I joined the anti-Trump demo near Chequers, where President Trump was meeting Prime Minister Theresa May this morning. The demo was at Butlers Cross, about a mile from Chequers. As the road past Chequers had been closed, this spot was the closest we could get to the big house.
About 400 protesters gathered at the crossroads where there were wide grass verges.
I had hoped for a walk but there was no one in charge, and no speeches or marches, just occasional outbreaks of chanting. (If it had been a Ramblers’ event it would have been better organised!)
There was a good selection of posters,
two giant puppets,
a pair in wigs,
and, despite the heat, a selection of knitted ‘pussy hats’.
There were plenty of police on hand, although they had little to do.
After a while I left the demo and walked back to Ellesborough. I took the footpath across the field to Beacon Hill, beautifully-shaped like a child’s drawing, on the Chiltern escarpment.
With some difficulty, we won a right to walk here under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The rooftop of Chequers are just visible from the top, so I wanted to check that access was not being denied on this demo day.
Because of the proximity of Chequers, Beacon Hill is surrounded by land where trespass has been made a criminal offence under section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. (In fact, at first the criminal-trespass land wrongly extended over the access land, and I had to lobby parliament to get it corrected—see here.)
Today all was well, there were about ten policemen on the other side of the fence but no one stopped me from walking where I had the right to go.
I chatted to some of the police. They had been drafted in from the West Midlands force and told me that, on account of Trump’s visit, all rest-days had been cancelled. In fact they were having quite a rest on the top of the hill in the shade of an awning, but that’s not the point.
Because of Trump’s insistence on visiting, they had been forced to desert their home patch, where already their numbers have been savagely cut, in order to ensure there were no incidents in Buckinghamshire.
There was a new temporary fence beyond the existing fence, and plenty of signs about criminal trespass—but the new, temporary signs had been prepared so quickly that no one had bothered to check the spelling of ‘trespass’.
It was pleasant to chat to the police and fill them in on rights-of-way and access law, on which they receive no training. They do not consider it to be a priority, but I am sure it would be useful to them.