A weekend of trespass kept resistance against the new crime bill alive

Trespassers stand in front of Charborough Tower holding banners reading "animal liberation" and "right to roam".

Following a national call-out to “go for a walk, a swim or a paddle in a local area” on 24 April, people across England engaged in acts of trespass. It was part of a wider campaign to build a land justice movement in the country. But the acts also provided a rural dimension to resistance against the new policing bill.

Everybody is welcome

Called “Everybody Welcome”, 24 April was a day for people to engage in acts of trespass across England and Wales. It was called for by Extinction Rebellion (XR) in conjunction with land rights group Right to Roam. And it was timed to fit with the 89th anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass.

Nick Hayes, illustrator and co-founder of Right to Roam, told Phoenix Media Co-op that there were “about 50 trespasses” on the day. Some of these were more notable than others.

One act saw a coalition of groups including Weymouth Animal Rights, North Dorset Hunt Sabs, Mendip Hunt Sabs, and XR Dorchester walk onto land owned by Tory MP and huntmaster Richard Drax. A report by Weymouth Animal Rights said the ‘taking’ of the estate’s Charborough Tower resulted in the drafting of a police helicopter. The event even made local and national media.

Trespass everywhere

Though perhaps the most notable, this was far from the only trespass on the day. Campaigners used the day for their own ends, such as the movement against high-speed rail line HS2:

And locals working to save Ryebank Fields from development by Manchester Metropolitan University also took part:

Several XR groups were involved, of course:

Meanwhile, Hayes and fellow Right to Roam co-founder Guy Shrubsole went wild camping:

Other individuals, meanwhile, showed engaging in trespass needn’t require large groups:

Of course, there were detractors too, particularly those claiming to represent rural spaces. Tim Bonner, head of the bloodsport lobby group Countryside Alliance,Β  previously described the day as “blatant anarchism”. And on 24 April, he couldn’t resist sharing his own two pennies:

The crime bill affects everybody

The campaign for land justice is an important movement in itself. But the day of mass trespass shows how it also intersects with the rights and struggles for other forms of social justice.

Laws in the impending Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill (PCSCB) target large swathes of the population. And the further criminalisation of trespass, while seemingly designed to attack Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT), and nomadic communities, shows that even ‘middle Englanders’ are at risk.

Another national day of action against the PCSCB takes place on 1st May. These will largely be urban marches and protests. But the trespasses on 24 April are a reminder that the bill’s impact casts a net across the entire country.

Main image via Weymouth Animal Rights