The Problem with the Police – Time for Climate Camp

The police are insisting that their raid on the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth, in which they confiscated rope and board games, was carried out in the name of preventing lawbreaking, and that they are only too keen to police lawful protest. They have no desire to intimidate and scare people off. Whilst this may be true for some of them, the reality is that their actions are likely to mean that some people are less likely to turn up, particularly if this were to be their first time at an event like this. The actions also point to a broader structural problem with the police at such events.

Whilst the confiscation of items like rope was probably carried out to look effective (it’s a camp site, there’s rope there!) it is highly likely that the law will be broken this week, with or without the disabled access ramps which have been seized. I am of the opinion that, if the law favours those who pump carbon dioxide into the air at unsustainable levels, then the law is wrong and should be ignored. More to the point, if the state authorities aren’t going to prevent companies and corporations from pursuing projects which cause great harm, as a new coal plant from E.ON would, then it is the responsibility of citizens to do so.

The problem with this is that if the police are only ever going to uphold the strict word of the law, then they will become tools of the state and of the unjust laws that state is pursuing. The police will stop us from shutting down the Kingsnorth power station because, whilst they support lawful protest, they do not support unlawful action. I realise that they are not allowed to do anything else, their task is enshrined – hence it being a structural problem.

Laws which fail to ensure security and quality of life are not worth following or upholding. A few protestors might be unsettlling in the short term, but they are nothing compared to what the effects of allowing E.ON to (legally) build their coal plants would be. Nazi Germany gave us a stark example of how ignoring the law can be an absolute moral duty (a duty which many sadly failed to carry out). Whilst I’m not saying that we are in such a situation, it does help to remember that the law is not immutable, and that the rule of law is not an absolute concept. Breaking the law won independence for the colonies, it carried the Civil Rights Movement forward, and it ended the Vietnam War. Unjust laws should be ignored – how else can we ever build respect for proper laws? If they have no moral and utilitarian content, then they have no purpose beyond testing our subordination.

If the government won’t shut down E.ON, then ordinary people have to do it. If the government decides to renege on it’s duty to protect its citizens, then its laws cease to have relevance and purpose. The police will insist that they are ‘only doing their jobs’, but this is an argument with little real content. The Evening Standard will scream that we are terrorists, and fabricate stories to show the world that we can’t be trusted, but they will, as usual, be wholly wrong. We are simply people who have recognised that their government is failing to protect them, and that if they do nothing about it, then it is up to ordinary citizens to take over the reins. Come join us!

Edit: My girlfriend, trying to enter the camp at the moment, has just told me that the police have formed a line across the entrance, and are not letting people/food/bags in. I’m sure they will soon stop this particular distraction. Like so many other small irritations, it forms part of the project of making it harder and harder for us to camp and to act. What they will realise, as they did with Faslane, is that our resolve to make life harder for their system goes far beyond anything they’ve got!

Edit edit: Maybe they’re keeping them out because Arthur Scargill’s speaking this afternoon? They don’t want a whole new generation of trade unionists to fight.

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2 Comments

Filed under Climate Change, Direct Action

2 responses to “The Problem with the Police – Time for Climate Camp

  1. Federico Griffith

    One of the founding members of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Fred Shuttlesworth brought a militant voice to the struggle for black equality. He drew King and the SCLC to Birmingham in 1963 for a historic confrontation with the forces of segregation. The scale of protest and police brutality of the Birmingham Campaign created a new level of visibility for the civil rights movement and contributed to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Born in Mt. Meigs, Alabama, Shuttlesworth was licensed and ordained as a preacher in 1948. He earned an A.B. (1951) from Selma University and a B.S. (1953) from Alabama State College. Shuttlesworth served as minister at First Baptist Church in Selma until 1952, and the following year he was called to Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery was unconstitutional in November 1956, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR made plans to challenge segregation on Birmingham\’s buses. The night before their campaign was to begin, a bomb exploded under Shuttlesworth\’s parsonage at Bethel Baptist. The house was destroyed but Shuttlesworth escaped unharmed. In 1963, the SCLC joined forces with the ACMHR to protest segregation in Birmingham. SCLC leaders met secretly in January of that year to draw up initial plans for the Birmingham Campaign, known as “Project C” – C for confrontation. Shuttlesworth issued the “Birmingham Manifesto,” which explained the black community\’s decision to act: “We act today in full concert with our Hebraic-Christian tradition, the laws of morality and the Constitution of our nation,” Shuttlesworth proclaimed. “We appeal to the citizenry of Birmingham, Negro and white, to join us in this witness for decency, morality, self-respect and human dignity.

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