Thursday, 2 April 2009

Beneath the concrete the forest grows

This post begins with a statement about why we were campaigning in London during this G20 meeting. It’s already well known but it was the point of the protest and why we were there, so here it is (yet) again: climate change if left unchecked will during this century lead to severe water and food shortages resulting in widespread starvation, the extinction of 90% of the world’s species, the destruction of the world’s coastal cities by flood (including the land on which we were protesting), increased severe weather events and serious escalation in conflicts between nations as they fight over vanishing resources or become overwhelmed by refugees (sources here, here and here). This can still be prevented from happening, but only if we change our way of living within the next five years, which means now.

I start with this statement for lots of reasons, first of which is that I had to remind myself of it to find the courage even to go to the climate camp yesterday after the police had so hyped the threat of violence. I’d been to climate camp before but this felt different, being in the centre of London and accompanied by the anti-capitalist demonstrations nearby. Also, coverage of the demonstrations has focussed upon confrontation and police action so protestors’ messages have not clearly emerged.

The day itself started well. Taking the site happened smoothly and without any police interference. The atmosphere was very positive all along Bishopsgate – lots of discussion taking place between people, several groups playing music as well as space for workshops, a cake stall, compost loos and meditation. I once worked on this road so it felt especially good to set up tent under the huge city structures and enjoy the sun along with the slogans hung from the walls or chalked up on the street. Here are a few photos (not by me as I didn’t take a camera; images are from indymedia and the Climate Camp galleries):


I’m actually in the last one – look for a white sleeve holding onto a tent (happily they caught my most flattering angle).

Some media commentators have argued that the G20 summit was not the appropriate forum for discussion of climate change, but the policy makers urgently need to realise that we can’t fix the economy without addressing greenhouse gas emissions since it is our industries that generate the problem. It’s often repeated and always true: an economy built on infinite growth on a planet with finite resources will eventually collapse.

We were at the camp from the start until early evening when we had to leave for boring reasons. While we were there the police were very visible (along with riot vans parked alongside with their engines running) but not confrontational, and nor was anyone at the camp at all confrontational. There was also no vandalism. However, in the evening more riot police arrived (presumably freed up after the G20 Meltdown protest) and sealed the camp. I wasn’t there by this point but in this video you can see riot police surging into the southern end of the camp (where we had set up tent). (The people are chanting 'This is not a riot'. At this time people were not allowed to leave the camp from either end. Update: The Guardian has now covered the tactics.)

By midnight the camp had been aggressively cleared (using a combination of intimidation, trapping people in a shrinking space, batons and dogs). It’s important to stress that the campers were peaceful and focussed upon drawing attention to the climate emergency. The G20 Meltdown event has dominated coverage of the day’s protests, which is a shame since the Climate Camp was a very positive action and concentrated on what draws us together (basically, life on earth). There were hippies, children, people playing violins, people dressed as pandas, poets, scientists and schoolgirls (see photos), and everyone wanted to think about this:

It’s disturbing that our cities can’t make space for such an event.

[Update: Duncan Campbell has written a good article here about the police assault on the passer by who died at the G20 Meltdown. The Guardian's video footage shows a clear unprovoked attack by riot police on the man. I'm linking it because I had been unaware of how this event was covered in most of the media - The Sun thinks we were 'foaming at the mouth' and 'lurching' about in 'packs' apparently. Several times during the protests I thought how the many mobiles filming events probably helped keep police violence in check, another reason to keep an eye on the new Terror Laws that have already restricted our rights to film in public places and photograph police.]

No comments:

Post a Comment