Thursday, August 16, 2007
Lenin requested reports and pics from the Climate Camp at London Heathrow Airport – so here I go.
First of all, if you want news of what is actually happening at the Camp then Indymedia UK, which has been down/unreliable for a day or two, is now well & truly up-and-running. The reporting of the News Ticker (http://publish.indymedia.org.uk/en/ticker/) is infinitely more comprehensive and reliable than anything you will get from the Mainstream Media and the articles and debates are both high quality and passionate. So, in a way, nothing more to add: check out http://www.indymedia.org.uk/ if you want to see, hear and feel what is going on at the camp - second-best only to actually being there.
So need only for a few personal reflections. On the achievement of the organisation of the camp itself; then only superlatives will suffice. The organisers have done an amazing job. The marquees work, the information works, the kitchens serve good food, the casual visitor is welcomed in and cared for in a phenomenal way. The bogs work and are regularly replenished with recycled toilet rolls. It’s as well-run as Glastonbury Festival, which is pretty amazing considering the shoestring budget and the fact that they had to do the whole thing covertly, establishing the site on squatted land in the middle of the night only last Saturday, subsequently getting equipment and supplies only after fine toothcomb police “anti-terrorist” searches and great delay. The seminar programme is excellent – with a quality arguably the equal of the Campaign Against Climate Change’s June international conference at LSE, except brought off in a bunch of old army marquees in a squatted field adjacent to one of the world’s busiest runways.
Someone even remembered to pack the kitchen sink
On key issue number 1 - whether threatening to carry out Non-Violent, Non-Personal Safety-Threatening Direct Action (NVDA) at a busy airport at the height of the holiday season and during a never-to-end terrorism threat panic alert “can ever be justified”, then the demolition by George Monbiot in last Wednesday’s Guardian of whoever prissy little prick writes the Guardian’s leaders really closes that one (http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/08/07/this-is-now-a-protest-for-democracy/). The profile of the Camp has been immense. Without the “threat”, the camp would have been utterly, utterly ignored. That debate is over.
On key issue number 2 – having successfully grabbed their attention, will threatening to carry out Non-Violent, Non-Personal Safety-Threatening Direct Action at a busy airport at the height of the holiday season and during a never-to-end terrorism threat panic alert engage or alienate the Great British Public? (ie, how will it be reported by the mainstream media, sympathetically or with hostility?). I reckon Alice Miles’s Polly Filler-style article in Wednesday’s Murdochshite sums that one up (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/alice_miles/article2260212.ece). Journalists with any contact with actual reality (ie exclude those from The Sun, DTel, Express, Standard) cannot make any attempt to smear the campers as violent, alien terrorists stick. The campers so obviously include a high proportion of “ordinary people” from all walks of life, who just happen to have “got it” about the seriousness of the global warming issue. The organisers are so obviously the children of mainstream, conventional (we might even say middle class) Britain. The mainstream media can’t help itself but love ‘em really. Hence Miles’s point that Brown will only condemn, and the media/the public will only turn against the protest, if and when it “turns violent”. Which almost sounds fair enough unless you actually are there and see the way in which the camp is being harassed and intimidated by elements of the Met Police (especially the camera-wielding goons of the Forward Intelligence Team (FIT)). You might almost imagine their objective is to provoke violence (rumours of a power struggle between “honest” and “nasty” senior cops on this one feel plausible). If you’re following the story in the mainstream media you may be sure of two things if violence is reported: first, that it was provoked by particular specialist Met Police teams; second, that it has been staged in order to give the mainstream media its chance to demonise the Camp – and therefore that the powers-that-be consider the mainstream media coverage so far to have been over-favourable to the protest.
On key issue number 3 – should I, a regular punter, get my own sweet ass on down there, or should I give it a miss because I fear getting arrested/clobbered/stopped or searched/spied on/told on to my Mum by the police, then the answer is very definitely “you should go”. Never fear, it’s very safe and extremely dead easy. It’s one of the most accessible fields in the country, could scarcely be easier to get to (http://www.climatecamp.org.uk/location.php). If you arrive by public transport (train/bus/foot), you probably won’t even get searched by the cops. If you want to avoid violence, then you are more likely to be able to do so here, than when, say, driving through West Norwood. And you probably won’t even get wet, because the weather forecast is for improving conditions. (Note to Grim Up North Londoners, although it is within the London boundary, you simply cannot get fresh ciabatta after midnight and should bring your own supply).
Go on, dare to turn up – you are guaranteed a friendly welcome
A few final thoughts on the relationship between this type of “deliberately without a police permit” protest event (with added NVDA) and the 8 December Global Day of Climate Protest to coincide with the UN Climate Talks (in UK, the National Climate March), http://www.campaigncc.org/http://www.campaigncc.org/; http://www.globalclimatecampaign.org/ - very much with a police permit and NVDA-free.
In essence, nothing could be more counter-productive than for anarchists and lefties/greenies to bitch at each other about which form of protest is the most effective. Clearly, there is no way that a conventional march of about 2-5,000 attendees that wasn’t threatening NVDA could get this level of media coverage and public profile. But equally, there is no way a camp or NVDA stunt could ever go really mega and attract (say) 2 million attendees, like the 2003 Stop the War March. The 8 December National March does have that inherent potential. And the global protest has the potential to amplify to 100 million or whatever in 100 different countries worldwide. And so it is obvious that the two types of protest event are perfectly complementary, and can & should work together synergetically to cross-promote each other’s success.