During the 1990s, disillusionment with mainstream political processes, and frustration with consumer culture led to the emergence of a do-it-yourself countercultural movement which came to be defined by certain characteristics:

  • Methods of disruptive direct action and civil disobedience
  • Opposition to the car, its dominance of public space, its polluting impact on the planet and the destructive impact of road building
  • A focus on civil liberties and democratic rights.

1990s direct action employed, adapted and updated tactics learned from the peace and squatters movements. Their actions were not only simply symbolic or disruptive but preventative. They camped on the building sites of proposed new roads in order to block clearance and construction. Protest communities would appear on a protested site and remain until there they were removed. The most dedicated protesters lived transient lives travelling from one protest camp to another.

Like the campaigners that went before them, particularly the squatters, anti-road activists understood how to command the media, how to produce their own presses and websites and how to navigate their legal boundaries in order to avoid eviction and arrest.

Their strategies for avoiding eviction were so effective that new legislation was created. The controversial Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) was not only introduced in response to 1990s direct activism, but it also played an important role in shaping the movement. Part V of the Act 'Public Order: Collective Trespass or Nuisance on Land gave the police new powers to stop and remove trespassers, squatters, campers and ravers.

The Act meant that disruptive direct action was often redefined as 'anti-social behaviour'in the eyes of the law.

Reclaim the streets


Treehouses and tunnels