Pictured: Lewisham and Greenwich Greens outside Kingsnorth Power Station
Last Sunday I took part in the march from Rochester to Kingsnorth Power Station to oppose E.On's plans to build a massive new power station on the site. I met a number of other people from Greenwich and Lewisham there, and there was a strong showing of Green Party members from across the country. The march heralded the start of Climate Camp, which culminated in a mass action to shut down the power station today.
The government and E.On's media spin doctors have been out in force, but Climate Camp activists are pretty effective at getting their story across too. If built, Kingsnorth will emit between 6 and 8 million tons of CO2 every year, which is even more than the proposed third runway at Heathrow would produce and would seriously undermine any other efforts we might make to cut carbon emissions.
A lot of media attention has focussed on the policing and the politics behind it. After I attended the march I headed for the climate camp. I wasn't planning to stay long, as I had to go to work the next day. I just wanted to pop in, take a look, meet a few friends and spend an hour or so there. So I set off on my bike from Kingsnorth to the climate camp.
As I got within about half a mile of the camp, I met some fellow London Greens heading back, also on bikes. The police were searching everyone before letting them into the camp and seizing all bike locks. We could kind of see why they might want to seize d-locks from a group of people who were open about their intentions to carry out direct action, so thought fair enough, we'll lock our bikes up here and walk down to the camp.
Before we had managed to do that, a police van pulled up and warned us that if we tried to lock our bikes there, the locks would be cut and the bikes taken. So we asked if we could lock just the locks there and take our bikes with us to the camp. Nope. In the end we took our chances and joined the queue to be searched. Just like queuing for the toilets in a nightclub, the queue for women to be searched was much longer than the queue for men, highlighting the gender inbalance in the police force. The reason they gave for searching me was for 'items for criminal damage'. Funnily enough, they didn't find anything. After much debate the police officer who searched me relented and let me lock my bike to a fence, while the person I was with hid his lock in a hedge and retrieved it later. Fortunately, when I returned after an hour it was still there, though other cyclists were less lucky - clearly us cyclists are a big terrorist threat, especially compared to climate criminals like E.On.
The policing of the whole event has been excessive, political and oppressive, not to mention a waste of £3m of public funds. Police have confiscated all sorts of innocuous items from protestors, ranging from soap and kid's crayons to an ironing board as activists on the video below outlines.
Today a fellow Green was arrested and detained for 5 hours for possession of vitamin c tablets - clearly a big threat to national security and justified use of draconian police powers, not. Met officers whose time would better have been spent dealing with genuine crime on our streets were also drafted in to intimidate protestors. Many of the officers on duty looked frankly embarassed at the orders they were given. Politicians from across the political spectrum have been critical of the policing of this event and rightly so.
I don't buy the 'all police are corrupt' line and at a local level I have worked closely with the Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood team on various issues. However, the actions and behaviour of the police at Climate Camp over the past week have made me deeply cynical, and all the more determined to exercise my democratic right to protest in the future.