Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Climate Camp – How was It For You?

Stand-out memories for me:

  • Watching the site transformed from a few tents in a field to a full-on sustainable community, education centre and action hub in a matter of days, despite the police confiscating half of the infrastructure.
  • Giving visitors tours of the camp and watching their preconceptions crumble.
  • Watching campers gently but firmly removing the police from the site on Sunday night using straw bales, wheelie bins, and bad karaoke.
  • Watching E.ON and Government officials squirming in the media as they attempted to defend their bonkers plan to build a new, dirty, coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth.
  • Chasing a BBC camera crew across a field towards a line of invading riot cops, and shouting “Wait! You can’t film them yet, it goes against the media policy, we need to have a meeting and reach consensus first!”. Strangely enough, they didn’t stop filming.
  • The resulting BBC interview with a riot cop who clearly had no clue why he was on the site. “We had intelligence received that said we needed to come onto the site”. A few riot police got into the camp at one point and stood there, bemused, with nothing to do: children were playing, toilets were being built, people were in workshops…five minutes later these cops were posing for photographs with campers. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues were beating unarmed campers round the head at a nearby gate in order to get onto this “dangerous” site. Utterly, horribly surreal.
  • Suddenly having to arrange transport for Arthur Scargill.
  • Performing poetry in the main marquee, around the campsite, and to the people on the barricades before the day of action. This is one of the main reasons why I write this stuff.
  • Not knowing whether to laugh or cry at this headline in the local paper. The picture shows a children’s play area that campers had built in the shape of a pirate ship; surprisingly, we had no plans to launch this onto the Medway. On the day, of course, everyone on the boats was completely safe and many got close to the power station before being nabbed by the water police.
  • Discovering that the camp was a major news story, despite the Olympics and Russia/Georgia; we even got an episode of Newsnight about coal vs. nuclear. It was also pretty much the only story in the local media all week, with the ITV Meridian reporter getting especially excited – his breathless, war-zone style reporting from above the scene on Saturday is particularly recommended. Watch it and tell me he’s not thinking “My big break at last – next stop Basra!”.
  • Realising that this was the biggest Climate Camp yet, despite everything the police were doing; feeling buoyed up and more powerful than I’ve felt in a long time, as part of this amazing and growing community of resistance.


One fact that I currently love is that despite the extraordinary provocation, all of the 2,500+ people who came to the camp and on the action remained non-violent throughout. You can guarantee that if there was a single bit of evidence of anyone fighting back against the police, the cops would have plastered it all over the media by now – but no. The only “violent clashes” (how the media love those words) that we’ve seen anywhere have been police trying to break (unlawfully) into a peaceful, legal camp, and attacking unarmed people with batons and pepper spray. There were a few “scuffles” (another favoured media term) on Saturday, as people were whacked by the cops as they did dangerous things like walking towards a power station carrying a banner, or trying to climb over a fence, but again there was only peaceful resistance from the campers. The term the police use for this is “obstruction”, and it’s no surprise that this was the most common thing that people were arrested and charged with – 25 arrests out of 132, and 21 charges out of the 50 charges we know about (I’m thinking about publishing a summary arrest list here if I can get hold of the relevant information).

That’s right – the supposed “hardcore, violent minority” that the police love to talk about didn’t show up. Again. For the third year in a row. Instead, we had thousands of peaceful and committed people taking meaningful action for climate sanity and global justice.

The Camp for Climate Action is holding a “What Next?” meeting in Manchester on the 26th – 28th September. It’s open to all, and it should be great. I’ll post more details here when I have them.

(All photos taken from the Climate Camp website - loads more can be seen here.)

1 comment:

Bona said...

You write very well.