesters are engaged in a peaceful campaign to hold on to Oxford's old LMS Railway Station.
(report: 9th Sept 1998)
Over 100 police, scores of security and Sheffield's finest eviction climbers were led by Nicolas Blandy (who did the Newbury evictions). They descended on the expecting camp at 6am. On the local Fox FM Radio, Mr Blandy has just announced that the eviction may contijue tomorrow. He also thinks there are only three protestors still underground. He is sadly mistaken - atleast 8 committed protestors have not yet been removed.
So far (4pm) there have been over 13 arrests (mostly for obstruction) and no signs of violence. The trees have ALL been trashed, including the one tree that SHOULD NOT have been felled! Local Councillor Fiona Campbell agreed with protestors that we have been lied to. Councillor Mike Woodin was accidentally arrested when he tried to approach Mr. Blandy about this mistake.
If anyone would like to visit the prisoners, they are being held at the Cowley Road Police Station. We have a good prisoner support team working there to ensure all protestors are okay. Donations (food, tobacco, cash etc) would be very appreciated.
We've had good local and National press coverage - Channels 4 and 5, Local BBC and ITV, even Tony Robinson (TimeTeam) came down. The Independant has an exclusive interview (whispered) with some of the hidden protestors. Undercurrents have put some excellent pics up on their website already.
If anyone is able to help on site, we are expecting to have to clear up a lot of tat, gear, treehouse remains etc. We would LOVE help. Come down or call the phonebox outside on (01865) 202959 or 244217.
So began the end of Phase 1 of the Campaign to Save the Gateway to Oxford. Phase two begins this evening!
The LMS, a grade II* Listed building, nearly stands in the way of the new Said Business School and a new six-lane road. 'Nearly' because both developments could proceed without dismantling the LMS. The only real reason for the proposed new road appears to be an out-dated contract that hinders both the Local Authority and the University.
Protesters are peacefully resisting the eviction with direct action. Local residents and regional environmentalists have joined forces to oppose the destruction of eight mature trees and the LMS. Protesters cling to the tops of trees, wait down gloomy tunnels and hang attached to the Victorian structure of the LMS.
This is the first time Bailiffs have had to remove protesters from a listed building. They are discovering that it is impossible to cut people out of lock-ons when the very structure cannot be damaged. In a few hours, maybe days, we will learn whether the Bailiffs officers have treated the structure as well as the resident protesters have.
Contact: 07970 343 486 (LMS Camp Mobile) or 07970 896 736 (Alternative Mobile)
Further information on-site press contact: 07970 343486, or the website: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~envnment/lg/lmsroad.html or by email: email@example.com
The County Council intends to build four NEW lanes for general traffic, cutting from Botley Road railway bridge to Hythe Bridge Street; the existing Park End Street would then be used for buses only.
The direct activists oppose the road for the following reasons: