Battle of the Beanfield - 20 Years on

marksimonbrown mark at
Sat Jun 4 16:42:31 BST 2005

Battle of the Beanfield - 20 Years on 

SchNews 500 

June 1st was the 20th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield, a 
notoriously brutal one-sided confrontation between 450 unarmed 
travellers - including many women and children - and a quasi-military 
police force of over 1,300 police and MoD. Bolstered by a mandate 
from on high, and some dodgy injunctions, preventing 83 named 
individuals from approaching Stonehenge, the police brought to a 
violent end the 11th annual Stonehenge Free Festival, and set 
about 'decommissioning' the new Travellers' movement. 

For the festival and the travellers had joined the ranks of 
Thatcher's 'enemies within.' With the eviction of squats in the 
late '70s and widespread unemployment, thousands of people bought old 
buses and trucks and took to the roads each year. Many found a living 
on the free festival circuit, whose central focus was the gathering 
at Stonehenge, which had become an alternative state of 100,000 
people by 1984. 

Despite four months' planning, the police operation was a shambles. 
Plans to stop the convoy at a roadblock near the A303, blocking it at 
the front and back, collapsed when an outrider 
spotted the roadblock and directed the convoy down a side road, where 
they met a second roadblock. After a first wave of violent assaults 
by the police, in which windscreens were smashed and the occupants 
dragged out screaming, most of the vehicles broke into a 
neighbouring field, derailing the police plan still further. 

For the next four hours, there was an uneasy stand-off, while Lionel 
Grundy, the officer in charge, insisted that everyone was to be 
arrested under the pretext of finding out who had committed a number 
of alleged crimes earlier in the day (the theft of some petrol and a 
bit of shoplifting). 'That's crazy,' said one of the travellers. 'If 
you had a couple of football hooligans in a football stadium, you 
wouldn't arrest everybody in the stadium 
just to get at the hooligans.' 

But Grundy wasn't listening. The final assault began at 7 pm, when 
the police arrested men, women and children with indiscriminate 
violence, pursuing the stragglers as they fled into a neighbouring 
Beanfield. Nick Davies of The Observer saw what happened when the 
police surrounded the last vehicle: 'They were like flies around 
rotten meat... there was no question of trying to make a lawful 
arrest... They just crawled all over that vehicle, with truncheons 
flailing, hitting anybody that they could reach. It was extremely 
violent and very sickening.' 

By the end of the day, 537 people had been arrested - 420 at the 
Beanfield, and most of the rest at Stonehenge itself, where a 
separate gathering was also broken up. All were dispersed to holding 
cells throughout southern England, dozens of women were strip-
searched, and social services took children into care. At the 
Beanfield, the remaining vehicles were systematically looted and 

All those arrested were charged with obstruction of the police and 
the highway, but most of the charges were dismissed in the courts. 
The travellers' unexpected saviour was the Earl of Cardigan, whose 
family owned the forest where the convoy had stayed the night before. 
On the day, Cardigan had tagged along out of interest, and his 
descriptions of a heavily pregnant woman being clubbed, and of riot 
police showering a woman and child with glass, prevented what would 
otherwise have been a severe miscarriage of justice. 

20 years on, what happened at the Beanfield remains relevant in a 
number of ways. Without the events of that day, the steady erosion of 
civil liberties over the last two decades would not have been so 
easily achieved. Gypsies and travellers have been targeted in 
particular, but you can see the chain of events that leads from the 
Beanfield to the 1986 Public Order Act, the 1994 Criminal Justice Act 
and the legislation dreamt up by the current government, that the 
repercussions of that dark day for British 
justice - on our right to gather, to party, to protest, to dissent - 
are still being felt. 

For the full story, see the new book 'The Battle of the Beanfield', 
edited by Andy Worthington 


Please also see Tash's splendid posting on all this at: 

The Travellers Situation: 


Anniversary of the 'Battle of the Beanfield': 'Operation Solstice' 


SchNews - Tash 
 e-mail: tash at 

SchNews is 500 today. Happy Birthday guys. jolly well done. Solid 
work you've done there!! 

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