Episode 1: The Political Climate
Following an introduction from Dr Gail Bradbrook (Co-Founder of Extinction Rebellion), we begin episode 1 by being reminded of the Conservative politicians holding the post of Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher followed by John Major) around the time of the protest and their utterly destructive policy vision regarding road building.
The planned extension of the M3 Motorway in the UK was the catalyst for a huge array of protestors, many of them new to direct action, to take a stand against the British government's intention to tarmac one of the most protected areas of natural beauty in England.
Theo Simon & Becca Lush talks us through the campaigns and actions that preceded Newbury, beginning with Twyford Down, followed by the extension of the M11 Motorway in London, the Reclaim the Streets campaign again in London, the Batheaston bypass, as well as occupations and actions at Stanworth Valley and Whatley Quarry.
We also find out that the protestors are not only fighting a very physical battle across the country, but they are also up against government legislation which would drastically impact the right protest and immediately criminalise the forms of direct action they were undertaking in defense of the defenseless.
The Public Order & Criminal Justice Act of 1994 can be viewed in its entirety, but for those who have an interest in the aspects of the legislation pertinent to taking direct action then you will find this overview much more concise. In summary, it suddenly became much more illegal for anybody to protest.
The building of the Newbury Bypass was to be the biggest part of the entire road building scheme under the Tory government of the time and would mark the line in the sand for the protestors and road builders for what was to lie ahead.
The Newbury Bypass protest saw a coming together of a real mix of people from different activist backgrounds, as well as the involvement of two of the larger NGOs with Friends of the Earth and GreenPeace leveraging their influence in support of the direct action being taken by local people and seasoned anti-road campaigners.
In fact, Friends of the Earth, working in partnership with local people got the building of the road put on hold and a review put in place for the entire road system, which was due to take a year. However, in what was his final act, Brian Mawhinney then Transport Secretary, ended the review unilaterally, meaning the battle to save the trees and wildlife of Newbury was afoot.
As the episode begins to draw to a close we are introduced to an array of individuals who felt compelled for different reasons to put themselves on the line in order to try and protect and save one of the finest examples of English countryside before it was too late. These activists will be our main protagonists and heroes throughout the entire series.