26 Jan 2008

Oxford protests and tree spiking

http://www.saveradleylakes.org.uk/ is the campaign to stop beautiful lakes south of Oxford being filled with fly ash by Npower...boycott their supposedly green energy scheme juice....nothing 'green' about filling up lakes and destroying habitats...green has to mean green not an excuse for doing damage and counting the cash. The Council have said the scheme of destruction can go on but the campaign needs cash to go to a judicial review.

Also from Oxford the tree sitting in Bonn Square continues.

The white S campaign are going for tree spiking, controversial stuff, not advocated by the other campaigns involved or of course the Green Party. Tree spiking was carried out by Earth First! in the US but abandoned because it caused injury to workers...the S campaign is arguing that trees which are clearly labelled are protected and the contractors warned off. Very controversial stuff even Schnews are coy about it.

Schnews take up the story of the Bonn Square protest...a good time to complain to John Lewis, I like the fact that they are a mutual with profit share for workers, however trapped in capitalist markets even mutuals can end up destroying the environment and exploiting people.

Schnews always have the essential news and analysis:

As protesters take to the trees in shopping centre nightmare

Mass protests, tree sitting, cat and mouse games with chainsaw-wielding
contractors, spurious arrests, tree spiking... no it's not yet
another nostalgic piece about the mid-nineties but 2008 in central Oxford.

And the cause of all this unrest? Another
screw-the-environment-it's-all-about-the-economy-stupid retail development of course. Despite
being already choked by its medieval layout, with its roads gridlocked
and groaning from the weight of traffic, since 1999 the council have
been trying to accept plans from Capital Shopping Centres to revamp and
massively expand the existing Westgate shopping centre.

Widespread opposition and a public inquiry led John Prescott to
eventually put the blockers on the deal in 2002 when the decision it was
'called in' (as the quaint governmental parlance puts it) and rejected,
leading to a failed appeal in 2003. But you can't keep a good cartel
of bigwigs down for long and in 2006 uncannily similar plans were
again presented and this time they meant business. Unfazed by their
alleged green sentiments and policy commitments to 'sustainability',
'renewable energy' and the like (as most councils usually are when big
business cash starts sloshing around), the council have again no
problem giving the green light to the monster expansion as part of a more
general gentrification scheme for the entire West end of Oxford.

The plan is to triple the size of the current Westgate church of
capitalism and turn it into a real retail cathedral, complete with a sorely
needed new John Lewis department store. That's along with 90 other
new shops and massive car park. All eating into nearby affordable
housing and precious bits of surviving green strips of land, including a
number of fine mature trees in the area.

Even though completion of the project involves obtaining compulsory
purchase (i.e. destruction) orders on Abbey Place, a fairly recent
development of council-run residential care homes for the handicapped, the
enquiry into that hadn't even finished when the contractors began
confidently to cut down nearby trees all ready for construction works
to begin. As usual, they assumed that by getting in early, maybe
nobody would notice. But direct action has reared its dreadlocked head
once again in the esteemed city of academia and learning as outraged
locals, students and activists alike attempt to stop the environmental

Since January 4th, efforts have been stepped up, no doubt inspired by
one Giles Chamberlain who took residence in a one hundred-year-old
sycamore in Bonn Square, where he managed to stay for over two weeks
until effectively starved down by police who stopped all attempts to
assist him (see Crap arrest).
Jan 9th saw a day of action back at the Westgate site where trees were
also being cleared. Work was temporarily stopped and a plane tree
occupied for 24 hours. Jan 12th saw over 100 people reclaim Bonn Square
in a feisty protest which even saw one of the green local councillors
arrested. Over 3500 leaflets were handed out and with support from
local shoppers and passers-by, people managed to block the council
from fencing off the site and forced work to stop. .

Giles eventually came down voluntarily on Jan 20th just as an eviction
order was granted. Within half and hour of the court judgement, the
corporate chainsaw crew were in Bonn Square to demolish the last
remaining natural beauty there. Scuffles ensued when one activist climbed
onto a wood shredder and then jumped on to the side of the truck
carrying the remains of the tree. Activists then wrestled with security
thugs trying to drag him off. Police moved in and arrested the
stuntman and one of his helpers.

Tuesday 21st saw an invasion of John Lewis' headquarters by activists
keen to point out to the retailers the errors of their ways. Also this
week, many of the remaining trees in the area have suddenly appeared
sporting painted 'S's on their trunks, along with a warning that
trees have been spiked. The idea is to make chainsaw operators think
twice before attempting to saw through wood which contains metal, which
could damage their equipment and dangerously throw the blade off
line. And the protests look set to continue as the crazy development
develops. Much of the more effective action is from the Oxford
Action Resourse centre.

Email: oarc@lists.riseup.net web: theoarc.org.uk

For an explanation of the 'white S' action, see

The ethical tree spikers argue:

We have inserted small ceramic and non-ferrous spikes into many of the trees most threatened in the Oxford City area. These spikes do not harm the trees. Any chainsaws used on these spiked trees may hit such a spike and the chainsaw may break. This will increase the cost of chopping down the tree - hopefully leading to more trees being saved from destruction. With clear ‘S’ markings, and warning notices on or near every spiked tree, we hope the chainsaw-operators will refuse to cut down these trees.

Safety for all

Although there is a chance that a tree-spike will cause a chainsaw to break, all commercial chainsaws have strong protective screens, and chainsaw-operators wear helmets with protective visors, kevlar trousers and jackets. So the chance of any operator being injured is very low. None-the-less, we have decided to clearly mark all spiked trees with a white ‘S’ as well as attaching clear warning notices to the trees. All of the spikes are in the main trunk of the tree, and none are in the branches, so future pruning of these trees is completely safe.

So far, over thirty trees in the Central Oxford area have been protected in this manner. Together we can help preserve the trees of Oxford.


westgatewatch said...

There's now a campaign website called westgate watch at http://westgatewatch.wordpress.com made by people from Oxford who are opposing the westgate revdevelopment.

Also there will be a public meeting at 7pm, Thursday 28 Feb. Details:

Fredric said...

I see that the Industrial Workers of the World's web site is claiming that in 1987 a tree spike injured a sawmill worker, the same outrageous lies that the corporate faswcists have been spewing for 20 years.

The sawmill incident where the worker was injured was discovered to have been a nail hammered into the tree 30 years previously, used to affix a strand of barb wire for a fence.

Despite the evidence yielded in the aftermath investigation, the IWW fuckers and the rest of the environmental extremists continue to claim that tree spiking is dangerous. It isn't. There has never been a single injury of any sawmill worker or lumberjack anywhere in the United States as a result of a spiked tree.

Personally I don't think that spiking trees works. It hasn't stopped the rape and plunder of our forests one bit.

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