LONDON (AP) – A prehistoric monument to Stonehenge in southern England was closed to visitors on Saturday after dozens of protesters lodged a complaint against the British government’s road-building plans, including a new tunnel near a World Heritage site.
The protesters, who identified themselves as an alliance of local residents, ecologists, activists, archaeologists and pagans, gathered at Stonehenge around noon.
English Heritage, a national charitable organization that manages hundreds of historic sites, soon decided to close Stonehenge to visitors “due to unforeseen circumstances” and said it was against the law for anyone to enter the monument area without their consent.
An English Heritage spokesperson said: “As long as we respect the right of people to demonstrate peacefully, we do not tolerate any disturbing or endangering behavior on the site and the people visiting or working here and the site.”
Wiltshire Police, a local police force, said “minor” protests “passed peacefully” and no arrests were made.
“While we are grateful that the protest was peaceful and dispersed quickly, we will remind people that it is against the law to commit a crime on stones,” the police force said in a statement.
Protests will take place less than a month after the government backed the .7 1.7 billion ($ 2.3 billion) tunnel project. The tunnel near Stonehenge is intended to facilitate traffic on the stretch of the A3030 highway, which has the potential for a gridlock.
The decision has drawn opposition from local residents as well as archaeologists. Opponents, who have initiated legal action against the project, say the tunnel will cause damage to the environment, wildlife and potential archaeological discoveries underground.
Protesters are also expressing concern about the government’s 27 27 billion road-building program, which it says runs counter to its objectives of reducing greenhouse gases.
“This is to come up with people who say we have enough,” said Dan Hooper, an environmental activist better known as Swampy. “Building more roads leads to more traffic and carbon.”
Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, was phased out 5,000 years ago on the flat lands of the Salisbury Plain, with a unique stone circle engraved with it in the late Neolithic period, about 25,000 BC.
The meaning of the site has been hotly debated, with some being more obviously foreign than others. English Heritage has recorded many revelations over the centuries – from Stonehenge to the coronation site for Danish kings or the Druid Temple to a cult center for healing or astronomical computers for predicting eclipses and solar events.
The interpretation, the charity said, is “a generally accepted prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun.”