21st Century Diggers at Runnymede

Published by Mark Simon Brown on TheLandIsOurs@yahoogroups.com, Monday 18th June, 2012.

21st Century Diggers at Runnymede

21st century Diggers camped at Cooper’s Hill, met on Saturday afternoon at the nearby Runnymede monument where Magna Carta was signed on 15th June 1215 at to discuss their ideas about freedom and the right of people around the world to shelter and grow food on disused land.
Pictures and text on Demotix at:
http://www.demotix.com/news/1281879/runnymede-diggers-call-freedom-london

On June 9th, the group had travelled overnight to Windsor Great Park having identified disused land on crown estate land. [See original report here:
http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12379 ]. The intention, a weekend after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was to grow food, live sustainably and restore and build structures in a responsible way, rather like a re-intepretation of the origin of the word Jubilee – returning land to it’s orginal inhabitants. Pre-emptive injunctions were served on them before they had even set off. They had planned to set up an ecovillage camp on what had been identified as a
disused farm (confirmed by a local in a days prior to the occupation), but when they settled on the site, the crown estate legal team produced a “farmer” who said it was a hay meadow which was soon to be cropped for sileage (a comment made was that there will be a lot of nettles in that sileage for sure)!

After a game of cat and mouse with Thames Valley Police who followed the intrepid diggers where-ever they walked (they attempted to settle on another site close by, but police were already waiting for them there and stopped them), the group spent the night on a site near Runnymede.

By Monday 11th, the group found a spot of woodland belonging on Coopers hill near Runnymede where they settled down. The site is owned by Royal Holloway University. However, on Monday, Simon Moore was arrested at the site. Simon was involved earlier this year in
trying to protect Leyton Marsh from a development ordered by the Olympic Delivery Authority, given planning consent by the Authority as the developer due to their sancrosanct planning powers, and which was a development which would ordinarily have failed planning consent on principle, but which was passed purely because of the Olympics. (see http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12042).

Simon was part of the occupy camp at the leyton Marsh occupation and was one of several people arrested on the eviction day – he was imprisoned for five days as a result (http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12049).

On his release from prison, he was served an ASBO by a police officer
(http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12092). among many draconian terms mainly designed to stop his interfering with any Olympic or Jubilee events, there was also a clause preventing him from entering any building or land without the owner’s permission. It was this section that was cited in his arrest.

On Thursday 14th June, a full hearing on Simon’s currently ‘interim’ ASBO was held at the new Westminster Magistrates Court in Marylebone. A report and a full statementof what happened at: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12408

Westminster Magistrates Court District Judge Purdy announced his verdict on Monday morning, deciding to authorise the ASBO. Report here: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12434

As of today (18th Une), the camp at cooper hill near Runnymede remains.

Directions to the camp:
If walking up the mud track from Egham town look out for the orange cones on your left – these mark the point at which to enter the woods and you’ll see the camp. The nearest train station is Egham,about 25 mins walk. If you want to get nearer the camp by public transport you can get on the Slough bus from Egham town and get off at the stop before the top of Priest Hill, Englefield Green. That saves you a walk up a steep hill and is ten mins from the camp.

Historical significance of Runnymede:

The Witan, Witenagemot or Council of the Anglo-Saxon Kings (composed of the most important noblemen in England including ealdormen, thegns and senior clergy) of the 7th to 11th centuries was held from time to time at Runnymede during the reign of Alfred the Great. The Council met usually in the open air, and established rights for commoners in a period thought to have been one of the most harmonious in the history of the British Isles. After the Norman conquest when William the Conqueror restored the Imperial Roman principle of all land belonging to the monarch and carved up the British Isles among his family and allies, this council of noblemen which existed to inform as much as regulate the power of the King, was usurped. In 1215, under pressure from noblemen, King John sealed the Magna Carta after pressure from the country’s noblemen was reasserted to write down in law many of the freedoms which existed before 1066 (it is thought popular rebellion and mass pressure not so well highlighted by historians of this period forced nobelmen to assert these changes to the King). It is said the political organ of the council of nobelmen was also transformed, influencing the creation of England’s 13th century parliament.

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