Climate Camp Returns

August 26, 2009

Last years camp at Kingsnorth

Last year's camp at Kingsnorth

Yep. The Camp For Climate Action is returning for the third year, somewhere within the M25. Unusually, the organizers have opted to urge activists to congregate at several “swoop” locations (see here) by 12 noon, from which they will make their way to the camp site proper. I’ll be wandering down to Bank, site of Ian Tomlinson’s execution in April 2009, but I don’t think I’ll be able to pitch camp this time around. Weekend travel commitments, alas.

There has been a fair amount of coverage in the media so far (most of which is accessible via the Camp’s Twitter page), with my favourite comment coming from the evergreen Tony Benn, talking to the Guardian’s Leo Hickman:

“This is how I believe change occurs. If you raise an issue, it’s usually ignored. Then if you go on, you’re labelled as mad. If you go on further, you’re dangerous. Then there’s a pause. Then you can’t find anyone at the top who doesn’t claim to have thought of it in the first place. That’s how progress occurs.”

In which case, where along this road towards change are the Climate Campers?

“Well, I think they’re beyond madness,” Benn says, “and halfway beyond dangerous towards that pregnant pause” •

The Camp has swiftly become an indispensible component of the British environmental movement. Indeed, its incarnations at Drax power station in Yorkshire, Heathrow airport and Kingsnorth power station in Kent, have been the major stimulus to direct action across the UK. Nowhere else provides a forum for like minded committed activists to network and plan, share knowledge and techniques and, perhaps most importantly of all, to summon up the collective courage to take on vested interests and an all too somnolent public opinion.

It’s a bit discouraging to see the proportion of media attention garnered by the policing of previous protests, but even this is in some ways a positive sign. This is obviously an important issue – police brutality was rife against the peaceful Climate Camp protest in London’s Bishopsgate earlier this year, while policing of previous Camps has been draconian (embarassingly so for the forces involved). In a mark of the success that the Camp’s PR tactics have had, the Met Police have gone out of their way to appear cuddly and docile, promising an end to kettling tactics (or at least “no ring of steel”) and a “neighborhood policing” strategy.

The death of Ian Tomlinson at the hands of testosterone charged and poorly trained police at the G20 protests has chastened the Met, which is in itself a tough thing to achieve. Internal discontent at the tactics employed against those protests is also weighing on the force, which clearly wishes to avoid a massive confrontation with protesters. Don’t, however, discount massive surveillance, searches, removal of property and arrests on the fringe of the camp. Such practices will inevitably occur, but the context is promising. It should be a great event, weather permitting.


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