activism climate change current affairs

Climate camp now underway at Blackheath

It’s been a closely guarded secret, but the location of the climate camp can now be revealed – Blackheath, London – the rallying site of the peasant’s revolt way back in 1381.

The campers, most of who didn’t know where they were camping either, led the police on a merry waltz around the capital before finally converging on the site near Greenwich. Rumours abounded that the site was to be London City Airport, but the secret seems to have been well kept.

The reason for the secrecy was made clear in an open letter to the Met Chief Superintendent, published last week and reprinted below. Here’s hoping the G20 was the nadir of the protestor and police relationship, and that the camp can set a new precedent.

Dear Chief Superintendent Thomas,

On August 17th, you wrote to the Camp for Climate Action, requesting further information on the location of our next Camp, which will take place from August 27th to September 2nd, somewhere in the London area. You say that you require this information in order to help with “community liaison”, to ensure the Camp is a “safe and healthy” event, and to help you put a “pre-planned and proportionate policing operation” in place. We are writing this open letter in order to alleviate your concerns, and to make our position clear both to yourself and to the public.

Community liaison has been a vital part of every Climate Camp. At Drax in 2006, Heathrow in 2007 and Kingsnorth in 2008, we put a lot of time and effort into spending time with local residents and allaying people’s concerns, and this year will be no different. We have a good track record of building community support for the Camp and for climate change campaigning, we’ve already been in touch with local Councils across London, and our friendly outreach volunteers will be chatting to the locals from the moment we arrive on site. We plan to be excellent neighbours for as long as we’re there, we’ll be open and welcoming to any local residents with questions or concerns, and we’ll leave the site spotless when it’s time to go.

As regards health and safety – thanks for your concern, but again we’ve got it under control. As with previous Camps, we’ll have great food, water, compost toilets, a team of medics, a wellbeing space, excellent on-site communication, emergency vehicle access, and a family space. We also have a “Safer Spaces” policy and a “Tranquillity Team” to help keep the site free from oppressive behaviour or aggro. Anyone who’s spent time at past Camps will tell you how friendly and safe the atmosphere is – better than most mainstream festivals.

Of course, there is one unfortunate exception to all of this. While most visitors to previous Camps have had an inspiring and positive experience, some of us have had to suffer violence, intimidation, theft, sleep deprivation and harassment, thanks to past examples of “pre-planned and proportionate policing operations”. Local communities have been disrupted by police road closures and indiscriminate stops-and-searches. Members of the public have been attacked with batons or arrested on trumped-up charges simply for standing on the perimeter of a campsite (nearly all of them have now been acquitted or had their charges dropped). Judging from past experience, the best thing the police could do to ensure the health and safety of the public at Climate Camp 2009 would be to stay as far away from it as possible.

Bearing all of this in mind, I hope that you, and the public, understand why we don’t feel able to reveal the precise location of the Camp at this time. Every other aspect of the Camp has been organised in an open, accountable and democratic way, via monthly public meetings. The only secret is the location. There’s a simple reason for this: I’m afraid we just don’t trust the police. Why? Because it seems as though every time we have a protest, the police turn up and start hitting people. Look what happened at the G20. That’s not really a very good way to win people over.

Just because you’ve started using friendlier language and talking about “lighter-touch” policing, do you really think we’re suddenly going to believe you’re our friends? Just a few weeks back the Big Green Gathering was shut down by the police on spurious grounds, for “political” reasons. If the police are really trying to build up trust within the climate action movement, then that’s a funny way to go about it.

The precise location of the Camp for Climate Action 2009 will be announced via mass text as part of the exciting August 26th “Swoop”. I’m afraid you’ll just have to sign up on our website, and wait for the updates just like everybody else!

Yours sincerely,

The Camp for Climate Action Media Team


  1. How on earth do the police get away with what they did in the videos?

    Everyone’s got cameras – they’ve even got cameras!

    Surely there should be more accountability.

    Who do you think gives the orders for this stuff?

  2. I’m not persuaded by this letter that informing the police of the location of the camp wouldn’t have been a better idea. I understand that the climate camps have not always been well handeled by the police but the secrecy around this camp seems to have been designed to simply get one up on the police.

    It seems to me that the police would have a better opportunity to get the policing correct with more information not less. Now the policing plan by nessecity will be last minute and rushed, therefore more likley to be bad.

  3. That’s been the police’s argument, that they need more time to prepare, but it’s very difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt at the moment. The Big Green Gathering worked have been working very closely with the police and the council for years and that was closed down under very suspicious circumstances.

    The G20 police campaign was remarkably and deliberately aggressive – you might remember the letter the police sent round in advance, telling protestors they were ‘up for it and up to it’. That predictably backfired on them, and I’m hoping this time around will see them take a much more cooperative approach. If they earn the trust back again, maybe the secrecy won’t be necessary next time.

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