Teenage HS2 protester arrested emerging from secretly dug tunnels, leaving five activists underground

Jane DaltonWed, 17 February 2021, 10:21 pm

Protesters were evicted from their campsite at Euston Square Garden (Joshua Windsor)
Protesters were evicted from their campsite at Euston Square Garden (Joshua Windsor)

A 16-year-old campaigner was arrested as he came out from a network of tunnels secretly dug as part of protests against HS2, after more than three weeks living underground.

The boy was the youngest person out of nine taking part in the action against the high-speed railway line and the redevelopment of Euston Square Gardens near Euston Station, according to campaign group HS2 Rebellion.

Five activists – with limited supplies of food and drink – are still refusing to leave the tunnels after 22 days.

The teenager, who is the fourth person to leave the tunnels, was removed on a stretcher to be assessed by paramedics before being handed to police, HS2 said.

He said in a statement: “After almost three weeks underground I am coming up. This means there will be more food for the others so they can resist for longer.”

He added: “I am looking forward to seeing mum. I have loved digging and being underground, and I will continue to protest. HS2 needs to be stopped.

“Young people like me have to take action to stop the ecocide being committed by projects like HS2 because we’re in an ecological emergency and our future is at stake.

“Digging a tunnel may seem extreme but maybe it is the only way.”

The 100ft network of tunnels was discovered on 26 January, and the tunnel occupation is now the longest in the UK since a 40-day record set in 2000 by Essex bypass objectors.

The protesters last week lost a High Court attempt to block an operation to remove them.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: “A 16-year-old male is in the custody of police, having been arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.”

An HS2 spokesman said: “The safety of those trespassing and that of the HS2 staff and emergency service personnel in this operation is of paramount importance.

“We continue to do all we can to end this illegal action safely, and we reiterate our message to those underground to comply with the court order and exit the tunnel immediately – for their own safety and that of the HS2 staff, agents and emergency service personnel involved in this operation.”

On Sunday night, 46-year-old HS2 Rebellion protester Scott “Scotty” Breen, also known as Digger Down, also left the tunnels and was escorted away by police.

In a Facebook post, he said he was leaving voluntarily after 19 days to “ease the pressure on resources (and) allow others to stay longer”.

The activist said he expected more “strategic exits” by protesters as time goes on.

The 46-year-old, from West Drayton, west London, will appear at Uxbridge magistrates’ court next week, accused of failing to comply with a community order.

Last month, bailiffs removed protesters who had camped overnight in trees at Euston, and started digging into the tunnels to evict the underground protesters, before HS2 crews started felling trees.

A 26-year-old who had been in the trees was issued by police with a fine for breaching Covid restrictions.

Earlier this month, campaigners staged a candlelit vigil in the area “to mark the loss of biodiversity caused by the HS2 rail line”.

Additional reporting by PA