Originally the birthplace of British EF!, the south east has been outshone recently by developments in other regions. However, this looks like it's changing.
One of the main campaigns in the south east of late has of course been against live exports. Months of daily direct action by the local community led to the trade being halted at Shoreham, (See 'Shoreham Harbour: Live Exports and Community Defence' in this issue), but since much of the exports have moved to Dover, protests have not been half as effective. Shoreham's success lay in the fact that the port was right in the middle of the town - at Dover it is at the bottom of the cliffs. Although the live export direct action at Shoreham is over, the battle still continues in the courts. Hundreds have been arrested and a number are presently on remand. A revenge action against the courts and the police was organised and around 50 turned up. The plan was to blockade the courts in the morning to fuck up the schedule. The police do not like demos being organised against them and they called in cops from four towns under the name Operation Grain (?). The doors to the courts were locked, so most of the crowd moved onto the dual carriageway. After a bit of a dance with the cops, everyone pretended to disperse while in fact they regrouped down at the McDonalds. It was lunchtime and the restaurant was significantly more empty than usual. One twat got arrested after climbing into the cab of a Shell tanker in the traffic jam and allegedly locking himself in. The battles at the port itself are far from over. Shoreham is ranked second or third in the national hierarchy of timber importers, carrying timber from the Baltic, Scandinavia, Brazil, British Columbia, Russia and many other wildernesses. Shoreham hosts petrol storage bays for BP and Texaco. In protest against oil exploration in Ecuador (and everywhere else), two activists chained up the entrance gates to the Texaco bay and promptly scarpered. Watching from the road above they were happy to see five tankers line up trying to get in and three trying to get out. The blockade only lasted for about twenty minutes, (by which time the guard had located a pair of bolt croppers), but was very cost effective - costing South Downs EF! nothing at all - they had cut the chain from a car park. SDEF! are planning a major dock action in the near future - Oct/Nov. This will be a national mobilisation. The details will be in the October edition of the EF! AU.
In Lewes on WHEN around 100 people gathered to 'reclaim the land'. The land in question was behind Lewes Prison and was used by many for morning strolls, dog walking and picnics. The 'landowner' (may they all burn in hell!), fenced off the land and chased walkers off in his Landie. Among the local community there was widespread anger about this, so reACTION (supposedly Lewes' campaign against the CJA but in reality a revolutionary nucleus without parallel), amassed their forces and with a large dollop of Justice? activists marched on to the land. While people sat in the sun picnicking others spent the next four hours cutting down vast swathes of the fencing. The fence posts were gathered together and set on fire. A police helicopter hovered overhead, (supposedly looking for a lost cyclist), and eventually three police waddled up the hill. Accusing the crowd of criminal damage, they were surrounded and informed that it had all been carried out by giant purple moles. With a ratio of over 30:1 they didn't make any trouble. After vowing he would put up the fences the next day, the 'landowner' has yet to dare - three months later.
Critical Mass has hit the South Downs. Masses are now held in Brighton, Lewes and Hastings. The organisers of the Brighton CMs, SDEF!, were more surprised than anyone when over one hundred turned up to the first one. As the cyclists and skaters were going at walking speed, the transport system of central Brighton ground to a halt. Amazed shoppers and tourists observed the disappearance of cars and an invasion of whooping cyclists. Viva La Revolution! The police tried pathetically to intervene by putting their cars across the road, Starsky and Hutch style - but apart from five arrests the Mass just cycled around them. At the end the Mass converged around the cop shop and some cyclists even drove through the foyer. After 20 minutes of hanging around occasionally chanting "release the prisoners", the prisoners were released. The police haven't dared to show their faces at subsequent Masses, (which by the third reached over 300), except for arresting one cyclist after the end of the third Mass. In Lewes (a much smaller town) things have been rather different with a fewer arrests and numbers averaging at just over a dozen. Numbers have been the same in Hastings but so far there have been no arrests.
Primed to be the next Twyford (let's make it the next Oxleas), the campaign against the Newbury bypass has set up two camps and is growing. This road will destroy three Sites of Special Scientific Interest, an AONB and hordes of rare wildflower species populations. Local campaigners scout the entire route every morning before work and over 1,000 have pledged to get in front of the bulldozers. The British Road Federation have chosen it as their set-piece battle with anti-roaders and as usual have been spewing misinformation from every orifice. Their campaign has succeeded in turning many locals against us, but many others are actively involved in the resistance. Though the contractor is not yet known, bets are on Costain, (contractor for the Cardiff Barrage), and the campaign is asking for solidarity actions at their offices and sites. In a surprise attack on the 2nd of August, demolition contractors destroyed five houses. It is essential that we stop this road and not just because of the threatened ecology. This campaign could be a massive show of our strength or a massive show of our weakness. We must send a clear message to the road lobby - even in the Tory heartlands, we can still kick your ass. Contact the local group 'The Third Battle of Newbury' and get down there. Their address is at the back of this issue.
Not only is Cissbury Hillfort under threat from the 'M27 Honiton-Folkestone Trans Highway', so is the north of Worthing. Alliance and Leicester Building Society is hoping to build a private dual carriageway through a residential area taking down trees and spaces; it will be fought for. We're STILL waiting for a decision on the A27/M27 'by-pass' to be made - we expect the decision by the end of the year. Contact Worthing EF!
If we don't want cars on the road we sure as damn don't want them on the Downs. With this in mind, reACTION organised an action against the Sussex leg of the Eurochallenge Onyx Championship on August the 19th. 136 4-wheel drive offroaders intent on ripping the Downs to shreds were confronted by around 50 activists from Lewes and Brighton. Route flags were pulled out, the racetrack was invaded and a gate was blockaded. This stopped them accessing half of their track. Some drivers had come all the way from France, Holland, Belgium and Germany. A crowd shouting "scum" at them on the finish line was not to their liking. With their racing ruined and half of the area due to be destroyed saved, they packed up, not even bothering to return for the second day.
After two years of legal wrangling, East Grinstead Town Council voted overwhelmingly to build the East Grinstead Bypass through Ashdown Forest and as part of the same project build around 1,000 new homes. The road will go through some of the places (100 Acre Wood etc.) immortalised in A. A. Milne's Pooh Bear books and the storm is rising. Locals (including councillors) have declared 'We will go under the bulldozers' and it looks like it's going to be all kicking off in Commutersville. For more info contact South Downs EF!
The CJA has woken up the traditionally lethargic alternative culture of Brighton (herbal tea anyone?) and there have been a number of high profile squats. Late last year an old Registrar's Office was squatted (marble arches and all!), followed by a church, an empty kebab shop, an empty jeans shop and finally the council's abandoned Brighton Housing Advice Centre - renamed the Brighton Squatting Advice Centre. Free raves in empty supermarkets and on the Downs have been happening every couple of weeks. Being one of the most organised (Ha!) anti-CJA groups in the country, and authors of the weekly SchNEWS, Justice? has already had its fair share of publicity. The most recent squat has been - a pier! The dilapidated West Pier, which is no longer connected to the land, was squatted (independently of Justice?) by a community who swam out after being evicted from the beach huts they had been living in. Brighton woke up to see one of its major landmarks taken over by squatters with banners proclaiming 'We'll give you your pier back when you give us our houses back!' and 'Anarchy - Don't you think it's time for social change?'. The owners, the West Pier Trust, have announced that they do not intent to evict. The question begs asking of course - how the fuck could they evict a falling apart metal island anyway? Down in Southampton a hotel was squatted by 'Solent Spanners', this lasted considerably longer than most of the Justice? squats. In Hastings a 'community arts and action centre' was opened up but was evicted after a couple of weeks, and in Lewes reACTION have organised two squats. The temporary tendency of most of these was sometimes a problem, but also it has been their greatest strength. Not existing long enough to fall into a quagmire of inaction, they have been characterised by an explosive exuberance unparalleled in the squat scene for many years. Those people who have come together in the squats have become a family and after the squats are evicted the community lives on.
Yet another road scheme is destroying the ecology of the south east, but not without resistance. The A299 road at Thanet Way has been plagued by regular direct action since it started in May. Three squats were taken (including the site office!) but all were evicted on the 21st of July when they were visited by 100 London police with cherrypickers and an army of security guards. So far 43 activists have been arrested, many under the CJA. A wood has also been occupied and its eviction is immanent. On August the 10th a party was organised around the site. The police reaction was predictable: police road blocks were put up and ravers were swept out of the area. Many had to take refuge up trees to avoid the cops. Contact 'The Blue Route Action Group' - see contacts in the back pages.
"Hundreds of years ago you had animals like bison, boar, wild horses, deer and oxen crashing around in the woods, making natural clearings and creating glades and scrub areas through grazing. If we reintroduced some of those species we could allow the land to revert to woodland and let them do the rest." (Brighton Leader, 8/6/'95) No, this isn't a raving Earth First!er, but Tony Whitbread of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. They are seriously talking about re-wilding a 25,000 hectare chunk of the South Downs. They believe, in direct opposition to most UK conservationists, that the best way to protect ecosystems and their biodiversity is to let them grow sufficiently large that they can regulate themselves. For economic reasons, large areas of the Sussex countryside are being taken out of production and it looks like the wilderness could return to the Downs. Unfortunately they haven't as yet announced any intention to join SDEF! 's campaign to simultaneously ban cars and reintroduce wolves into towns and cities.
- Anon, South Downs EF!