5 Days in the life of ANIMAL
Sunday 02 February 1997
Once released from Exeter police station I head for the campaign office. It's packed with sleeping bodies and is under police surveillance. Someone tells me that back at Fairmile a candlelight vigil for the tunnellers is being disrupted by threats of arrest. Also the Sun, the News of the World and the Mirror want to buy my story!
TUESDAY: Lovelee calls a press conference. Jenny and Sarah help me finish my press statement. I speak about the Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO) scheme. The proposed Honiton to Exeter route is the first to be financed this way. Private consortia buy the contract to build. The government repays them after 30 years at a rate per vehicle (shadow tolling). The consortia (in this case Connect, which includes Balfour Beatty, involved in the Pergau dam, and other multinationals with dubious environmental records) therefore have a vested interest in extending the road corridor, resulting in increased congestion, pollution and road accidents.
I repeat the demands that we issued from the tunnel: all documentation to be made public and work suspended pending a public inquiry with reference to DBFOs (the last inquiry was held before the funding was changed to this system); possible infringements of the 1765 Enclosures Act, concerning hedgerows, to be investigated; the breaching of the 1992 Badger Protection Act to be publicly admitted by the Highways Agency, the Connect Consortium and Trevor Coleman (the Under Sheriff of Devon in charge of evictions). Back at the office, I do a phone interview with the Big Issue. My parents ring. They've got the press camped on the doorstep.
There's a big vigil in London and activists have occupied a crane by Big Ben with a banner reading "Privatising Vandalism. No A30. We Love You Fairmile." Clive, landlord of the Masons, opens up specially and there's free drinks all round. I have to leave early when I start tripping from sleep deprivation.
WEDNESDAY: Everyone arrested is bailed but must stay 1km from the proposed route. This condition is an erosion of freedom of movement and was unheard of before similar conditions were imposed at Newbury. Jenny, Sarah, Emma, Inverness John, Norman, Rory, Sandy and Tamilyn have determined to make it unworkable. Last night, in protest, they went to Fairmile and informed the police they were breaking bail. Sandy and Tamilyn are rebailed with even stricter conditions: daily signing at the police station and a 10pm- 8am curfew. The others are remanded. Jenny, Sarah, Emma and John are on hunger strike.
Hardly any of the papers mention DBFOs. The road system is being privatised, the implications are terrible! Why is no one interested?
There's a cave-in at the tunnel, in the chamber where I'd been. I explain the cause to the others. The HSOs, who had been worried about my blood circulation, hadn't shored up and cut some of our shoring, to speed things up.
Communications between the tunnel and protesters above ground were severed last Saturday. Coleman said he will allow us contact only to talk them out. He would supervise the conversation and we would be limited to approved topics.
THURSDAY: Dave, Swampy and Ian are out. I haven't seen them because I left to do a chat-show. On TV they look well after a week underground. The tunnels are evicted, the trees cut down, but the campaign continues. Jenny, Sarah, Emma and John are still on hunger strike. By the time you read this they'll have been without food for four days. But the spirit of protest remains strong. The direct action movement is growing and evolving. So long as the need remains, there will always be people ready to stand up against vandalisation of the earth for profit.
FRIDAY: My 17th birthday. Time to relax.
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