Here's the rest of my story. Police do seem to be trying to shut down the Runnymede Festival For Democracy - Land, Freedom & Community:
Police surrounded the Runnymede Eco Village as the Magna Carta weekend Festival For Democracy was to start, controlling entry. As I left a decision was awaited from police whether they would allow the peaceful free event to proceed.
Runnymede Eco-Village, who have been at Coopers Hill Coppice since June 2012, believe the eviction proceedings have been sped up so they can be removed before the Magna Carta celebrations in June. At an earlier court hearing, intended to remove them well before the official ceremonies nearby, the case was adjourned until a later date by the judge to give the residents more time to prepare their case.
The decision to have a a popular celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta at Runnymede to take place as well as the more formal and business-oriented celebrations being put forward by the district council and others was taken at a meeting I photographed at the Magna Carta memorial in June 2012. They had chosen the site after being stopped by police with an injunction preventing them from settling on any part of Windsor Great Park, when this site was pointed out to them as one that had remained unused for some years.
The companion charter to Magna Carta, enacted a few years later was the Charter of the Forest which allowed people to subsist in the commons, unused land such as these woods. The charter included a constitutional commitment to preserve the commons against becoming private property, which was largely ignored in later years when much of the countryside was enclosed.
Orchid Runnymede own the area but it is being developed by the site is being developed by luxury property developers Art Estates, part of the Royalton Group, who are currently working on the site of the former Shoreditch College, further up the hill. They claim they want to begin work on the part of the site currently occupied by the Eco Village, although most of it would appear to be the "67 acres of beautiful parkland" which they promise future wealthy residents their houses would be set in. The residents feel that the timing of the earlier eviction notice and the setting of the adjourned court date for this Monday, during the nearby official celebrations are politically motivated.
There were no police in sight when I arrived at 11.15am, but around 12.30 small groups gathered around each of the several entrances to the site. Some told resident that only residents would be allowed entry, and others who went out one entrance were told they would only be re-admitted by the same gate.
Many local residents support the Eco Village, who have generally been good neighbours. After setting up camp on the site they removed several skip-loads of rubbish - including fridges and other items that had been illegally fly-tipped there.
Police claim that other people had announced an intention to hold an illegal rave on the rugby pitch at the top of the site, and their action was to protect the Eco village from this invasion of the site. Many at the site feel that the 'rave' is simply a ruse put up by the authorities to try to close down the free festival.
As I left it was unclear if the free festival, with its long and distinguished line up of speakers, poets, singers and performers will be able to continue and in what form. It would indeed seem a travesty if at a time when we are celebrating 800 years of freedom under the law against the arbitrary power of the state acheived at Runnymede, the authorities should abuse the law by using those arbitrary powers to prevent a people's celebration of freedom.