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.
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:
Celebrating Kinder Scout Trespass
A memorable #MassTrespass
left the footpath, crossed a field singing #PowerToThePeople + stood beside #Broadwells #AncientWoodland in the line of HS2 on 15 March 2020 #StopHS2 #StandForTheTrees #ResistingAntiTrespass
📷 Credit: Karen Lewis-Bell pic.twitter.com/lRqKL2LSqp
— HS2 Rebellion (@Hs2Rebellion) April 24, 2021
And locals working to save Ryebank Fields from development by Manchester Metropolitan University also took part:
— WCML (@wcmlibrary) April 24, 2021
Several XR groups were involved, of course:
XR Oxford Mass Trespass picnic on the site of the Oxford North proposed development – highlighting the injustice of exclusive landownership, which is at the very heart of the climate and ecological crisis. #EveryoneWelcomeHere #RightToRoam pic.twitter.com/GxEzvjsxEW
— Anne (@AnneTxractivist) April 25, 2021
Mass Trespass action as part of the national 89th anniversary of the Kinder Trespass – rebels & members of Save Thorpe Woodlands enacted right to roam, with litter picking in the side #masstrespass #KinderScout pic.twitter.com/lxZyM1u3Kv
— XRNorwich (@NorwichXr) April 24, 2021
— XRShrewsbury 🌍 (@XRShrewsbury) April 24, 2021
Meanwhile, Hayes and fellow Right to Roam co-founder Guy Shrubsole went wild camping:
On the 89th anniversary of Kinder Scout, we’re off to trespass & wild camp with bikes 🙂
The #PoliceBill will criminalise anyone who – like us – trespasses with intent to reside & has a vehicle with them: Travellers, homeless ppl, wild campers, protestors. #EveryoneWelcomeHere pic.twitter.com/7WPXCIrc9Q
— Guy Shrubsole (@guyshrubsole) April 24, 2021
Other individuals, meanwhile, showed engaging in trespass needn’t require large groups:
92% of land in England isn't publicly accessible – so much greenery, tranquility & secret hideouts to experience, but that are out of bounds 🌳🐿️🐦 We visited a few of these spots for the 89th anniversary of Kinder Scout trespass today to say #EveryoneWelcomeHere#RightToRoam pic.twitter.com/Fc0NXb7R8E
— Camilla Zerr (@CamillaZerr) April 24, 2021
On the 89th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, we still have access to such a tiny amount of our country. We need a #rightoroam so that we can all experience the land and it’s nature, not just a select few #EveryoneWelcomeHere pic.twitter.com/eujQTOBin0
— NickCHarvey (@NickCHarvey) April 25, 2021
To celebrate the 89th anniversary of the Kinder Scout trespass we trespassed in the largest woodland within walking distance of my city. People are desperate for access to nature yet 92% of our land is off limits. #EveryoneWelcomeHere pic.twitter.com/UbnQ4ihPHg
— Lucia 📚(⧖) (@vivatferam) April 24, 2021
Of course, there were detractors too, particularly those claiming to represent rural spaces. Tim Bonner, head of the bloodsport lobby group Countryside Alliance, previously described the day as “blatant anarchism”. And on 24 April, he couldn’t resist sharing his own two pennies:
Well we managed 6 miles of roaming along the wonderful Essex coast without the need to trespass pic.twitter.com/k3fRypgii4
— Tim Bonner (@CA_TimB) April 24, 2021
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