Protesters using bamboo towers
Bamboo has many great properties and wide application – lightweight, strong and an environmentally-friendly fibre.
A newer application for bamboo is the construction of “pop-up” protester towers to block roads/access and for protesters to lock themselves onto. Extinction Rebellion uses them regularly, as well as other protest groups such as Animal Rebellion.
Protester bamboo towers
The structures are made from bamboo poles (which are widely used in Asia in place of steel for scaffolding) held together with wires and transported as a bundle of poles. A bundle that can, however, be put up very quickly, reaching heights of up to 8 metres.
At the trial of Extinction Rebellion protesters for the Newsprinters action in Broxbourne, the Police commented that the structure took just seven minutes to assemble.
Because of the way they are constructed, they can be relatively easily brought on site – we know of a recent case where, shortly before a protest was planned, a couple of protesters walked on site dressed in company branded workwear with the poles carried under their arms.
No one gave them a second glance. That is, until the towers were erected and occupied quickly on the day of the protest.
Hazards and preventative action
There are many hazards associated with these bamboo structures, primary because, although bamboo itself is very strong, the wires holding the structures together make them flimsy and at risk of sudden collapse.
The structures are designed to only take the weight of one person and damage to just one of the wires will make it collapse.
In some protests, the protesters have gathered beneath the structure, putting themselves in danger should the tower fall down, especially if there is a protester locked-on to it.
To prevent this, we strongly recommend quick action on the part of our enforcement agents if on site, or the police if they are the ones attending, to prevent access to the structure by other protesters. This was the action undertaken by the Police during an Extinction Rebellion protest at Mansion House (the Blood Money March), where they erected three bamboo structures, but the Police officers stood around them to prevent anyone getting close.
How the National Eviction Team deals with bamboo towers
We come across these bamboo structures fairly regularly, as they become more commonplace.
While undertaking enforcement on the HS2 national infrastructure project, our old “friend” Swampy erected and then occupied a bamboo tower in the middle of a relatively shallow but swiftly flowing river, to try to prevent construction work continuing. Here are some pictures of our at-height enforcement team safely removing Swampy from his riverine tower.
As you can see, we have developed the approach of deploying our specialist at height team and equipment to remove the protesters from above and beside the flimsy structure.
We do find that some protesters have started adding canopies to the towers to try to prevent us from reaching them directly from above: we have therefore developed safe methods of working to remove both the canopies and the protesters whilst ensuring the integrity of the structure and its’ supporting wires.
Precisely how we do that will have to remain a trade secret, I’m afraid!