As demonstrations go, it was more of a lighthearted affair than a threat to the nation.
About 600 climate change campaigners had gathered outside the Drax power station in North Yorkshire. They had chosen to demonstrate there because the huge plant is the UK’s biggest emitter of carbon. The protesters were mainly families with young children, accompanied by clowns, cyclists, baton twirlers and, according to some reports, a giant ostrich puppet.
It was not completely without incident. Two protesters climbed a lighting pylon at the edge of the site and four others broke through the fence. About 30 others were arrested for public order offences.
Under the heading of “not much a fight, more like a festival”, the Guardian reported that the predicted battle between the police and activists wanting to close the plant down had not materialised.
It was the type of demonstration which has been going on for decades in Britain. But the police appear to have had another, completely different view of the 2006 protest.
After the demonstration, the first in what has become an annual gathering known as Climate Camp, North Yorkshire police conducted a review along with government officials. Internal papers obtained by the Guardian show they called it “the first time domestic extremism took place against national infrastructure in the county”.
The term “domestic extremism” is now common currency within the police. It is a phrase which shapes how forces seek to control demonstrations. It has led to the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of protesters being stored on secret police databases around the country. There is no official or legal definition of the term. Instead, the police have made a vague stab at what they think it means. Senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups “that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.” They say they are mostly associated with single issues and suggest the majority of protesters are never considered extremists.
Police insist they are just monitoring the minority who could damage property or commit aggravated trespass, causing significant disruption to lawful businesses. Activists respond by claiming this is an excuse that gives police the licence to carry out widespread surveillance of whole organisations that are a legitimate part of the democratic process.
I don’t have words to tell you how fucked up this is, peaceful protests is a normal thing in a democratic society and to disrupt or log people for attending is a crime against democracy it self.
Sure disrupt the protest if the protesters get violent but leave them the fuck alone if they do nothing.
And as a closing word, stay safe people.