Tuesday, April 21, 2009

climate thoughtcrime

Last December government minister Ed Miliband said that 'popular mobilisation' was needed to create the pressure to reduce carbon emissions. He linked it to previous campaigns that had involved direct action.

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilisation

It sounds great doesn't it? And, when climate activists are essentially only asking for what science demands and what the government claims to want too, what could be the problem?

Someone should pass that thought on to other branches of government and state apparatus, as they appear to think differently on the issue.

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (formerly the Department of Trade and Industry) got police information about the climate camp activists last summer and gave it to Eon, owners of the Kingsnorth power station that was the target of the protest.

Once again we see the murky political role of the police come to the surface.

When people stopped a coal train going into Drax power station last June, they were arrested and their homes were raided. Video of one of the raids shows the police seizing copies of New Statesman and publicity material from War On Want. That isn't relevant to the case, it's just fishing to build up an idea of the activist's political beliefs.

Last week 114 people were mass arrested in Nottingham under 'suspicion of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass', widely reported as a climate change action to invade the site of Ratcliffe on Soar coal power station.

'Suspicion' and 'conspiracy' give us two steps before we reach any actual deed of any kind. If this were a bomb plot there's a case for such jumpy pre-emptive action, but aggravated trespass is a minor offence with no risking of anyone's safety, let alone life.

Even if they shut down the power station, it would not cause blackouts as the power supply is on a grid system. Indeed, when an activist did shut down Kingsnorth, there was no problem.

Nobody can show climate activists as likely to beat up security guards or take technicians hostage. If their plan was the one reported by police (and evidence of anything worse would surely have been mentioned) then there was no serious threat to property, and no threat to people whatsoever.

Arresting such a huge number of people smacks of a wide trawler-net strategy, too. And lo, despite the need to deploy 200 officers and arrest people before they've done anything, none of them were charged with anything at all. Not one.

However, it was reported that many were given onerous bail conditions to stay away from sites that climate activists would want to protest at.

What a smart move. Breach of bail is a crime in itself, and those who break it tend to get remanded in prison. As the summer's climate camps and similar events appear on the horizon, what better way to take the wind out of their sails than making over a hundred activists stay away on pain of indefinite imprisonment?

Then, when the protests are over at the end of the year, the police can just drop the bail conditions. No charges required, let alone a crime.

Just like the attacks on peaceful protests, this is a way for the police to make people back off. Reports say many of the Nottingham 114 had their houses raided and possessions taken away. Just like a baton to the head, this will discourage people from joining in. It is political policing. It cannot be justified to smash down your door (and bill you for the board-up), search your house and seize your computer because they suspect you of planning a crime that - even if they secure a conviction - would be unlikely to incur a prison sentence.

If you have ever discussed standing in front of a bulldozer or similar action, you too are guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. Better go and hand yourself in before they come and smash your door down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think what you've said, is, in the main, correct, but I think it misses another trend in policing: police grumbling at the courts.

Get any front line police officer to talk about their view of the British court system, and they'll tell you its soft. How can they make it less soft? By handing out sentences themselves, like having your room trashed.

Whilst they might be using some of this information, the fact is, they want to seize all your possessions as a form of fine, create some damage to get their own back, hurt people because last year someone unconnected (except in their minds) hurt them and generally mete out the punishments they feel the courts are giving.

In some ways you can't blame them. All the effort they went to in arresting the Kingsnorth 6 all went down the pan because a jury decided against the police verdict of "problem to society". Think how pissed off you'd be? So in a way, its the natural reaction of someone who is entrenched in their own moral superiority.