Newbury fight goes on - by bogus call and fax

Keith Nuthall
Saturday 29 June 1996 23:02

A bizarre nuisance campaign - of bogus phonecalls, cod faxes and unwanted junk mail - is being waged by road protesters against the Government's highways agency and Costain, the construction company that is to build the controversial Newbury bypass.

Staff have been bombarded with unordered catalogues, videos and magazines, while receiving telephone calls where the line goes dead when the receiver is picked up. Surreal faxes have also been sent to both organisations.

The protest was launched by articles appearing in the underground press of Britain's ecological fringe, like the Earth First Action Update and Schnews, produced by the Brighton-based Justice? collective. Messages to activists have also appeared on the internet.

"If these switchboards, faxes and post boxes were jammed solid for the next few weeks, they couldn't get much work done on the contract. Blockade the bureaucrats," said a piece in Schnews.

"Ring and demand that they justify the bypass. Ring and say nothing/feign a wrong number/talk in a foreign language/propose marriage/pretend to be a colleague," it adds.

A Highways Agency spokes-man said that officials found the campaign irritating rather than threatening. "We recognise that it's another weapon in their armoury, but it hasn't delayed the project. It's just nuisance value," he said.

Protesters have been placing advertisements in newspapers listing the names and office telephone numbers of staff, inviting calls for bogus services. One official has received a stream of inquiries about a Mediterranean cruise that he was supposed to have organised.

Other officials have had unwanted goods ordered for them by protesters, who have filled in hire purchase forms in magazines. Letters have been dispatched to staff, saying that their new car, tent or complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica are ready for delivery.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said that staff affected by the protest could make official complaints if they thought that the calls were threatening or abusive.

The Independent on Sunday has been told by a member of the Justice? group that adverts for sexual services had been posted in telephone boxes, quoting the telephone number of Costain or highways agency staff, but denied that this was wrong.

"An office clerk being accosted by a horny-handed stranger might be less distressing thanploughing through of 12 miles of countryside," he said.

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