Protesters save last green space in Oxford city centre

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Sun Jan 13 00:51:39 GMT 2008

Oxford Tree Protest Brings Fences Down
A demonstration in Oxford against the felling of trees and the
building of a monstrous new shopping centre saw hundreds of people
gather around Bonn Square. Many of them then took spontaneous direct
action to stop the fencing-off of the square, and forced the Council
to take the fences back down!

Protesters invade Oxford square
By Matt Wilkinson

Protesters claimed a 'partial victory' after evading security and
police to invade Oxford's Bonn Square in support of tree campaigner
Gabriel Chamberlain.

A peaceful protest against its redevelopment began around midday today.

But security guards and police stopped the campaigners from standing
in the square and warned they could be arrested for trespassing.

As new security fences were being installed to surround the whole of
the grassed area, protesters linked arms then forced their way into
the square, chanting and waving flags and placards.

The barriers were then removed and about 50 campaigners were allowed
in the square to protest without threat of arrest.

Gabriel Chamberlain, 34, has spent ten days camped in a threatened
sycamore tree, which is surrounded by security fencing, in protest
against the £1.5m redevelopment of the square and Westgate Centre.

His friend Brian Melling, 43, said: "It's not often you get a partial
victory like this and forcing a council into reversing a decision.

"The council said they've consulted the public but you can see how
many people are here and what they think of what they are doing."

Mr Melling also praised the police and security staff for the way they
handled the protest.

Half of the square at the base of the tree Mr Chamberlain occupies
remains cordoned off by fencing.

Although the protest began peacefully, it threatened to turn nasty
when security guards began installing the fencing to close off the
whole square at about 2pm.

Around 50 protesters - including many youngsters - risked arrest by
invading the grassed area and sat on the ground and war memorial and
refused to move.

The barriers were taken down again at about 4pm - but the tree remains
fenced off.

Protest organiser Danny Chivers, 29, said: "Hopefully, we can put
enough pressure on the council so they realise this development is not
good for Oxford."

Protester Derek Greig, 42, said: "What the council and police are
doing is illegal - they can't arrest people for being in a public place.

"We came up and stood here to stop the barriers because we believe we
should save the last piece of green area in Oxford city centre."

Tree protester Mr Chamberlain said he supported the protest.

Calling down from his tree he said: "I'm aching a little bit from
sleeping on wood but I'm OK.

"I think what these people have done is great. It's not just about
saving the tree but about saving the planet.

"This is the last bit of grass people can sit on in Oxford and they
are going to turn it into stone. Why don't they just leave the grass."

He told bystanders he had been joined in his tree by a second
protester, whom he named as Eddie Beaumont.

Mr Chamberlain's mother, Josephine Knight-Jacobs, joined the protest.

She said: "I think what he's doing is brilliant. I'm very proud of
him. Too many people don't stand up enough in this country.

"I don't understand why they have to cut so many trees down. I'm a
little bit worried about him - I don't want him to fall out of the tree."

No arrests were made.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said some barriers were put up by

But they were removed when contractors realised they did not have
enough barriers to close off the entire area.

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