HS2 worker ‘knelt on neck of protester who was throwing carrots’

Police investigate assault claim and arrest man for having offensive weapon

Anti-HS2 activists shot footage while the man was being restrained
Anti-HS2 activists shot footage while the man was being restrained

An HS2 worker allegedly knelt on a protester's neck for several minutes after they accused the man of throwing carrots at their work site.

Footage of the incident shows the worker in a high-visibility jacket restraining a man on the ground as a woman calls to him to take his knee away.  

HS2 opponents have complained about the “excessive use of force” – also claiming the protester was kicked – but HS2 bosses say their staff have been “repeatedly targeted by political activists”.  

Police said they were called to the scene in Lichfield, Staffordshire, where trees were being pulled down in preparation for the high-speed rail link, when carrots were thrown at workers.  

Officers later confirmed they arrested a protester on suspicion of assault and possessing an offensive weapon, and were investigating the allegations against the HS2 workers.

A 50-year-old man from Wolverhampton was given a conditional caution.

The local MP, Michael Fabricant, says he has written to police, ministers and HS2 after several constituents reported the alleged “excessive use of force” at Fradley Wood.

He was told the protester was restrained “with a knee on his neck for at least four minutes”.

Mr Fabricant wrote on Facebook: “A lone protester had, unwisely, fired some carrots using a catapult over the HS2 fence from the other side of the road.

“The man was thrown to the ground by a number of HS2 security people, kicked, and held down with a knee on his neck for at least four minutes, someone timed it.

“During this time a number of passing motorists stopped to protest, but it was not until the police arrived that he was able to get up.

“My views on HS2 and the destruction of ancient woodlands are well known.

“Despite my voting against the legislation in Parliament, HS2 was authorised with an overwhelming majority.

“However, the law does not permit using excessive force by HS2 against protesters.”

The MP said he had written to the chief constable of Staffordshire Police to ask whether there was evidence of HS2 staff committing an assault and had written to Andrew Stephenson, transport minister, and Mark Thurston, the managing director of HS2.

“Lawful protest against HS2 is permitted. Heavy-handed tactics by HS2 are not,” he added.

A HS2 spokesman said: “In recent weeks, HS2 has been repeatedly and excessively targeted by political activists who have trespassed on construction sites, endangering themselves, our workers and the general public, subjecting our hard-working employees to violence and anti-social behaviour and placing unnecessary strain on the emergency services during the pandemic.

“HS2 has been approved by democratically elected MPs on multiple occasions and the project is playing a pivotal role in helping Britain’s economic recovery.

“There are 13,000 people already working on the project and we recently announced a further 22,000 jobs across the country at a time when it needs them most.”

A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “Following the incident, we have been made aware of complaints about how the man was restrained by security staff at the location and we are investigating.”

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