How are ordinary people to make their voice heard on climate change in a country where their vote counts for nothing, their MPs are powerless and cowed (with a few honourable exceptions) and peaceful protest is being outlawed?
This is a valid question to ask as we hear more this week about the police operation against the Climate Camp held last year in Kent. The camp highlighted the government’s reckless plan to allow more coal-fired power stations to be built at Kingsnorth power station.
Using freedom of information rules, the Liberal Democrats have obtained a list of the items confiscated by police in the course of their £5.7m operation. Balloons, disabled ramps, coloured crayons, a clown’s outfit, fire safety equipment, a marquee, camping equipment, an elderly person’s walking stick – all of these were seized as the police repeatedly searched everyone attending the camp.
The reality this highlights, is that anyone who opposes the government’s failure to act on climate change – indeed to adopt policies that will increase emissions – is now subject to an arbitrary police force that acts pre-emptively against them.
Sarah Perkins, one of Climate Camp’s lawyers, said: “It certainly was disproportionate policing and a real sea change in the way police are using their powers. Absolutely everyone was searched, many people several times over, and then police raided the camp and searched yet again.” Police also mounted a classic “psyops” operation developed by the military, driving round the camp in the middle of the night and using a helicopter to disrupt sleep patterns.
Kent's assistant chief constable (or should that be General?) Allyn Thomas was unabashed. “While the majority of people were law abiding,” he said, “it was clear from the first day of the camp setting up that a number of people were intent on causing trouble.” How was it clear? Where is the evidence? But then all becomes clear: “By seizing items which could be used to commit a crime, we were able to ensure criminal acts were not carried out … We hope that anyone who attends a similar event in future accepts their responsibility to do so lawfully and in a legal manner.”
So rather than policing actual crime based on evidence they now police the possibility of crime based on no evidence - they have become the Thought Police. Now Scotland Yard has established the Confidential Intelligence Unit to spy on climate activists and workers involved in strikes. Taking over the role played by MI5 in the 1970s and 1980s, the unit will send spies and agents to infiltrate groups and strikers opposed to the government’s policies.
We have been warned. Alongside the protests and direct actions, we must urgently start to consider the nature of political representation in Britain, the definition of crime, and the need for a transformation in how decisions are taken.
There is plenty of actual evidence about the impact of climate change (on policemen and their families too). Imminent catastrophic events will be discussed when scientists hold an emergency meeting this month in Copenhagen. They will explain how global warming is speeding up, and ask governments to take urgent action.
We the people, are entitled to ask ourselves what can we do to prevent the state from using its powers to permit them to continue on their criminal course of inaction, and “business as usual”. The only solution must be to replace the secret state with one that is open, transparent and subject to the will of the people.