Remember the Battle of the Beanfield: It’s the 27th Anniversary Today of Thatcher’s Brutal Suppression of Traveller Society

27 years ago, a convoy of vehicles driven by refugees from the chronic unemployment of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain — commonly described as new age travellers, but also including environmental and anti-nuclear activists and land reformers — was set upon by police from six counties and the MoD, en route to Stonehenge, to establish what would have been the 12th Stonehenge Free Festival, an anarchic annual event that drew tens of thousands of visitors every June.

Cornered in a field by the A303, the convoy members — including women and children — were eventually set upon by the police in a distressingly violent manner, albeit one that was typical of life under Thatcher, bearing remarkable similarities to the violence meted out to the miners at Orgreave, in South Yorkshire, the year before.

I was one of those visitors to the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1983 and 1984, and the freedom and anarchy I experienced there helped to shape my belief that there are many different ways to live, and that dissent is a vital part of any functioning democracy. However, in the year that followed the Battle of the Beanfield, laws were implemented to try to make sure that the right to gather freely — and in huge numbers — would never be able to happen again, although they were not immediately successful. The new age traveller culture was severely damaged, but dissent reemerged unexpectedly in the form of the acid house movement , or rave culture, and was followed by the road protest movement, and groups like Reclaim the Streets, which helped to fuel a worldwide anti-globalization movement by the late 1990s. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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