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HS2 protesters dig secret 100ft network of tunnels to protect Euston Square Gardens

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/hs2-rebellion-euston-square-gardens-protest-tunnel-b901275.html

HS2 protesters dig secret 100ft network of tunnels to protect Euston Square Gardens
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S2 security guards have moved in to Euston Square Gardens to evict environmental activists who have chained themselves to secret underground tunnels and trees in protest over the construction of the high-speed railway.

From a small, unassuming hut in the middle of an encampment in the central London park, members of HS2 Rebellion, an alliance of groups and individuals campaigning against the planned rail network, have spent months secretly digging a 100ft labyrinth of tunnels at the site. 

According to the group, tunnellers worked “around the clock” using pickaxes, shovels and buckets to create the network, code-named Calvin.

Earlier on Wednesday, the group said “tree protectors” were ready to occupy the Great Escape style network “for as long as it takes to stop HS2”.

In the early hours of this morning, HS2 Ltd sent security guards in to remove protesters from the tunnels and tree camps. 

A protestor, giving his name as Mars, spoke to The Standard from the top of the highest tree in the park where he has been since last night when the group called for activists to resist the eviction.

He said: “They all came in at 4.40am, loads and loads of the HS2 security and Black Onyx (private security firm). The police were with them as a show of force but are now sitting on the sides. I can see some of them putting on climbing gear to get us down.

“It’s difficult to do actions in a pandemic and it’s no doubt a huge threat to human life but so is the climate emergency. We have the responsibility to challenge this government.

“I’m afraid of going in the tunnels so I’ll stay up here until they get me down. I’m worried for my friends down there if the [Hs2 security guards] make a wrong move it could be really dangerous. I have huge respect for them for going down there they are braver than me.”

He added: “This whole park is being cleared for a taxi rank, Hs2 is taking land from all over the country for obscure uses. These trees just don’t need to go.”

The Metropolitan Police also said officers were on site to prevent any “potential breach of the peace”, adding that the eviction is the responsibility of the landowner.

A HS2 Ltd spokeswoman said the eviction was started to keep works on the high-speed railway on schedule and that the company had taken “legal temporary possession of Euston Square Gardens to progress construction of the new Euston Station”.  Construction works are due to begin in January and continue until December.

<p>Police guarding the camp in Euston Square this morning</p>
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Police guarding the camp in Euston Square this morning

/ HS2 Rebellion )

She added: “These protests are a danger to the safety of the protestors, our staff and the general public, and put unnecessary strain on the emergency services during a pandemic. The protestors are currently trespassing on land that is legally possessed by HS2.”

With the help of local residents, spoil from digging has been used to “fortify the barricades” at the network’s entrance and insulate the “pallet fortress” to keep tunnellers warm, as they sleep between shifts.

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The fortified barricade conceals an entrance to the tunnel network

/ Twitter )

Tunnels are supported by wooden joists and thick boards to prevent collapse. There are stashes of food and water inside, protesters said.

The centrepiece of the camp, which has provided free food, bedding and accommodation for scores of homeless people, is Buckingham Pallets.

As well as concealing the tree protectors tunnel entrance, this has acted as the camp hub. It features two pallet towers, a kitchen, living room, compost toilet and art created by several local artists.

“We don’t go as far as putting the soil down our trousers,” one protestor told the BBC referencing Steve McQueen’s 1963 war film The Great Escape.

In a statement earlier, HS2 Rebellion said it had expected protesters to be evicted from the site from Wednesday morning.

It added: “They believe they can hold out in the tunnel for several weeks and hope in this time that a court will rule against HS2 for breaking the law by attempting an eviction without a court order and during the national coronavirus lockdown.”

The group said lawyers for the Euston Square Gardens Protection Camp had written to HS2 “advising them of the illegality of any such eviction attempt at this time”.

A community notification issued in December detailed the need to build an “interim” taxi rank on the east side of Euston Square Gardens to support the construction of a proposed HS2 station.

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 HS2 Rebellion protesters removing earth during the construction

/ PA )

HS2 Rebellion claims that the planned HS2 line, due to link up London, the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland, will see 108 ancient woodlands “destroyed” and “countless people being forced from the homes and businesses”.

HS2 Ltd said only 43 ancient woodlands would be affected by the railway’s route between London and Crewe, with 80 per cent of their total area remaining intact.

HS2 Rebellion called on the Government to scrap the “expensive, unpopular and destructive” scheme “before it is too late” and argued for a National Citizens Assembly to “lead the way out of the climate and ecological emergency”.

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Protester known as ‘Blue’ in part of a 100ft tunnel network dug in secret under Euston Square Gardens

/ PA )

One protester, Blue Sanford, 18, from London, said: “I’m angry that the Government is still effectively ignoring this crisis despite declaring a climate and ecological emergency two years ago.

“I’m in this tunnel because they are irresponsibly putting my life at risk from the climate and ecological emergency.

“They are behaving in a way that is so reckless and unsafe that I don’t feel they are giving us any option but to protest in this way to help save our own lives and the lives of all the people round the world.”

Barrister Paul Powlesland, who works with environmental campaigners, wrote: “Incredibly impressive that the activists seeking to stop HS2’s destruction have dug an actual tunnel in the heart of central London to avoid eviction. It’s like a nature protection version of the great escape!”

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Environmentalist “Swampy”, who has joined the action in Euston, protests at HS2 high-speed railway construction site in Denham in December

/ REUTERS )

Despite it running tens of billions of pounds over budget and several years behind schedule, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for the railway in February 2020.

The spokeswoman for HS2 Ltd said: “Illegal action such as this is costly to the taxpayer and a danger to the safety of the activists, HS2 staff, High Court enforcement officers and the general public, as well as putting unnecessary strain on the emergency services during the pandemic.

“Safety is our first priority when taking possession of land and removing illegal encampments.”

She said HS2 provided “a cleaner, greener way to travel, helping to cut the number of cars and lorries on our roads, reduce demand for domestic flights, and help the country to cut its carbon emissions in the fight against climate change”.

The spokeswoman said HS2 had been approved by MPs on “multiple occasions”, would support Britain’s economic recovery and was supporting thousands of jobs.

Additional reporting by PA Media

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Royal family focus on pandemic in Commonwealth show ahead of Oprah interview

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/queen-commonwealth-tv-special-harry-meghan-oprah-interview-b922158.html

Royal family focus on pandemic in Commonwealth show ahead of Oprah interview

It comes after CBS revealed that Harry and Meghan’s intimate interview with Oprah Winfrey is set to be released at 8pm in the US on Sunday, which will be in the early hours of Monday UK time.

ITV also announced it secured the exclusive UK television rights to the 90-minute interview and will air it on the Monday at 9pm.

The Palace said in a statement: “In Her Majesty’s annual Commonwealth Day message, the Queen will pay tribute to the way in which communities across the family of nations have come together in response to the pandemic.”

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.

<p>A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.</p>

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.

/ AP

The Prince of Wales has recorded a message for the programme addressing “the universal devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic”.

Charles will also celebrate the “critical work” being carried out by nations across the Commonwealth to combat climate change and protect its unique landscapes, marine environments and biodiversity.

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London Mayoral campaign: Sadiq Khan forced to hole-up inside coffee shop after protesters turn up at launch

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/sadiq-khan-cafe-london-mayoral-race-launch-shaun-bailey-b922137.html

London Mayoral campaign: Sadiq Khan forced to hole-up inside coffee shop after protesters turn up at launch
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adiq Khan’s re-election campaign hit trouble today when he was forced to hole-up inside a coffee shop for an hour to avoid a small group of residents protesting about a transport scheme. 

The Mayor had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall. 

But as news of his visit began to spread, six residents gathered outside, asking to speak with Mr Khan about a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) introduced by Enfield council. 

They said it had made their lives a misery by forcing them to divert via the North Circular Road. 

Mr Khan, on the advice of his police protection officers, remained in the cafe for an hour in the hope the protesters would leave. When they refused to go, he made a dash for his car and ignored their requests.

Mr Khan launched his campaign for a second term with nine weeks until polling day on May 6 and after last year’s election was postponed due to Covid.

Mr Khan called for a 1945-style programme to rebuild the economy and promised to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” and encouraging domestic tourists back to central London.

He criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for failing to provide a “long-term vision” for after the lifting of lockdown, or to guarantee jobs or training and said that a £367million hole in City Hall’s finances due to Covid meant “inevitable” cuts to public services.

At the campaign launch at Hot Milk Cafe in Bounds Green, which has received £5,000 from City Hall to keep trading and £12,500 from the Mayor’s “pay it forward” advance payment scheme, Mr Khan vowed to “relentlessly bang the drum for London — both at home and around the world” to attract jobs and investment.

More than 18,000 Londoners have died with Covid. Mr Khan said he was determined to “build an even better London” in their memory.

<p>Mr Khan had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall</p>

Mr Khan had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall

/ PA

He said: “In 1945, a Labour government rebuilt Britain from the ashes of war. Like so many, I benefited from their work decades later as I grew up on a council estate and was given the opportunities to fulfil my potential.

“That’s why jobs, jobs, jobs are a top priority for my second term. I am hopeful that with the right support from the Government we can help get the 300,000 Londoners who have lost jobs during the pandemic back into work.”

At least 16 candidates, including several independents, are expected to run for mayor but Mr Khan said it was a “two-horse race” between himself and Tory rival Shaun Bailey.

“We’re the only two candidates who can win and the choice couldn’t be starker,” he said. Mr Bailey said the Budget was “supporting London’s recovery, because Sadiq Khan won’t”.

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Mr Bailey said: “In the middle of a pandemic Londoners need support, not higher taxes. So as mayor, I’ll reverse these harmful decisions.”

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Amazon opens its first till-less grocery store outside the USA in west London

https://www.standard.co.uk/business/business-news/amazon-opens-first-tillless-grocery-store-outside-usa-west-london-b922102.html

Amazon opens its first till-less grocery store outside the USA in west London
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mazon opened its first till-less grocery store outside the USA in west London on Thursday.

Customers simply scan a QR code on the way in to the Amazon Fresh store then “just walk out” with groceries, with their accounts automatically billed as they leave.

A number of cameras and sensors in the store ceiling track customers and their purchases.

The store, in Ealing Broadway, stocks hundreds of own-brand products as well as well known brands and also serves as a collection and return point for goods bought online.

Amazon opens its first till-less grocery store outside the USA in west London
Amazon

The shop, which is open from 7am to 11am, is the first in the UK but Amazon is believed to be looking for other locations in Greater London.

Chiropractor Andrew Martin was one of the first customers this morning.

He said: “I just heard about it and had to come down. I use Amazon a lot and it’s really intriguing idea. It’s so strange just to be able to walk out with goods. I just hope it doesn’t lead me to accidentally shoplift in other shops because I get so used to the money coming out automatically.”

Amazon

Teacher Sara Right added: “I live locally so it’s definitely convenient. It’s quite terrifying that it just knows what you’ve bought but it’s very easy  so I think I’ll use it.”

The stores will be similar to the 20 Amazon Go stores the company runs in the US but will operate under the Fresh brand it uses for its UK online grocery operations.

Amazon said the store will be the first of a number of planned openings in London.

Teacher Sara Right said she thought it was “quite terrifying” that the store knew what people had bought.

/ Rachael Burford

Matt Birch, the former Sainsbury’s executive who now leads Amazon Fresh Stores UK, told PA the company has strived to make grocery shopping “as convenient as possible”.

“The focus was just creating a really easy shopping experience for customers,” he said.

“We recognise that UK customers want to shop in a convenient way so we really think they will appreciate being able to walk in and walk out with the shopping they need.”

The company said it has also launched a By Amazon range of hundreds of own-brand products for the stores.

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Prince Philip has ‘successful procedure’ for pre-existing heart condition and will remain in hospital

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/prince-philip-health-latest-procedure-heart-condition-hospital-b922091.html

Prince Philip has ‘successful procedure’ for pre-existing heart condition and will remain in hospital

The Palace said the duke, who turns 100 in June, would remain in hospital for treatment, rest and recuperation for a number of days.

The news came hours after a second trailer for Harry and Meghan’s highly-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey was released. In the clip, the Duchess of Sussex suggests “The Firm” – widely considered to be shorthand for the institution of the Royal Family – played a part in “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Thursday: “The Duke of Edinburgh yesterday underwent a successful procedure for a pre-existing heart condition at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

“His Royal Highness will remain in hospital for treatment, rest and recuperation for a number of days”.

Philip was was initially admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital on February 16 as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell.

The Palace later said he was being treated for an infection.

He was shielded from public view with umbrellas as he was transferred. The Palace later released a statement saying that he was “comfortable”.

Meghan Markle Oprah interview: ‘a lot has been lost already’

Philip has been treated for heart problems in the past. In 2011, he was rushed to hospital by helicopter from Sandringham after suffering chest pains as the Royal Family were preparing for Christmas.

In the serious health scare, he was treated for a blocked coronary artery at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire and underwent a minimally invasive procedure of coronary stenting.

The duke has spent most of lockdown residing at Windsor Castle with the Queen for their safety, alongside a reduced household of staff dubbed HMS Bubble. He and the Queen, who have been married for 73 years, have had their first Covid vaccine.

In the latest clip, Winfrey asks the duchess: “How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?”

She replies: “I don’t know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I … there is a lot that has been lost already.”

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Myanmar sees deadliest day as 38 killed amid ongoing protests

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/myanmar-deadly-protests-b922076.html

Myanmar sees deadliest day as 38 killed amid ongoing protests
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t least 38 people were killed in Myanmar on Wednesday in what UN officials are calling the “bloodiest day” since the force took over.

The death toll comes as mass protests, calling for the end of military rule and the release of the country’s elected government leaders, take place across the region.

UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said: “Today it was the bloodiest day since the coup happened on February 1.

“We have today – only today – 38 people died. We have now more than over 50 people who have died since the coup started and more have been wounded.”

This figure shared by the UN is consistent with other reports, however accounts are difficult to confirm inside the country.

<p>The military take over and the violent suppression of protests that soon followed have led to condemnation from the international community.</p>

The military take over and the violent suppression of protests that soon followed have led to condemnation from the international community.

/ REUTERS

Security forces were seen firing slingshots at protesters, chasing them down and beating an ambulance crew in a video showing a dramatic escalation of violence against opponents of last month’s military coup, according to the Associated Press.

The military take over and the violent suppression of protests that soon followed have led to condemnation from the international community.

Reacting to Wednesday’s deaths, the UK called for a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday, while the US said it was considering further action against Myanmar’s military.

The latest violence comes a day after Myanmar’s neighbours urged the military to exercise restraint.

Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested many protesters.

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