13 arrests after dawn raid to evict bypass protesters

The Independent Friday March 1 1996

Clare Garner

Bailiffs in riot helmets, accompanies by hundreds of police officers, yesterday staged a pre-dawn raid to evict demonstrators from the largest and best-defended camps on the Newbury bypass route.

Thirteen anti-road campaigners were arrested and several trampled underfoot in clashes between demonstrators and police horses at the Pixie Village site in Snelsmore Common, Berkshire. The redoubtlable Lady Jeanine Barber lashed out at police she claimed had «manhandled» her. Protesters dumped buckets of human waste over unsuspecting police officers.

By the end of the day, contractors had cleared a large part of the area, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, including the makeshift ground camps, and had «taken into custody» a network of underground tunnels.

The operation began at 3am, when protesters were literally caught napping by the 100-plus uniformed police who crept up on their nine tree-houses.

Bailiffs set about clearing out the camps on the ground, heaping belongings into black bin-liners. Trouble flared when two giant lorries arrived. Police moved in with eight horses to clear the way and several people were crushed in the melée.

Lady Barber, of Inkpen, near Newbury, claimed police used «brutal tactics» in getting her out of the way. «The strength of feeling here is such that local people will simply not put up with these strong-arm tactics from the police,» she said.

Onlooker Hugh Warwick said: «The residents' young children were screaming and the horses so skittish as to be nearly out of control.»

Richard Stephens, the countryside warden for Newbury District Council, said: «It's been handled really badly. The use of horses was appalling.»

However, police condemned the protesters after two «deliberate» five-foot wooden mantraps, armed with five-inch long nails, were found.