On Monday 24th August 2020, 31 named defendants appeared in court via video link, to fight against an injunction HS2 that wishes to extend to include vast swathes of land in the Hillingdon area. The purpose of this injunction is to stop protest against the construction of HS2. Injunctions have been used by Cuadrilla and Ineos in recent history to silence anti-fracking protest and this HS2 injunction follows the pattern in that it is totally customisable, the claimants get to choose which judge oversees the court hearing. As with most injunctions nowadays this one includes named defendants, often found through social media, or given to HS2 by the courts or police, as well as the mysterious and illusive ‘person’s unknown’ which can be understood to mean the general public or anyone HS2 cannot identify.
This injunction makes something as harmless as slow-walking or trespass into a criminal offence as oppose to a civil matter. An offence that, according to the criminal justice system, is worthy of imprisonment or having one’s assets stripped, forever. Injunctions are a deterrent to put protestors off from taking action, as well as to save money on security, assuming the protestors are sufficiently deterred. It is vital that we stand up against them or surely the state has succeeded in silencing us? But when HS2 have limitless funds and resources, what can we do?
In solidarity with the defendants, around 35 activists donning white overalls and bin bags on their boots found their way into a compound adjacent to Harvil Road Wildlife Protection Camp. The fence through which they entered was void of injunction notices. The group made it apparent they had no intention of causing harm to machinery or people and mounted diggers with banners. Workers encouraged the activists to leave “for their own safety” which was met with laughter. How can someone who works for such an ecologically destructive companies claim to care about the safety of protestors? How can they facilitate the pollution of London’s drinking water, and the eviction of people from their homes during a pandemic and then claim to care about the safety of protestors?
Security told activists they had called the police but they never showed up.
While the action unfolded, a court hearing was taking place via Skype, with several defendants tuning in to the hearing from the compound. Were they committing contempt of court? Or were they carrying out their right to peacefully protest? As mentioned in “We Are Jellytot” injunctions are being used increasingly often by corporations to silence protest and push forward with schemes that are not in the public interest. One of the only ways to break injunctions effectively and with the safety of all those involved in mind, is with a mass trespass. Because everyone is committing the same crime, they must make a choice to either arrest an individual and face a hoard of angry protestors, or spend time and resources to detain and arrest everyone. This action aimed to highlight the ineffectiveness of this injunction, as well as the strength of anonymity and autonomy. There wasn’t a way to identify any one individual, no obvious organisers or leaders. We were all person’s unknown (Bradley) as far as HS2 was concerned.
There action also called attention to how ridiculous it is that companies can buy laws, and what this says about the systems that govern us and where their interests lie. Chants during the action included “you can buy your own custom law” and (more enthusiastically) “you can shove your injunction up your arse”. The synopsis is, that the state (in the guise of HS2) is using taxpayers money to take the general public to court, criminalising and forbidding them from protesting against a project that none of us want. That benefits not us, but the rich, yet being paid for with our taxes. It is clear that this is oppression for the sake of oppression. HS2 is another example of the state grabbing land and power for the sake of holding those things out of reach of those who don’t have them. It is also a limb of the state that we can easily attack. HS2 wouldn’t need injunctions if our direct action against them wasn’t substantially disrupting their work.