During January and February, while we were at Tichborne and Bramdean, we had lots of discussions around the fire as to what we could do next at the Dongas…some people were at one extreme of wanting to go back and confront the workmen everyday. Others needed more time to rest and get over what had happened to us at Twyford Down.
Colin, Donga’s Camp
After the eviction of the Donga’s camp in December 1992, it seemed to some as if the campaign to stop work at Twyford Down was over. Yet, out of this moment of desolation came Twyford Rising: the phase of the the campaign that would keep the direct action going, draw in more people from across the UK and inspire direct action protests across the world.
Timothy Leary, when asked, …”whatever happened to the flower people” answered, “they went to seed”. To be involved in the Twyford Rising campaign was to watch those seeds germinate.
Throughout February, March and April construction work was interrupted several times a week and local offices of Tarmac and Mott MacDonald (the civil engineers for the road) occupied. Twyford Down Alert! had been set up to co-ordinate and support actions and they called for several national days of action at weekends, which temporarily swelled numbers at the small camp set up nearby.
One of the most effective tactics to stop work remained the simple act of “locking on” – protestors attaching themselves to machinery with strong bicycle D-locks and waiting to be removed, sometimes by the fire brigade. Arrests were frequent, as were continued physical assaults by the Group 4 security guards, including pinching and twisting of skin and frequent sexual assaults on women, earning them the nickname “Grope 4”.
One specific day I remember was sometime in the spring of 1993, very early in the morning. The CAT 45s – huge yellow earthmovers – had moved on to the hill. Their smooth yellow metal gleamed in the early morning sunshine, set off against the dusty white chalk of the Down. They had yet to start work for the day. It was a very small action. Becca and I ran on to the site. Becca ‘locked herself on’ under the front of one earthmover, between the front wheels, with a black metal bicycle D-lock – the kind you’d use to lock up your bike outside the post office. I locked myself on by the neck to the footplate on one side. It was the best spot I could find. Some workers arrived, then the police. They politely asked us to unlock ourselves and we politely declined.
The sun rose a little more and the early morning sky turned from pink to blue above the flat white chalk as the two of us sat locked to the yellow earthmover. The workmen and police ambled around trying to decide what to do. What they actually did was to painstakingly unscrew, bolt by bolt, the entire top metal section of the machine. The footplate, it turned out, was part of a much larger piece of the chassis of the bulldozer – a little like an outsize yellow cheese grater. They asked me to stand up, while they supported the metal frame at all four corners. I remember being stood in the hole in the middle of this heavy piece of yellow metal, still attached to it by the neck, as the policemen edged me and my new outsize necklace to the side of the worksite, before they hacksawed my D-lock off. I remember Becca cheering and laughing as she stayed fixed under the front of the bulldozer, and the policemen ambling around some more wondering what on earth they were going to do about her.
The two of us stopped all removal of chalk from the site for several hours.
Photo credit: J Cooke