Archive - Jan 17, 2006
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The Government of India should draw the attention of the US to the bloodshed in Balochistan and impress upon it the need to raise this issue with Mr. Shaukat Aziz. Baloch nationalists, including their activists in their diaspora, should also draw the attention of US officials and Congressmen to bleeding Balochistan. Carrying the details of the situation, including dramatic pictures, on their web sites, as they are already doing, is important and they should continue to do it, but that alone is not sufficient for educating the international community. More pro-active initiatives are called for such as constantly keeping policy-makers, parliamentarians and Congressmen and opinion-moulders in different countries informed and seeking their initiative in raising this issue with Pakistan and its military dictatorship.
Today, the police surrounded Middle site and arrested two more people.
The road to Dalkeith closed by police and four arrests were made on Monday! Help Needed!
KATIE EMSLIE AND GARETH ROSE
THE eviction of protesters living in trees in Dalkeith Park began today as police and sheriff officers moved in to remove them.
This morning, a specially trained team of eviction officers scaled trees using ropes and wearing crash helmets to evict the eco-warriors camping in the park in a bid to thwart work on the Dalkeith Bypass.
An estimated 20 protesters have made makeshift homes in trees, using ropes and netting, while others have dug tunnels, hoping to prevent the felling of trees to make way for a Â£30 million A68 bypass.
The 20-strong eviction team, brought in from Wales, began the eviction by cordoning off a clump of trees close to the Thornybank Industrial Estate in Dalkeith, near Langside Farm, shortly before 8am to remove four protestors.
Teams of police officers and eviction team members stood at the foot of the trees surrounded by protest banners with "Save our trees", "No Bypass" and "Stop the road. Halt greed", written on them.
As a crane waited on standby, officers scaled one of the trees where protesters wrapped in sleeping bags had wound themselves up in a cargo net, having used cutting gear to trim some of the lower branches.
By 11am today, one male protestor had left the site of his own accord and they hoisted down another bearded man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and he was escorted off carrying his backpack and plastic bags and driven away in a police van.
Supt Finlay Borthwick of Lothian and Borders Police said: "A man has been arrested and is expected to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court tomorrow charged with a public order offence."
Another man, from Aberdeen, was still camping up a tree and a fourth person was chained to a steel trap on the ground which he claimed was attached to a tunnel.
Authorities today said they believed it would take two weeks to remove all the eco-warriors and it is estimated the operation will cost up to Â£1.4m, or Â£100,000 a day.
It is understood that if the protestors descend peacefully, they will not face charges.
But warrants have now been issued for their removal and in the early exchanges this morning the group showed no signs of being willing to leave their posts.
A 43-year-old protester from Midlothian, who would give his name only as Fudge, said the demonstrators realised they were about to be evicted when Swansea-registered National Eviction Team (NET) vans were spotted in Dalkeith town centre yesterday.
Police vehicles were also seen parked in a farm track a few hundred yards from the Langside protest site overnight.
He said: "We always knew we would get evicted, it's a foregone conclusion.
"But as long as we have done all that we can do to raise awareness about what's going on, then it's worth it.
"I'm just a local man forced into direct action.
"I'm not grabbing the limelight but yesterday I went to Dalkeith Police Station and put myself forward as the liaison person for the team."
He said he had been up all night taking food to protesters in the different sites.
The specially-trained National Eviction Team is working on behalf of the Sheriff's Office with the backing of Lothian and Borders Police.
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said: "They are being given the chance to move by themselves. If they do not then they will be moved by the eviction team.
"There have been regular discussions but the protestors have so far refused to leave the site."
Workmen are on standby to start chopping down trees as soon as the protestors have been removed to stop the demonstrators returning to the park and restaging their protest.
The eviction teams are likely to stay on site during day light hours, and will probably leave at 3pm or 4pm each day.
POLICE and security teams clashed with tree protesters yesterday in the path of a bitterly fought-over Â£40 million bypass.
In scenes reminiscent of the environmental roads protests of the 1990s, dozens of police and trained eviction officials swarmed at first light on to the woodland site of the proposed A68 Dalkeith northern bypass on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
More than a decade after the drawn-out battles over the infamous Newbury bypass, the flashpoint this time was parkland which campaigners say will be lost if the road scheme, already approved, goes ahead.
There was no Swampy this time, but his spirit was present among those who were eventually brought to ground yesterday by climbing experts wearing hard hats and using cranes.
It was nearly nine hours before the last of four entrenched protesters was safely removed from a series of perches and boltholes.
The protesters had been living in the trees since October.
Last night, work to fell the occupied trees in the line of the bypass was being carried out, with the task expected to continue today.
Further similar evictions at three other nearby sites where about 16 more protesters are holding out are expected to be carried over the coming weeks.
Officials who carried out the eviction operation at Langside, just outside Dalkeith Park, said the day's task had gone according to plan and without major incident.
"The last of the four protesters was taken away from the site at 4:50pm and now work to fell the trees can begin," a spokeswoman for Transport Scotland, the new national transport agency dealing with the A68 project, said.
"No-one was hurt or injured during the course of the day," she added.
Last night, campaign groups who had supported the protesters, along with opposition politicians, urged the Scottish Executive to reappraise the need for the scheme.
Matters came to a head yesterday morning when police and members of the National Eviction Team - which has dealt with similar protests in other parts of the UK - arrived to serve warrants.
When the warrants were served, one of the four protesters left the site voluntarily. Another was removed from the treetops, while a third man was being brought down.
The fourth protester, who was under a metal plate under the ground, was the last to leave after darkness.
Lothian and Borders Police said last night that four men had been arrested.
Earlier, a 43-year-old protester from Midlothian, who gave his name only as Fudge, said the demonstrators realised that they were about to be evicted when Swansea-registered vans of the National Eviction Team (NET) were spotted in Dalkeith town centre at the weekend.
He said: "We always knew we would get evicted; it's a foregone conclusion. But as long as we have done all that we can do to raise awareness about what's going on, then it's worth it.
"I'm just a local man forced into direct action."
Five oak trees at the Langside site need to be cut down to make way for the bypass.
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland explained: "The reason this is being done now is environmental. It is outwith the bird-breeding season, so it is the best time to take them down."
But protesters fear that the road will destroy a large part of Dalkeith Park - an area of more than 1,000 acres of woodland and farmland.
They argue that it is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, cyclists, anglers, horse-riders, walkers and others, and they claim it is visited by as many as 50,000 people every year.
By cutting the park in two, they say that the new Dalkeith northern bypass will endanger the wildlife there.
However, Transport Scotland was stressing yesterday that the bypass would not go through the formal part of the park.
The spokeswoman said: "The bypass has been wanted locally for a number of years. Without it, about 800 heavy goods vehicles a day will continue to go through the centre of Dalkeith, so there are environmental, congestion and noise issues locally.
"A lot of investigation was done before the route was chosen, but the route has to go through the park at some point to give any benefit to Dalkeith."
However, after the evictions there were calls for a rethink over the scheme. Colin Fox, the Lothians MSP and leader of the Scottish Socialist Party, backed the protesters.
He said: "Despite the actions today, the basic demand of the protesters remains - that the proposed route of the bypass should be reassessed in the context of the changing profile of the transport network and the value of Dalkeith Park as a natural and recreational resource."
Mark Ballard, a Green MSP for the Lothians, described the new bypass as a "prime example of the Executive's poor planning and reckless use of public money".
The Langside site was being secured last night to ensure that more protesters do not attempt to climb the trees again.
The protests at Twyford Down and Newbury in the 1990s first brought the actions of so-called eco-warriors to the attention of the public.
The disobedience that marked the "Third Battle of Newbury" in 1996 involved a thousand people living in trees, down holes or in rudimentary camps along the route, while the authorities tried to force them out.
They were evicted dramatically by an army of several thousand police, 2,000 security guards, professional climbers, private detectives, bailiffs, sheriffs and others, who were employed by the then Conservative government at a cost of more than Â£6 million.
The eco-warriors of Pickle Dirt, almost two months into life in their tree houses above a Midlothian river, had to wait their turn yesterday.
At another encampment a quarter of a mile away across Dalkeith Country Park, a Â£1.4m Scottish Executive-led eviction operation to allow a controversial new road to be built had swung into action.
Faced with a specialist climbing and tunnelling team from Wales with experience of clearing protesters, four of the five-strong band illegally occupying the wooded area at Langside Farm came quietly.
One solitary figure, angry at the planned Â£40m route through the 850-acre A-listed park, was not for leaving voluntarily. He yelled and kicked out at his rope-carrying captors who were forced to scale a 60ft oak tree to carry out a sheriff's orders.
For the hard-hat experts of the National Eviction Team (Net), called in to breach the barricades, it was their toughest task. It took several hours before he was persuaded to end his protest.
Since November the Langside group had built a network of ropes and platforms on trees that the executive's new transport agency needs to be felled before work can begin on the by-pass.
Like 15 other colleagues at the other encampments â€“ Langside, Sandyrigg, Castlestead and one by the River Esk on ground called Pickle Dirt â€“ they had been anticipating the eviction move after a court order last month. But when 8.30am arrived yesterday and the Â£100,000-a-day operation began, even the protesters could not have imagined the strength of the turnout by the authorities, who have scheduled two weeks for the job.
Supported by about 30 officers from Lothian and Borders police as well as paramedics, Roderick McPherson, one of Scotland's most senior sheriff officers, had recruited a 70-strong team.
With G8-style fencing and yellow tape indicating "sheriff's office â€“ do not enter" in place around the woods and details of the warrant announced by Mr McPherson, Net set to work. It was almost two and a-half hours later before the first of those ignoring the eviction order was brought to the ground, hooked on to green-jacketed Net climbers.
Immediately arrested, he was driven away in a police van backed up to within feet of the cordoned-off area which, in parts, was strewn with rubbish, including a young pheasant's head.
A second demonstrator added some light relief to an operation carried out in cold and often overcast weather conditions.
Asked where he came from, he said: "From Aberdeen where men are men and sheep are scared."
Indicating his anger at "pointless" attacks on the green belt he lay back, allowing himself to be lowered in a net by climbers balanced on three separate trees.
For a while, it seemed only one man remained defiant, but movement then indicated another tree dweller.
After the site was cleared late yesterday afternoon, an ecologist examined the oak trees for the presence of bats.
Given the all-clear, the trees are now likely to be felled today and the specialist team will move to a second site.
The men removed from Langside who argue the park, eight miles from Edinburgh, is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, cyclists, anglers, horse-riders and walkers, will appear today at the city's sheriff court charged with public order offences.
An executive spokeswoman said yesterday's operation had gone slowly, but smoothly.
"We have sought and gained warrants to remove them and it is the start of that process today," she said.
Colin Fox, Lothians MSP and leader of the Scottish Socialist party, backed the demonstration. He said: "The protesters are not revolutionaries, but their basic demands for a reassessment of the situation have fallen on deaf ears, and so they are forced into a situation in which non-violent direct action is necessary to make their voice heard."
Mark Ballard, the Green MSP, insisted the by-pass was a waste of money and called for a public inquiry into the plan.