On Thursday and Friday, April 19 to 20th one of the longest, 36 hour eviction took place of Protect Pont Valley Camp which has been blocking the new Banks Group open cast mine. This mine has been blocked and rejected over 3 times over last 30 years by community resistance.
Being approved now as UK is claiming to be phasing out of Coal.
Coalition of Climate-Justice and anti-Coal activists many from Hambacher Forest has been occupying the proposed construction site for entrance and access road to the mine for month and a half. During this time protected Great Crested Newts were found on the site, giving the struggle their symbol, mascot and even more militant platform: Newt Liberation Front. During that time through skill-sharing of both Continent and UK-based direct-action activists numerous creative defenses were constructed that extended this occupation for over 2 days. Those included “Sleeping Dragon” lock-on which connects two people through a V shaped lock-on that is placed in the ground in such a way that the defenders are sitting on top of it with it underneath and in between their legs making the drilling and hammering of the lock-on particularly difficult. The court appointed bailiffs who showed up on the scene were particularly unexperienced in removing lock-ons and expected this to be a half day eviction to be over by lunch time. An additional defense that greeted those eviction professionals was a wheelchair hanging next to the tree-house that was suspended from a rope attached to the entrance gate functioning as a sky-pod. The biggest surprise to both the court appointed muscle and police on the scene were the two tunnels with activists inside. Heavy machinery was repeatedly driven to their tunnel entrances endangering the people inside and reminding that coal mining industry has never been known for a great safety record. At the entrance behind the protected by the person hanging in the wheel-chair gate was also a tripod which was the first structure evicted Thursday with scaffolding company brought over to construct a stairs leading to the person on top. Behind both the Sleeping Dragon and the Tripod was a “Wheelie Bin” Wheeled Trash Can with quite a bit of metal and concrete mixed in comprising a second lock-on with 2 more people locked on. The last defense was convenient in that despite its very heavy weight it could be moved to the required position. At the side entrance to this Banks Group “Coal Exit” mine was also parked a Caravan with lock on in between two beds allowing for comfortable locking-on.
The eviction itself as it unfolded seem to address more crowd control to prevent outside supporters from arriving when it was just several local supporters and legal observers who were kept back over 100 meters and prevented from taking photos. Using section 35 which often used against congregating teenagers and minorities who are dispersed and sometimes even fined for engaging in an unlawful gathering.
After a whole day of this police action only 3 people were arrested with most activists still at their defenses, they were surrounded by fence, stripped of their shoes, blankets, sleeping bags and food and surrounded by security for the night, part of this security detail was who seemed like a 14yr old, possibly violating children employment laws. During this night 4 activists who had been harassed by bright lights shone on them by the security, 2 of whom were facing a collapsing tunnel, escaped with 2 running into the fields and 2 joining others in the tree-house. The next day over 7 people were arrested with most released the very same day after being given draconian bail conditions, that are being contested by their defense, to stay away not just from the vicinity of Banks Group site but from the whole County Durham which has now become a protest exclusion zone for those activists while Banks Group is making statements that they do not oppose peoples right to protest and are designating an official site for protest camp located outside of the construction area for the access road and outside of the site of the future mine.
All involved are continuing the struggle to Preserve the Beautiful Pont Valley, Stop the latest toxic and climate killing coal mine and appeals are making for additional activists to arrive at the scene to help with reoccupying the site, there is housing provided by numerous generous supporters as well as camping in the beautiful Pond Valley that continues to be defended through diversity of tactics.
For the Earth and for the Pont Valley!!!
Hambacher Forst in solidarity with anti-extractionist struggles world-wide.