Camp for Climate Action

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Setting up camp at Blackheath in August 2009

The Camps for Climate Action are campaign gatherings (similar to peace camps) that take place to draw attention to, and act as a base for direct action against, major carbon emitters, as well as to develop ways to create a zero-carbon society. Camps are run on broadly anarchist principles - free to attend, supported by donations and with input from everyone in the community for the day-to-day operation of the camp. Initiated in the UK, camps have taken place in England at Drax power station, Heathrow Airport, Kingsnorth power station in Kent, the City of London and The Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters, near Edinburgh. During 2009 camps also took place in Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Netherlands/Belgium, Scotland, Wales and Australia.

General[edit]

Electricity for the Camp is generated from solar panels

Camps are organised through the preceding year with a series of monthly meetings, previously held in Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Leeds, Bristol, London, and Talamnh (near Glasgow). Anyone is welcome to attend a planning meeting and to join one of the working groups. There were no 'leaders' and meetings used consensus decision making. Camps are run entirely by volunteers and are funded by private donations.

Much of the material used to create structures for the camp is reclaimed waste from building sites which would otherwise have been sent to a landfill. Compost toilets, comprehensive recycling, grey water systems and a pedal-powered laundries.[1] The site of the camp is divided into loosely bounded 'neighbourhoods', most corresponding to geographic region (one exception being the queer neighbourhood of the 2006 camp). Daily consensus-based meetings are held in each neighbourhood, with spokes-people sent to a central meeting. It is considered to be in the nature of the camp that organisational structures are loose and reflexive, so as to be open to change if they are not seen to be effective or efficient.

During the camp there's a lot of training on practical skills (including consensus decision-making) to be able to run such camps, different aspects of taking direct action, as well as a large number of workshops on themes of sustainability and climate-related issues.[2]

Power for lighting, radios, mobile phones, sound equipment and laptop computers was supplied by solar panels and a wind turbine. Biodiesel from recycled cooking oil was available for vehicles. Cooking used conventional propane cylinders.[3] In 2007 a satellite up-link was installed, together with a media tent with ten laptop computers,[4] this was also used to send media to the press as well as Indymedia UK.[5]

In 2008, a new sound system made its first appearance at the Camp for Climate Action. All of the system was made from recycled materials, except its battery. During the stop searches the battery was dropped and damaged yet the sound system still worked throughout the camp. This sound system mainly played reggae/lovers rock and dubstep at Gate 5 throughout the night and during the raids. The sound system was powered by a 12-volt leisure battery, charged using solar power. A car amp was used to power the speakers the system was mono and the amp was bridged. The sound system was built by Onedread and Dec. 'Son of pedals' sound system was another sound system at the Camp for Climate Action Video.

There is a strong emphasis on the use of bicycles and public transport, including a Bicycology tour from London via Lancaster.[6]

As the United Nations has reported that "livestock is a major threat to environment"[7][8] all food is vegan, mostly organic and locally sourced to minimise food miles, provided by communal neighbourhood kitchens, many associated with the Social Centres Network.

List of Camps for Climate Action[edit]

Climate camps started in the UK but have now taken place in a number of countries

Action Location Date
Drax power station North Yorkshire, England August 2006
Heathrow Airport London, England August 2007
Kooragang#Kooragang Island Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia July 2008[9]
Kingsnorth Power station near London, England August 2008
Climate camp in the city London, England April 2009
Coal Caravan Northern England May 2009[10]
Mainshill wood Scotland August 2009[11]
Ffos-y-Fran mine Wales August 2009[12]
Antwerp Bulk Terminal (ABT) coal terminal Antwerp, Belgium August 2009[13]
Aéroport du Grand Ouest Nantes, France August 2009[13]
West Offaly Power station Shannonbridge, Ireland August 2009[14]
Blackheath London 2009 Blackheath, London, England August 2009[15]
One of six 'climate action camps' across Canada Edmonton, Canada August 2009[16]
Climate Camp Aotearoa (New Zealand) Wellington, New Zealand December 2009[17]
Raffinerie de Normandie Le Havre, France July 2010[13]
Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters Gogarburn, Edinburgh August 2010[18]

A camp happened in October 2009 at Helensburgh near Sydney, which is the site of Australia's oldest coal mine.[19]

Drax 2006[edit]

Climate camp with Drax power station in the background

The camp was on a squatted site in the Vale of York, situated close to several large power stations including Drax, a coal-fired power station which is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK.[20]

Over one hundred and sixty workshops ran throughout the camp, sharing practical skills on living sustainably, on subjects such as the science of climate change, environmental justice and the effects of climate change on people in the global South, corporate 'climate criminals', direct action, children's workshops, and many more.

Music was turned off after 11pm - 'Power Down' - to allow campaigners (with or without families) to sleep. But on the last Monday of the camp music was allowed much later.

Day of action[edit]

On 31 August 2006, up to 600 people attended a protest called Reclaim Power converging on Drax and attempting to shut it down. There was a 'kids march' to Drax Power Station, with a giant ostrich puppet, made by The Mischief Makers. Two protesters climbed a lighting pylon at the edge of the Drax site and four others broke through the fence.[21] At least 3,000 police officers, from 12 forces from as far afield as Hampshire and London, were reported to have been drafted in for the duration of the protest. Thirty-eight protesters were arrested. The police reported that work at the power plant was not disrupted, though eyewitnesses reported having locked-on to various machinery inside the power station, thus stopping work. No coal went into Drax that day, with the railway line in being blocked off.[22]

Other protests arising from the camp included a protest against a nuclear power station in Hartlepool, Teesside.[23]

Media response[edit]

The Guardian reported that the Camp marked a turning point in grass-roots campaigning against the causes of climate change.[24] The network forged at the Camp continues to work on campaigns to highlight and tackle the causes of climate change, participating in actions drawing attention to (for example) road building[25] and the climate effects of cheap air travel.[26] Days of climate action on different themes have been called by this Network for Climate Action.

Heathrow 2007[edit]

A 'memorial' to the village of Sipson which would be completely destroyed to make way for a new runway for Heathrow airport

The 2007 camp (51°29′20″N 0°26′43″W / 51.48889°N 0.44528°W / 51.48889; -0.44528) ran from 14 to 21 August 2007 near London Heathrow Airport next to the village of Sipson on a disused sports ground owned by Imperial College London.[27] Sipson would disappear from the map if the third runway at Heathrow was built.[28] It was preceded by 'Our Place' arts weekend, a community arts project run by activists for local residents on 11 & 12 August at St Mary's Church Hall in Harmondsworth, another village which would be severely affected by the building of a third runway.[29]

During the camp there were also protests by Plane Stupid, who were injuncted from protesting at Heathrow. On 13 August Plane Stupid activists boarded a barge transporting an Airbus A380 wing[30] and on 16 August at London Biggin Hill Airport. 15 protesters chained themselves to its main gates and caused a "long queue of luxury cars waiting to get into the airport to build up".[31]

Climate activists blockade British Airports Authority's headquarters for day of action.

On 19 August, the final day of the camp some 1000-1400 people took part in a 'Day of Action' and 200 people blockaded British Airports Authority HQ.[32]

As protesters left on 20 August protests took place against two carbon offset companies, Climate Care and the Carbon Neutral Company on 20 August when campaigners dressed as "red herrings" protested at the offices in Oxford London, five people blocked the main gate at Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk, and a group invaded the London offices of Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm which is behind the expansion of Leeds-Bradford Airport, and a dozen protesters superglued their hands to entrance doors at BP's headquarters in central London. A total of 58 people were arrested.[32]

Injunction[edit]

There was a relaxed atmosphere between police and protesters during parts of the camp

BAA's proposed injunction would have restricted the movements of 5 million people from 15 different organisations, including the RSPB, Greenpeace, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, the Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth, and the National Trust, among others.[33][34][35] As such the injunction would technically have included the Queen; patron of the RSPB and CPRE, Prince Charles; in his position as President of the National Trust, and even some of BAA's own staff.[36][37] The ruling was sought under the auspices of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, originally intended to help the victims of stalking,[36] but now frequently used against protesters. In the end BAA won a very much more limited injunction[38] and the camp went ahead amid considerable worldwide publicity.[39] Afterward, Duncan Bonfield, BAA director of corporate affairs, and Mark Mann, BAA head of media relations, resigned without stating their reasons.[40]

Policing[edit]

Policing for the camp was estimated to have cost £7 million by Scotland Yard, though this included £4.3m for costs such as salaries which would have been spent anyway.[41] The Evening Standard put the costs at £70 million without explaining how it reached that figure.[35]

The inside of the media tent and the climate camp at Heathow. 10 workstations, with live satellite up-link and powered on renewable energy

In 2007 the police made preventive searches under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The camp was heavily attended by a force of 1,800 police, who carried out searches, including some vehicles, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2006, and took photos of protesters entering and leaving the camp.[42] On Sunday 19 August there were scuffles between protesters and police officers outside the offices of BAA at Heathrow, which were being targeted in a day of direct action by some of the protesters.[43]

Journalistic access[edit]

In relation to the 2007 the National Union of Journalists issued a public statement expressing "deep concern" over a proposed draft policy toward media access during its 2007 event.[44] The camp media team replied to the NUJ criticism by stating: "The policy is a compromise that attempts to provide reasonable media access whilst respecting participants' right to privacy".[45] On 9 August 2007 the proposed policy was amended to remove any possibility of blacklisting some journalists or giving sympathetic journalists longer access.[46]

Kingsnorth 2008[edit]

Kingsnorth power station, seen from across the River Medway estuary, Medway, Kent

The 2008 camp (51°26′23″N -0°32′54″E / 51.43972°N 0.54833°E / 51.43972; 0.54833) took place in Kent, near E.ON UK's Kingsnorth power station, and run from 4 to 11 August to highlight E.ON's plans to build another coal-fired power station, which would be the first to be built in thirty years in the UK.

The action was also to highlight what is seen as an expansion to the fossil fuel economy, by corporations and government, and what activists claim is a demand for the opposite by scientific consensus. Furthermore, the camp attempted to challenge the businesses which will profit from the agrofuel industry, which they see as false solutions to the problems of climate change.[47][48]

The climate camp, looking towards Kingsnorth power station

The camp began with a one-day event at Heathrow, the site of the previous year's camp followed by a march across London to Kingsnorth power station, in common with seven other camps globally that were targeting coal.[47]

Over 200 workshops and debates were held during the camp, including ones with George Monbiot, Caroline Lucas, Arthur Scargill and John McDonnell MP.[49] Arthur Scargill, former General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and Dave Douglass, attended the camp to represent many in the mining community who disagreed with the protesters' anti-coal position which they saw as a continuation of the state's assault against them stemming back to the UK miners' strike (1984–1985). They addressed the campers highlighting the oppressive conditions that miners face all over the world put forth their arguments especially against nuclear power. They also expressed solidarity with the camp against police repression and urged a class perspective.

On Saturday 9 August the protesters attempted to shut down the power station. The day was organised to highlight the impact on climate change with activists marching to Kingsnorth power station. Violent scenes developed between the police and the protesters, with many non-threatening protesters being hit and knocked to the ground by police with batons.[50]

The camp provided facilities that many of the people needed such as showers, cheap food, internet access, entertainment, a TV studio and medical services. Complaints were made about the excessive policing of the event which are now being investigated officially.

On 11 August 2008, several protesters from Oxford and Thames Valley Climate Action glued their hands to the doors of BHP Billiton's headquarters in protest of the use of coal as a fuel. BHP Billiton is the world's largest coal producer.[51]

Policing[edit]

1,500 officers were involved at an estimated cost of £5.9m,[52] there were over 100 arrests[53] and some 2000 'potentially harmful' items were confiscated[54] At the time ministers at the time claimed that 70 officers had been injured in the course of their duties.[52] However data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in March 2009 showed that no injuries were sustained by the police in clashes with demonstrators and the claim was retracted by Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister stating that "there were no recorded injuries sustained as a result of direct contact with the protesters".[52] It was also revealed later that amongst the confiscated items were balloons, crayons, and a clown outfit, cycle helmets, plastic buckets, books, life-jackets, inflatable dinghies, paddles and foot pumps.[54]

At the time local MP Bob Marshall-Andrews said that some policing was "provocative and heavy-handed"[55] and Caroline Lucas MEP condemned police tactics, which included riot police, pepper spray and routine stop and search of everyone entering and leaving the camp.[56] In March 2009 the Independent Police Complaints Commission said there was significant public concern at the policing of the camp which should be addressed. These included issues about misconduct, but also in regard to operational tactics including claims that officers used loud music at night to disrupt protesters who were trying to sleep.[57]

Before the camp started police had found weapons hidden in nearby woods which included knives, a replica throwing star and a large chain and padlock. Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge stated that while he believed the majority of the Climate Camp protesters to be peaceful, he was concerned that some had "more sinister intentions". Protesters said the find had nothing to do with the camp and the police agreed that there was no firm evidence linking the them to the camp.[58]

In June, 2009, the Guardian released video evidence of alleged brutality by police officers at the camp against two women. They belonged to the campaign group, Fitwatch, who campaign against the use of forward intelligence teams. They spotted several officers who did not have visible epaulettes and when they asked the officers to reveal their identities they were arrested.[59][60]

Camp in the City 2009[edit]

Climate Camp in the City 2009 - 1 April 4pm
Riot police kettle protesters

The Camp in the City (51°30′55″N 0°04′57″W / 51.5152°N 0.0825°W / 51.5152; -0.0825) took place on 1 April 2009 was one of a number of protests associated with the G20 London Summit. The aim was to draw attention to carbon trading, claiming that far from being a way of reducing release of climate change gasses in the atmosphere it is used as an excuse to continue doing just that.[61] The camp took place outside the European Climate Exchange in Bishopsgate and was distinct from the G-20 Meltdown protest that took place outside the Bank of England.[62]

Prior to the actual camp a group of participants had played a game called 'capture the flag' in the area on 27 March which was used by the protesters to familiarise themselves with the locale.[63]

Camp for Climate Action organisers agreed to meet with police and exchange contact details shortly before the protest. The meeting was arranged by Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth, who was to mediate at the meeting which was to take place at the House of Commons. Scotland Yard confirmed that a meeting was to take place with Bob Broadhurst (police commander) and Ian Thomas (chief superintendent).[64]

The camp, which was intended to last for 24 hours, started at 12:30pm when a camp was established in a section of Bishopsgate between Threadneedle Street and London Wall with tents set up and bunting across the road reading 'Nature doesn't do bailouts'.[65] There were solar-powered sound systems, musicians and a food stall and some 1,000-plus relaxed people.[66]

The atmosphere was still relaxed at about 5pm when police with helmets, shields and batons began to surround areas of the camp using section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986.[66]

At about 7pm the police stopped allowing people to enter or leave the protest.[67] The police advanced on protesters who put their hands in the air and passively resisted while chanting "This is not a riot"[68] which is a tactic that emerged over the course of a number of Camp for Climate Action gatherings.[69] There were scuffles with the police in which several protesters were hit and kicked by the police and one policewoman needed medical attention.[70] Within the cordon people carried on playing music and preparing food and until the police began letting people leave at about 11:30pm[67] and cleared the area of the last protesters at about 2am.[66]

Jean Lambert MEP of the London Green Party wrote an open letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner after the event asking for an explanation of the police tactics.[71]

Blackheath 2009[edit]

Banner on the temporary fence around the camp

The camp at Blackheath (51°28′17″N 0°0′14″E / 51.47139°N 0.00389°E / 51.47139; 0.00389) was set up on 26 August on Blackheath Common, which was the site of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt and was due to run until 2 September.[15] The organisers kept the location of the camp secret from the police until the first day of the camp.[72] About 1000 people arrived on the first day with the police adopting a low-key 'community policing' approach[73] and using Twitter for the first time to communicate with protesters[74] and senior officers held five meetings with protesters to prepare for the event.[75] 3000 people were expected to attend the camp.[74] Some 200 workshops were scheduled over the five days on a wide range of environmental, social and climate change issues:[76]

A number of protests at locations around London took place during the camp.[77]

Shops and local pubs reported good business and police presence was keep very low profile and unobtrusive.[78] The Telegraph described it as "the cheapest – and chic-est – date in the summer festival calendar".[79] Climate Camp TV provided a view of the camp and the associated actions.[80]

Ratcliffe-on-Soar 2009[edit]

Between 17 and 18 October 2009, protesters from Camp for Climate Action, Climate Rush and Plane Stupid,[81] took part in 'The Great Climate Swoop' at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station. The police arrested 10 people before the protest began on suspicion of conspiracy to cause criminal damage.[82] Some 1,000 people took part, and during the first day groups of up to several hundred people pulled down security fencing at a number of points around the plant.[83] Fifty six arrests were made during the protest and there were a number of injuries, including one policeman who was airlifted to hospital but later discharged.[84]

After the event Julian Baggini, writing in The Times, criticised the protest arguing that climate change did not constitute a justifiable reason for civil disobedience.[85] In response activists said that the urgency of responding to potential extreme climate change did indeed provide sufficient justification.[86]

Edinburgh 2010[edit]

The camp was set up on 18 August in the grounds of The Royal Bank of Scotland Headquarters, Gogarburn, near Edinburgh, to protest against the banks involvement in financing environmentally damaging activities, particularly Canadian Tar Sands and ran until 25 August.[87] The organisers took the site the day before the publicly announced date, in order to avoid the police. Actions took place across the week against RBS, and other companies involved in environmentally damaging industries, as well as various workshops on a range of environmental, social and climate change issues:[76][88]

A number of protests at locations around Edinburgh took place during the camp.[89]

Climate Camp TV provided a view of the camp and the associated actions.[80]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Workshops". Camp for Climate Action. Archived from the original on 2007-12-01. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
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  8. ^ Steph Brown. "Fight climate change! Go vegan!". 
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  87. ^ "Climate protest camp targets RBS headquarters". BBC. 2010-08-19. 
  88. ^ Gregory, Amelia (2010-08-27). "Climate Camp 2010 at the RBS HQ in Edinburgh". Amelia's Magazine. 
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External links[edit]