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Agenda | Reportage

The Battle of Euston

You know the world is on its knees when you’re rubbernecking at the bitter last stand of two dozen ultra-hardcore eco-zealots encircled by one hundred impenetrably steely militia in the epicentre of the peak of a global pandemic when a towering, armed officer dressed in black combat fatigues steps forward and offers to take your selfie for you.

For months it’s been among the most astonishing sights in Camden. As tents and treehouses and signs decrying the proposed high speed rail track sprinting from Euston to the north stealthily sprang up across this central London garden square, hippies lived in trees, septuagenariettes slept out in the freezing, wintry cold of night and all the while, beneath the ramshackle, protest-postered patchwork tent camp on the juddering central London artery (“the frost is hard but the noise is worse,” a jovial protester opines), frowning atop the railway green, activists and allies have been climbing and burrowing through the days and nights erecting lofty treehouses and a hundred foot labyrinth of tunnels in which eight eco-warriors are now entrenched, taking the last stand against eviction. “Do you remember Swampy?” A protester with gooseberry eyes and a soft gaze who’s just been lowered, forcibly, singing from his platform high atop the barren trees, asks. “He’s down there, in that tunnel…”

A heavy-handed handful of National Enforcement Bailiffs garbed in Stasi-helmets, glassy stares rehearsed at averting contact, siphon his effects like vultures lurking in the lofty branches. I can’t help wonder how they feel, too, folly to the constant stream of eco-sympathisers and lockdown gawkers smirking and shooting videos as they painfully dissemble the last remnants of the camp of ideals, built from love and conviction, their only allies the cranes beside them and faceless men in grey suits, sat somewhere behind telephones in glass offices across town in the City, just as I do how those who’ve been removed from their last stand, who’ve fought the good fight, feel at being forcibly evicted on this rainy, grey day in the throes of lockdown and the pandemic after months of altruistic toil. It transpires, not too much. “We know this eventually comes so we’ve prepared for it,” Martin, the gentleman in the picture, explains. “It’s going to be a battle, we’re going to make them move us and it’s going to be one hell of a job for them,” he says. That was yesterday… Today, there are still several members holding fort in the trees and the tunnelers are fighting the last stand down in the depths of the bowels of Euston. If they’re still there tomorrow I might even join them…

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