Tree activist: ‘We can still stop HS2’

Man who spent 5 days living in branches under threat from rail scheme is arrested for protest

Friday, 16th October 2020 — By Tom Foot

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Protesters in the Hampstead Road trees [Photos: Simon Lamrock]

AN environmental activist who lived in a tree for five days in an attempt to protect it from HS2 chainsaws has been arrested.

Dr Larch Maxey was taken by officers to Kentish Town police station where he spent 10 hours in a cell on an aggravated trespass charge. High Speed 2, the controversial £106billion railway project, has begun felling trees in Hampstead Road, outside the Cartmel block of homes on the Regent’s Park Estate, as part of its Euston station works. Residents suffered sleepless nights after being woken up by noise in the area between midnight and 4am last week.

“That’s the way HS2 works,” said Dr Maxey, who has a science PhD. “They just make it all a fait accompli – but it is not. We can stop this. “But it is going to take people to start doing what is appropriate.”

He added: “We are in the endgame. We are facing societal collapse. People need to let the truth in and start acting. I have spent 25 days in five weeks in two different trees. It is because I am a scientist and I can see what is coming down the line.”

Dr Maxey and the group HS2 Rebellion – an alliance of Stop HS2 and Extinction Rebellion – believe that the world is months away from an irreversible chain of events that could set in motion an environmental disaster. They have set up a camp in Euston Square Gardens – now in place for more than six weeks – to protect trees due to be axed in the coming months by HS2.

Camden is one of the areas worst affected by HS2 and is facing two decades of demolition and disruption, while political debates have never ceased over whether the huge outlay will be worth building the new line to Birmingham and later to cities in the north. People have already been driven from their homes and businesses around Euston, while bodies have been dug up from a burial ground.

Dr Larch Maxey in the tree before his arrest

Talking about his five days in the tree in Hampstead Road, Dr Maxey said: “Everything you try to do takes four times longer up a tree – going to the toilet, washing. “There is a lot of sitting chatting to people as they come by. It’s massive outreach for us.”

Dr Maxey said he had co-operated fully with police officers and was dismayed when they confiscated his climbing gear as “evidence”, adding that his group was looking for donations of climbing safety equipment, carabiners, harnesses, ropes and waterproofs to keep their resistance going.

He said he was allowed to take his two books into the cell in Kentish Town, adding: “I had the Era of Great Benefit, which helps me keep my energy, and Bearing the Cross, about Martin Luther King and non-violent direct action. “It was just 10 hours in the cell which is not too bad. It’s my 19th arrest, but I’ve only had two convictions.”

Dr Maxey comes down as police wait to arrest him

Dr Maxey has since returned to the Euston Square Gardens camp as concerns grow about it being broken up on safety grounds. There have been misconceived complaints of anti-social behaviour in the camp from the authorities, said Dr Maxey.

“Not a single one of these complaints stack up,” he said. “They are saying they want to close this camp down because of risks to vulnerable people. But the homeless people tell us it is one of the safest places to sleep in London. We are supporting them and getting them off drugs – spice and crack – and helping them learn new skills. You cannot blame the camp for homelessness. We are there to stop HS2.”

Cartmel residents, who have been living next to the noisy, dusty main construction site, now see a row of jagged tree stumps out of their windows.

Dr Maxey called on Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer to swing behind the Climate Change Bill, adding: “We are heading for a four-degree warming world where organised society is no longer viable. We have three months. If you were facing this fully you would be acting differently too.”

A HS2 statement said: “We have a commitment to replace any trees removed in Camden as close to the location of any removed tree. In addition, we are working with local groups to re-use timber from removed trees where possible. HS2’s low-carbon railway will help in the fight against climate change by getting people out of cars and reducing the need for domestic air travel.”

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