Protesters block HS2 building sites amid ongoing coronavirus lockdown
Demonstrators have blocked access to building sites for the HS2 high-speed railway in London and Warwickshire, in protest at construction work continuing amid the coronavirus crisis.
The group, who call themselves HS2 Rebellion, claim the work is non-essential and that, by failing to sop during the lockdown, it is putting the lives of workers and their families at risk.
They say that health workers remain without personal protective equipment (PPE) and that money used for construction projects should be channelled to such medical supplies instead.
The protesters said they were respecting social distancing guidelines by wearing gloves and masks and claimed the actions were part of their state-sanctioned daily exercise.
“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.”
Demonstrators wore gloves and face masks and remained two metres apart throughout the protests.
Banners reading “NHS not HS2” intend to draw attention to the disparity of funding between new Government projects and the “chronic underfunding” of the NHS, the HS2 rebellion said.
The group 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 March 3 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.
It will run alongside the physical protests on Monday.
A statement said the group “wish 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 June 15.
HS2 Rebellion says that Brown is 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.”
Brown has previously been arrested in connection with similar protests by Extinction Rebellion in October, after he glued himself to the top of an aircraft at City of London Airport.