bailliffs and police mounted a huge operation today to resume work at the leyton marsh olympic site. several people were arrested for public order offences after holding up work for several hours.
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article amended at 16:00 on 13th april 2012
you will see a clause removed below, and there is also an adjustment to a picture caption. i have done this while taking legal advice and pending further verification.
from early this morning, activists and local people held banners at the entrance to lea valley ice rink behind which lies the leyton marsh where the olympic delivery authority (ODA) have pushed through controversial building work on open metropolitan land. (see earlier report for details)
as a result of high court injunctions granted last week on behalf of the ODA and the lea valley regional park authority (LVRPA), work was expected to commence on the land this morning after a two week hold-up due to protest action by occupiers and locals.
a little before 8am this morning, several cars turned up containing around 16 bailliffs from 'sherbond enforcement'. one vanload of tsg also arrived nearby, although police kept a very low presence for a considerable time.
there are two injunctions currently in force. the first allows the LVRPA to recover their land and evict the small encampment which has grown up next to the building site. the second (a temporary injunction to be heard again on the 18th april) prevents 'persons unknown' from interfering in any way with the activities of LOCOG (london organising committee for the olympic games), or their agents, contractors etc, or from encouraging anyone else to do so.
at about 8.30, bailliffs started 'serving' the two writs' by throwing them at people's feet. however, anticipating this move, the camp had begun to move its tents and belongings to the grass verge next to lea valley road, outside the ice rink, and just outside the area covered by the injunction.
a little after 9am, i took a little look around and discovered half a dozen tsg vans plus other police vehicles parked about half a mile away on orient road, clearly ready for a massive operation.
some of the activists used one of the tents to block the main entrance to the site, and bailliffs moved in at around 9.40 to try to remove this tent and its occupants.
because at this stage the police did not seem to want to become involved, and as the bailliffs only had authority to move people to the edge of the injuncted area, a series of farcical events then ensued.
first, each time someone was removed, they quickly returned to the site and once again peacefully resisted the bailliffs' attempts to clear the area.
next, at around 10am, as workers approached a further gate to the compound, activists tried at first to keep the gates closed, but once opened, several entered the site with the workers. while a couple engaged the workers in dialogue, telling them about the toxic soil samples, the dangers to their own health and safety, and the highly flawed planning process, others jumped onto plant equipment, too high for ordinary bailliffs to safely remove them.
at 10.30, a small tanker lorry made its way slowly up the path to the first entrance, with bailliffs pushing protestors out of its path over and over.
activists and local people sat in front of the vehicle at the site entrance, and each time they were removed, more returned and kept up the obstruction.
two local women also crawled underneath the tanker with a young boy and a pet dog.
a couple of dozen tsg cops then showed up on the approach road, and at about 10.50, the protestors were warned they would face arrest if they continued to obstruct the work from carrying on. there was some confusion because police had clearly misheard their own instructions and claimed they were using powers under section 40 of the public order act, but eventually it became clear they were referring to section 14 which allows the imposition of conditions on a protest when it interferes with others going about their lawful business.
after several more minutes, police moved in and made a few arrests, although they were held up for a while by the women under the lorry as well as by a young man who jumped on to the roof of the vehicle. i saw four arrests, although the bbc have since reported six.
despite the threat of incarceration or fines due to 'contempt of court' which was threatened in the writs, it seems this sanction was not used.
several tipper lorries then moved onto the site.
even after the arrests, one man jumped over the fences into the site and managed to hold up a tipper lorry for a while before being manhandled off the site by bailliffs.
the resistance will continue, with massive support from local people and even some hackney councillors who were present today.
the campaigners are hoping for a fairer hearing on the 18th. they have complained that they were not given enough time to prepare a defence at the first hearing,[clause removed], and that the whole planning process was not only severely flawed, but that the ODA have already broken the terms of that permission.
one of the issues is that the consent was based on ODA undertakings to only remove 15cm of topsoil. one of my pictures clearly shows an area dug far deeper than that. the history of the land, and independent scientific analysis, both point to dangers of serious contamination not far from the surface.
there doesn't seem to have been a proper health and safety audit and it seems the HSE have not even received the necessary documentation relating to the building site.
as mentioned in my previous report, even waltham forest council's own documents admit that ordinarily consent would have been withheld "as a matter of principle", but refer to the "extraordinary circumstances" of the london olympics as the only reason to break a whole swathe of planning guidelines. this is the olympics that local people were not invited to vote for, and which is riding roughshod over democracy and health and safety.
actions will continue from the new camp on the verge, beginning with the first lorries of the day at 8am each morning. the injunction will be challenged on the 18th april at the high court.
relevant and very well-researched olympic info at www.gamesmonitor.org.uk
location; behind lee valley ice centre on lea bridge rd, E10 7QL
buses 55, 48, 56
10/15 mins walk from clapton overground