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Posts Tagged ‘climate camp’

So it seems that after a flurry of activity for the climate swoop last week where climate activists met at six strategic locations before converging on Blackheath to set up this year’s Climate Camp the mainstream media have largely lost interest in events.

On the Guardian website today we have bibi van der Zee claiming that ‘Five days in and the campers admit things are a little boring – there are no more toilets to put up and the police have vanished. But a plan for direct action should put the zip back into things’

If you took reports like that seriously you would believe that essentially nothing has been going on at camp since the set up on Wedsnesday and Thursday last week. In fact the site has been awash with activity as the camp has hosted roughly 30-35 workshops a day in addition to the daily neighbourhood meetings.

These workshops have covered everything from creating bicycle powered sound systems to the science of climate change and the current state of geoengineering, from creating your own media to understanding the subtleties of carbon trading schemes, from communicating climate science to lay audiences to building your own wind turbines, from direct action and legal observer training to understanding the links between the arms trade and climate change, from consensus based decision making and direct democracy to creating biochar as a green energy source.

In fact there have been so many disparate workshops, seminars and debates that it would be impossible to to attend more than a fraction of them. Meanwhile, the small amount of mainstream media coverage still focusing on the camp (largely in the Guardian) sees the likes of Van der Zee moaning that the camp has come boring because there aren’t campers being beaten up by the police like at the G20. It truly indicates the sad state of corporate media when even the allegedly left wing papers are interested in issues only so long as they are presented with dramatic images of police attacking protesters.

Somewhat bizarrely in yesterday’s Observer Peter Beaumont claimed that ‘the protesters should spend more time convincing others that their actions are sound,’ it’s hard to understand what he believes the workshops on the science of climate change and the careful efforts of campers to provide factually accurate workshops which clearly delineate why they are involved in protesting around these issues, but somewhat unsurprisingly he fails to mention that any workshops are taking place, instead focusing on what he claims are Climate Camp’s ‘often hazy messages and complex inner negotiations.’ Quite how specifically targetting institutions such as the European Climate Exchange, Barclays Bank and Shell, while holding discussions and workshops which communicate precisely why these targets have been chosen can be understood as ‘hazy’ is somewhat beyond me. In fairness it merely appears to be another case of a lazy journalist writing poorly researched rubbish having been disappointed at the lack of sensationalist images of police fighting with protesters.

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Having mounted a public relations campaign in an attampt to restore the image of the met after the G20 debacle, the police have decided to codename their operation for this year’s Climate Camp Operation Bentham.

The operation’s moniker is a reference to the English social theorist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham’s most frequently used concept is that of the panopticon.  The panopticon is essentially a prison where the inmates are constantly aware that they may be under surveillance but cannot know whether anyone is actually watching. Consequently they are forced to act as though they are constantly being surveyed and so internalise the process of surveillance .

The concept of the panopticon was utilised by French theorist Michel Foucault as a metaphor for modern ‘disciplinary socities.’ With the police using badge sized cameras to record activists alongside the report that all campers are to be photographed by the police, we shall wait and see whether the police tactics do indeed revolve around creating an Orwellian situation of self-censoring activists

Alternatively, if the Police do adopt a far more relaxed and less confrontational attitude towards Climate Camp, it will hopefully mean that the huge amount of media attention generated by the camp will actually focus on the issues the camp campaigns around, the workshops meetings and debates which happen at the camp, the array of sustainable technologies used by the camp, the consensus based direct democracy practiced by the camp, all of which has been sadly lacking in the coverage of Climate Camps at Kingsnorth and the G20.

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The guardian has now released this footage showing Police attacking Ian Tomlinson

Their behaviour here, attacking a man with his back turned, and hands in his pockets is entirely in keeping with the rest of their violent and unprovoked behaviour on 1st April 2009.

The Lib Dems justice spokesperson David Howarth has come out in favour of a criminal inquiry stating that ‘”There must be a full-scale criminal investigation. The officer concerned and the other officers shown in the video must immediately come forward.”

The BBC meanwhile, keen to give the police a chance to explain themselves quote the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Peter Smyth who defends police actions saying that

“On a day like that, where there are some protesters who are quite clearly hell-bent on causing as much trouble as they can, there is inevitably going to be some physical confrontation.”

“Sometimes it isn’t clear, as a police officer, who is a protester and who is not.

“I know it’s a generalisation but anybody in that part of the town at that time, the assumption would be that they are part of the protest.”

So the police are now admitting that they were indiscriminately attacking people in the Bank area of London, whether they had anything to with the protests or not on the assumption that anybody in that part of London at the time would be a protester. While this confirms the reports that Indymedia had been carrying throughout the day, it’s quite shocking to hear a senior police spokesman happily admit that his officers were randomly attacking anyone who happened to be in part of central London because there were (largely peaceful) protests going on there.

To their credit, the protesters who Smyth deceitfully claims were hell bent on causing as much trouble as they could, mainly managed to keep calm and maintain dignity in the face of this heavy handed police intimidation and brutality. A few banks, notably RBS an institution which has created outrage by awarding Fred Goodwin, the man who oversaw the bank’s collapse a 16.9 million pound pension (to be paid by the taxpayer who has had to step in and bail the bank out following Goodwin’s reign), had a few windows broken, however this act of symbolic violence against an institution currently committing a form of financial violence to the British taxpayer can hardly be compared to police actions of randomly attacking anyone in the area and kettling protesters, refusing to allow people to leave for water, food, or to use a toilet for hours at a time.

This video shows police attacking protesters at Climate Camp outside the European Climate Exchange as they raise their hands and chant peace not riot. Just because none of those attacked here died as a result does not justify the use of such brutal and unprovoked violence. Attacking people in this manner should not be considered legal or acceptable.

While it’s quite right that there should be a criminal investigation into what appears to be the murder of Ian Tomlinson at the hands of the police, there should be similar criminal investigations into the hundreds of incidents where police attacked peaceful protesters on April 1st, and these investigations should go all the way up to the top echelons of the police, indicting those who authorised officers on the ground to treat anyone as ‘the enemy’ and who gave the go ahead for the random acts of senseless violence perpetrated by the police on April 1st.

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This from the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/05/g20-protest-ian-tomlinson

The man who died during last week’s G20 protests was “assaulted” by riot police shortly before he suffered a heart attack, according to witness statements received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Investigators are examining a series of corroborative accounts that allege Ian Tomlinson, 47, was a victim of police violence in the moments before he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City of London last Wednesday evening. Three witnesses have told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson was attacked violently as he made his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. One claims he was struck on the head with a baton.

Photographer Anna Branthwaite said: “I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed.” Branthwaite, an experienced press photographer, has made a statement to the IPCC.

Another independent statement supports allegations of police violence. Amiri Howe, 24, recalled seeing Mr Tomlinson being hit “near the head” with a police baton. Howe took one of a sequence of photographs that show a clearly dazed Mr Tomlinson being helped by a bystander.

A female protester, who does not want to be named but has given her testimony to the IPCC, said she saw a man she later recognised as Tomlinson being pushed aggressively from behind by officers. “I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he’d been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head.

“He hit the top front area of his head on the pavement. I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince.”

Mr Tomlinson, a married man who lived alone in a bail hostel, was not taking part in the protests. Initially, his death was attributed by a police post mortem to natural causes. A City of London police statement said: “[He] suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work.”

But this version of events was challenged after witnesses recognised the dead man from photographs that were published on Friday.

An IPCC statement was due to be released the same day and is understood to have portrayed the death as a tragic accident. However, the statement’s release was postponed as the complaints body received information that police officers may have been more involved in events than previously thought. An IPCC spokesman said yesterday that in light of new statements it was “assessing” the information it had received before deciding whether to launch a full investigation.

Part of the commission’s inquiries will involve the examination of CCTV footage from the area.

Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth said: “Eventually there will have to be a full inquest with a jury. It is a possibility this death was at police hands.”

A police source told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson appears to have become caught between police lines and protesters, with officers chasing back demonstrators during skirmishes. He was seen stumbling before he collapsed and died on Cornhill Street, opposite St Michael’s Alley, around 7.25pm.

At around 7.10pm, protesters had gathered outside the police cordon to call for those contained inside – some for hours – to be let out. Officers with batons and shields attempted to clear them from the road.

Around 7.20pm, five riot police, and a line of officers with dogs, emerged from Royal Exchange Square, a pedestrian side street. Three images taken around this time show Mr Tomlinson on the pavement, in front of five riot police, and in apparent distress. He had one arm in the air, and appeared to be in discussion with the officers.

Mr Tomlinson then appears to have been lifted to his feet by a bystander. Minutes later he fell to the ground. “We saw this guy staggering around,” said Natalie Langford, 21, a student. “He looked disorientated. About five seconds later he fell, and I grabbed my friends to help him.”

Police have claimed that when paramedics tried to move Mr Tomlinson away for urgent treatment, bottles were thrown at them by protesters. He was later pronounced dead at hospital.

Branthwaite added: “He [Mr Tomlinson] was not a mouthy kid or causing problems, but the police seemed to have lost control and were trying to push protesters back. The police had started to filter people into a side street off Cornhill. There were a few stragglers who were just walking through between the police and protesters. Mr Tomlinson was one of those.”

The police tactics during the G20 protests were condemned in the aftermath of the demonstrations. The clearance of a climate camp along Bishopsgate by riot police with batons and dogs after nightfall on Wednesday came in for particular criticism.

Protesters marched to Bethnal Green police station in east London yesterday to demand a public inquiry into Mr Tomlinson’s death.

Despite the hideous coverage of the G20 protests in London this week which largely depicted the protesters as violent thoughtless thugs who were complicit in the death of one of their own, it would seem that fairly rapidly the truth is beginning to eke out into the public arena. As with the infamous murder of Jean Charles de Menezes it appears that the initial statement handed out by the police is full of outright lies designed to vindicate the violent actions of the police.

Merely describing the police actions this week as heavy handed is an understatement of the highest order. The state sponsored violence which was unleashed on the protesters was in no way proportionate to the behaviour of those on the streets. There is an immense difference between smashing a few windows at a Bank which symbolises the financial violence wrought on people living through the credit crunch and beating a passer by to death. There is no justification in riot police attacking sit down protests or peaceful climate campers whose arms are raised as they chant peace not riot.

A brutal case of state sanctioned violence was perpetrated this past week against the people who sought to articulate their displeasure with the current government for their economic, ecological and militaristic strategies.

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For coverage of tomorrow and Thursday’s G20 protests acrosss london be sure to check out London Indymedia and UK Indymedia who will be providing live updates on the day’s actions.

As the Police have been talking up the ‘summer of rage’ before any kind of protest/demonstrations have occured it seems likely that there is likely to be some very heavy handed actions initiated by the police, and keeping protestors abreast of events while letting the world know what is really going on in the streets seems like a hugely important job for grassroots independent media.

‘Help report what’s happening by sending your reports from the streets. There are two Indymedia reporting numbers running 28th March – 2nd April: 07588 479 039 : For calling in reports from events – remember the ‘who what when where why’ – and also for sending txt msg updates and MMS picture messages.
08444 870 157: For calling in to leave a short audio recording that can be uploaded to the website. (If you do send pictures or audio messages, include the location and time) Twitter: If you are using twitter and have a report or update for Indymedia, include the hashtag #imcg20 in your message’

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