The consequences of disloyalty, send in the developers !
Having friends is great. Someone you can have fun with, share good times and sometimes not so good. We all take it for granted that we are surrounded by people we enjoy spending time with but look at your friends closely. Can you really rely on them when the going gets tough? Would they support you in bad times no matter what? If you are lucky you will have at least one friend like that, someone you have known forever, who is always there for you. Me, I’m triple lucky, I met three all at the same time and only a few months back too when we were forced to stand side by side to protect nature. Within 24 hours of meeting these amazing people I knew that I would take a bullet for all of them and I’m happy to say it’s the same for all of us.
Within two months of meeting, we all proved that our loyalty to each other was beyond reproach.
We were brought together in a united bid to prevent a local building contractor from erecting fencing around a lovely piece of woodland with the intention of cutting down the trees in order to build 18 dwellings. We stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the local residents and we succeeded, the contractors left and we made plans! Our goal, to protect the beautiful wildlife from being illegally disturbed and prevent the loss of yet another piece of natural woodland.
We put up tents and occupied the land, determined to defeat local authority and builders. Those of us that could slept on site in turn and kept vigil 24/7. We were succeeding. Friendship’s developed as we stood together, thinking up new ideas, researching laws and building up a battle plan that would see the developer off for good. There were times we laughed and times we felt despair. It was hard! Lives were put on hold as we settled into a new routine of babysitting the birds.
We knew we were going to have a tough battle from day one, evidence of nesting birds gave us our initial stay of execution but we also knew it wouldn’t stop work forever. We had to act fast, we were up against the clock as much as the contractors.
A couple of residents came forward with a list of other wildlife also nesting in the woods and these became a huge focus for us. We worked tirelessly round the clock manning the site, documenting the various animals and birds, gaining as much evidence as we could. Work behind the scenes was exhausting, it involved a lot of research into wildlife laws, building regulations, dealing with solicitors and keeping in contact with various media outlets both local and national. News papers, TV and radio were all kept updated. All the while trying to come up with ways to raise vital funds for wildlife surveys and legal expenses.
The four of us pulled together so hard and we were making a lot of noise! Interested people came from all over to see the woods, sign petitions and contribute to our much needed funds. We were a happy, positive bunch of people from all walks of life united in one goal. Preservation. At all times we remained peaceful and aware of any impact we were having on the surrounding neighbourhood and the wildlife. We took great steps to remain within the law despite the odd couple of colourful characters we had to deal with who threatened violence towards the birds, nests and indeed ourselves. We maintained dignity despite some vile attacks, we were getting it right and, we were winning! We had stood up for our beliefs and proved that a united community is a strong one.
This is the point the tale turns nasty. Our success didn’t sit well with some, who I believe saw us as a spanner in the works. We had to be stopped. A meeting was arranged between us and the developers. We were strong, the only way to stop us, the group had to be split. We had to be made to look like a danger. It was obvious our reasons for protest were not being heard by the necessary ears and then accusations were wrongly made that we as a group were a possible threat of violence towards key company members and contractors and one man in particular, one of the four friends, was mentioned by name. It was a ridiculous accusation, the man was a local writer and photographer. He had strong links to local media that was primarily responsible for the best part of our publicity. He visited the site at random times to take pictures of the stunning views and nature which he used to promote our protest. He had never so much as raised his voice, was in no way a threat to anyone and he wasn’t even at the meeting. He complained but it was little more than shelved then forgotten. We moved on, the peaceful protesters refusing to desert the tranquil beauty of the woods.
A second meeting was held and forced to a close when once again the same man was mentioned as a threat of violence. Another uncalled for accusation that had a damaging affect on his business and social standing in the community. Time to fight fire with fire! An open social media account made interesting reading and was, we considered, very inappropriate for someone in such a high position of authority, details of which were also linked to the same account. Our friend published his own article, asking the question is this appropriate behaviour for someone in such a high position. Nothing illegal, threatening or false.
The end drew close when some of the residents, who didn’t want to be linked to the man trying to protect his good name and character from slanderous remarks, handed over a statement signed by several of them to one of the developers who we had fought so hard to stop. This statement was key to an innocent man being summoned to court, threatened with losing his home, business, good character and everything that goes with it. He was denied the chance to defend himself. He was ordered to remove all his reports from his media outlets, even ones with no link to the protest and he has been denied his right to free speech till 2019. In effect he has been gagged and threatened with eviction for being an honest peaceful man.
The refusal of those people to stand by our friend despite all the work he had put into the protest, largely on their behalf has left a brilliant photographer feeling he can no longer enter the woods or the street and has in fact led to all four of us backing away from the protest. Our loyalty to our friend and clearing his name is our priority now. We have all struggled to come to terms with what has been done to him. Sadly things haven’t gone well since we left the protest, accusations have been made of dishonesty targeting another friend which is also completely without grounds and also untrue. It came from people we thought were our friends. The protest has, so I hear, come to a close. The towel has been thrown in and the fences are to go up on 19th June. Of course we have also heard on the grapevine that we are being blamed for the failure but the truth is, till that fateful day when the residents decided to pull rank over loyalty and gave the developers the ammunition to see an innocent man in court, we had been on the verge of closing the building work down and now it looks to be going ahead. How can we be blamed for the repercussions of the actions of others. A battle needs a strong united army. Four of us have that. Like I said at the beginning, we would all take a bullet for each other. Would your friend do it for you?