Protest on Friends House

Concern for protesters' safety and agreement to hang banner on building

Photo from Twitter

HS2 protesters climbed up scaffolding surrounding Friends House last week to unfurl a large banner from the roof.

The eco campaigners set up a camp in Euston Gardens in August, just outside the Quaker centre, to raise awareness of the climate emergency and to try to halt work on the HS2 project which is underway in the area. 

The nine protesters – who include veteran campaigner Dan Hooper, known as Swampy, and his sixteen-year-old son – moved into tunnels beneath the gardens on 27 January when facing eviction.

A source from HS2 Rebellion told the Friend that the group had been secretly tunnelling for months. They argue that many ancient woodlands will be destroyed by the project. Representatives from HS2 say the project will mean planting seven million new trees.

Britain Yearly Meeting said that agreement was reached on the day, and the protesters voluntarily ended their protest at Friends House.

The Quakers in Britain Twitter account tweeted: ‘We don’t have a specific view on HS2. We support the right to non-violent protest and want to build a just & sustainable world.’

Meanwhile on social media several Quakers posted their support for the protesters, pointing out the flaws in the case for HS2. Others described the rooftop action as a ‘Health and Safety nightmare’ while one Friend on Facebook said the action ‘prevents the building being a place of safety for discussion to solve such serious problems. What politician will ever be willing to attend such meetings in Quaker House again?’

Friend Simon Gray wrote that the action posed ‘a potential challenge to some Quakers’ that ‘we don’t have any “we like your non violent direct action protests, so long as they don’t inconvenience us ourselves” attitudes surfacing…’

There was also a candlelit vigil outside Friends House on 6 February in support of the tunellers and in honour of Iggy Fox, a young protester who died last year. Two of the tunnellers were in the same action group as him.

Elizabeth Cairns, from HS2 Rebellion, told the Friend last week: ‘By Sunday we think it will be the longest underground tunnel in occupation on record. They [the protesters] are so passionate about the climate emergency and how the HS2 project is impacting this, they feel compelled to take action. The tunnels are very dangerous; they’ve had no sunlight for ten days… [and] restricted air flow, although they do have air vents. Spirits are really high though and it’s a good mix of old and seasoned protesters and younger people.’

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), said: ‘We’re grateful for the good relations we had with the protesters. Their safety was our priority. We reached agreement with the protesters in Euston Square to hang a banner on Friends House. It says “Save Euston trees. Heal not harm”.’

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