Activists who occupied treehouses and tunnels to try to prevent the construction of the second runway at Manchester airport are to reunite on 20th May, twenty years to the day after the process of evicting them began.
At least a dozen veterans are expected to meet at 11:30AM at Northcliff Chapel, Styal, to walk along the Bollin Valley for a rally by the Airport Inn (formerly The Moat House) at 1PM. They will then visit the site of some of the camps near the Bollin tunnel.
In 1997 over a hundred campaigners had occupied five camps in the Bollin Valley to prevent the construction of the runway. Many were veterans of the campaign against the Newbury Bypass the year before, and included the activist Swamp. Local supporters included Terry Waite.
Evictions began with a violent raid on the Zion Tree camp in the early hours of 20th May by unknown ‘Men in Black’, but after that the removal of the protesters was peaceful and relations with the police and bailiffs were good. (2) The protest ended on 16th June when Matt Benson was removed from his tunnel after seventeen days underground.
Veteran Martin Porter, who is now the Coordinator of the Manchester Greenpeace Network said “If Newbury was the Woodstock of the 1990s road protest movement, then Manchester Airport was the Isle of White Festival. A lesser campaign, although still a significant one, but also the end of the road for some, including Swampy. We failed to save 400 acres of Cheshire greenbelt and we failed to stop the airport becoming the main source of greenhouse gas emission in Greater Manchester. However in 1997 we thought we’d all be at Heathrow the next year to stop the third runway there. As that still hasn’t happened there is hope for a saner transport policy.”
“There are still some questions about the evictions, such as who were the ‘Men in Black’ who raided the camps, wore no ID, and disappeared without making any arrests. Were they the SAS on a morning excursion? It would be interesting to know the truth. However mainly the day will be about meeting old friends, sharing old stories, and planning new campaigns. Two decades may have passed, but we still want to change the world.”