We have just seen a massive U turn by this government as a result of huge ground swell of public opinion against the proposed sell off of the Forestry Commission Estate. In the autumn of 2010, the campaign kicked off in the Forest of Dean with a huge public meeting in Cinderford which was attended by over 500 people and a rally in Speech House attended by 3000 people.

Tory MP Mark Harper was invited to speak at both these events to present his case, but refused. A number of organisations have been working together, uniting people from all political persuasions and utilizing a raft of different protest techniques. Right across the country communities have been organising to resist the sell off of their woodlands and have started to come together and to act in solidarity.

In the Forest, Harper recently gave only 24 hours notice to speak at a small venue in Coleford to introduce the consultation process and to present his proposals to give part of the Forest to a charity and sell the rest off. The meeting was packed inside and out, where about 300 demonstrators chanted slogans all night such as Hands off our Forest and Tunis – Egypt- Forest of Dean. Inside he was ridiculed by speeches from children to old age pensioners. He refused to speak to the people outside which caused great outrage and not surprisingly people were very angry when he tried to sneak out the back with full police protection.

In the Telegraph, Harper accused the Foresters of behaving like a “baying mob.” Other papers have described the U turn as a victory by middle England and the Tory Shires. This meeting will look the reality of these events and the politics of how a whole community united around a single issue and won. The night includes speakers from the Warren James group and short films of the protests and actions.

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