Archive for June, 2023

Hatred of Dissent: Reviewing Four Decades of Repressive Tory Laws on the 38th Anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield

Police swarm the last bus at the Battle of the Beanfield.

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38 years ago, on June 1, 1985, a convoy of vehicles carrying what the photographer Alan Lodge described as “a small, mild mannered bunch of people” — around 550 men, women and children, generally described at the time as New Age Travellers — was ambushed and “decommissioned” with extraordinary violence by around 1,4000 police from six countries and the Ministry of Defence, in what has become known as the Battle the Beanfield — although, as I stated in my article marking this horrendous event last year, “‘battle’ suggests the presence of two more or less equal parties engaged in conflict, when what actually took place was a one-sided rout of heartbreaking brutality.”

The convoy was hoping to reach Stonehenge, to establish what would have been the 12th annual free festival in fields opposite the ancient temple on Salisbury Plain, which had grown, by 1984, into an anarchic settlement that welcomed tens of thousands of visitors throughout the whole of June. An injunction had been served, intended to prevent anyone from reaching Stonehenge, and from the summer before travellers, environmental protestors and festival-goers had been harassed and assaulted from Yorkshire to RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, where a peace camp, echoing the famous Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, had been established to resist the planned introduction of a second US cruise missile base on UK soil until it was evicted in February 1985 in the largest peace-time action involving British troops, led by the then-defence secretary Michael Heseltine.

Undeterred, however, the convoy had set off for Stonehenge from Savernake Forest in Wiltshire on June 1, but soon met with trouble. After the police blocked the road seven miles from Stonehenge, and officers began smashing the windows of stationary vehicles and the occupants were ”dragged out screaming”, as Tony Thompson explained in an article for the Observer in 2005, the majority of the convoy sought to avoid the violence by driving into a nearby beanfield.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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