PROTESTERS claimed a 'partial victory' after evading security and police to invade Bonn Square, Oxford, in support of tree campaigner Gabriel Chamberlain.

A peaceful protest against its redevelopment began about midday yesterday.

But security guards and police stopped the campaigners from standing in the square and warned they could be arrested for trespassing.

As new security fences were being installed to surround the whole of the grassed area, protesters linked arms then forced their way into the square, chanting and waving flags and placards.

The barriers were then removed and about 50 campaigners were allowed in the square to protest without threat of arrest.

Gabriel Chamberlain, 34, has spent ten days camped in a threatened sycamore tree, which is surrounded by security fencing, in protest against the £1.5m redevelopment of the square and Westgate Centre.

His friend Brian Melling, 43, said: "It's not often you get a partial victory like this and forcing a council into reversing a decision.

"The council said they've consulted the public but you can see how many people are here and what they think of what they are doing."

Mr Melling also praised the police and security staff for the way they handled the protest.

Half of the square at the base of the tree Mr Chamberlain occupies remains cordoned off by fencing.

Although the protest began peacefully, it threatened to turn nasty when security guards began installing the fencing to close off the whole square at about 2pm.

About 50 protesters - including many youngsters - risked arrest by invading the grassed area and sat on the ground and war memorial and refused to move.

The barriers were taken down again at about 4pm - but the tree remains fenced off.

Protest organiser Danny Chivers, 29, said: "Hopefully, we can put enough pressure on the council so they realise this development is not good for Oxford."

Protester Derek Greig, 42, said: "What the council and police are doing is illegal - they can't arrest people for being in a public place.

"We came up and stood here to stop the barriers because we believe we should save the last piece of green area in Oxford city centre."

Tree protester Mr Chamberlain said he supported the protest.

Calling down from his tree he said: "I'm aching a little bit from sleeping on wood but I'm OK.

"I think what these people have done is great. It's not just about saving the tree but about saving the planet.

"This is the last bit of grass people can sit on in Oxford and they are going to turn it into stone. Why don't they just leave the grass."

He told bystanders he had been joined in his tree by a second protester, whom he named as Eddie Beaumont.

Mr Chamberlain's mother, Josephine Knight-Jacobs, joined the protest.

She said: "I think what he's doing is brilliant. I'm very proud of him. Too many people don't stand up enough in this country.

"I don't understand why they have to cut so many trees down. I'm a little bit worried about him - I don't want him to fall out of the tree."

No arrests were made.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said some barriers were put up by contractors.

But they were removed when contractors realised they did not have enough barriers to close off the entire area.