Euston tunnel protestor and 18-year-old activist has ‘no plans on leaving anytime soon’
Blue Sandford and other protestors have been underground for eight days
18-year-old Blue Sandford hasn’t been to school in weeks. She was already on school strike and had been camping out at Euston Square Gardens, protesting against the high speed railway project, Hs2, for the past few weeks. Then she got wind of a more radical idea that was being formulated. “Suddenly there was a tunnel, and we were all inside,” she said. Blue has been now been living underground for eight days. The 10-foot deep tunnel was dug to ensure protestors couldn’t be evicted from protesting at the Euston site. This tunneling strategy has been used before, pioneered over 20 years ago, with a familiar face behind its inception.
In 1997, environmental protestors in Devon dug a tunnel in the pathway of a proposed extension to the A30 motorway. They lasted a week, with Daniel “Swampy” Hooper being the last protestor to emerge on the seventh day. Swampy is down in the Euston tunnels now, having turned his efforts towards the £100bn HS2 railway development, which activists believe will cause significant damages to the climate. Trees and natural habitats are being destroyed in the construction of the railway, and Extinction Rebellion affiliated activists have vowed to put a stop to it.
Alongside Swampy is his son Rory Hooper, who is just 16 years old, Larch Maxey, an ex-Swansea University geography lecturer, reformed drug runner Scott Breen, and two other teenagers: Lazer and Blue Sandford, children of eco millionaire and XR catalyser Roc Sandford.
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Blue has been dubbed “Britain’s answer to Greta Thunberg” and celebrated her 17th birthday in a prison cell after being arrested at an XR protest in London in October 2019. It’s expected the activist may be arrested for a second time once protestors are eventually removed from the Euston tunnel, but Blue’s not scared. “I think we probably will get arrested to be honest – we haven’t got any warnings or anything though yet. But at this point I imagine a police cell will be so luxurious – we’ll have a toilet. We’ll be able to stand up!”
The thought of standing up is a genuine luxury for Blue at the moment, who has been “lying down mostly” for the best part of eight days. The group did some stretching yesterday because they lost the ability to touch their toes while sitting down. “It’s a bit of a struggle,” Blue told The Tab. “Most places in the tunnel you can’t really sit up, even in the down shaft you can just lie down, so sometimes people lie on top of each other in here.” Water also drips on the group constantly and mud and debris fall on them throughout the day. “I brought two pairs of trousers and my first pair got soaked so I changed, then the bailiffs took my first pair and my second pair and starting to get really wet and smell. We’re all starting to smell, we need a shower.”
As well as the cramped and damp living conditions, what’s most uncomfortable is the constant efforts of the bailiffs trying to extract them, Blue says. The bailiffs have been digging a parallel tunnel to the protestors to attempt to remove them, and the constant digging is keeping the protestors awake and means they have to stay vigilant constantly. “It’s very dangerous for them to try to extract you,” Blue said. “They have to get a harness on you and everything. And there has always got to be people keeping an eye on what the bailiffs are doing, so we sleep in shifts. We’ve got a sort of night shift going on right now. You just sleep and eat when you can.”
The group has enough food and water to last for weeks, and Blue says she has no plans on coming out “anytime soon”. Her school friends have seen her on the news and texted her in support, but she says people aren’t really shocked at all. “I think they’re like, surprised at first like ‘oh my God’, and then they’re like – ‘oh actually, of course she did that.'”
Blue doesn’t expect every young climate activist to dig a 10-foot tunnel underneath Euston, far from it, but she does urge everyone to do what they can to help. “Just make a start. Whether that’s direct action or not, everyone can be doing something. Cut down on what you’re consuming. Stop flying, go vegan. It sounds like greenwashing because ‘these things won’t make a difference on their own’ and they won’t, but we don’t have another choice. We have to do this.”
Featured image via XR Youth on Twitter.