The Solstice gathering at Stonehenge wasn’t about ignoring Covid guidelines

People gathering inside Stonehenge including one person wearing a ritual smock.

A crowd gathered at Stonehenge on the morning of 21 June against the advice of site manager English Heritage. Many media outlets framed it as an ignorance of Covid-19 guidelines. But those on the ground saw it not only as a right to the sacred location, but the latest act of defiance against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSCB).

Trespassing onto the sacred

After jumping a fence and avoiding security, an estimated 100 people gathered inside the stone circle on Summer solstice morning. As a result, English Heritage stopped its live feed of the sunrise. However, as highlighted by BBC News, the organisation didn’t explain why the crowd meant it had to pull the livestream.

English Heritage previously cancelled its official event, citing concerns over the number of attendees. Therefore many media outlets including BBC News framed the solstice gathering as people ignoring Covid-19 guidelines. But those involved saw it differently. One person inside the circle told Phoenix Media Co-op:

There were lines of security yesterday, through the night and this morning, stopping people from trespassing onto Stonehenge. Just before sunrise this morning about 100 people climbed over the fence and ran past the security lines to rightfully celebrate sunrise at solstice in the middle of the stone cricle.

It is particularly relevant now because of the policing bill that’s coming that will criminalise trespass. So people were shouting “resist anti-trespass” and “kill the bill” in addition to it being a sacred moment.

Police and security guards stone watching protesters at Stonehenge.

Meanwhile, Hugh Newman (who runs a website dedicated to ancient stones) said in a Facebook post:

Druids carried out a ceremony outside the fence, whilst some pagans and revellers jumped over it, to peacefully celebrate within the stones. It seems you can’t take away the stones from the people, and the security guys seemed to agree when we spoke to them.

Video from the morning shows a lively but non-confrontational crowd, though Wiltshire Police said they arrested one woman for being drunk and disorderly.

Save Stonehenge

In recent years, proposals to build a tunnel for traffic beneath Stonehenge have made it a contested site. Authorities first made the plans public in December 2014. The next stage of development will see power cables laid down to supply the future roadway, closing the existing A303 for three months from September.

The tunnel is opposed by a wide range of NGOs, autonomous groups and individuals.  And there is a Stonehenge Heritage Action Camp set up to prepare for resisting the new road. Some of those from the camp were present at the solstice gathering.

All images used with permission.