Sunday, March 01, 2009

Police 'over the top' at climate camp.

More than 2,000 'potentially harmful' items were confiscated from protesters by officers - including balloons, crayons and a clown's outfit


Tracy McVeigh

The Observer, Sunday 1 March 2009 (link)

Police have been accused of setting a "dangerous precedent" when they confiscated hundreds of items of property - including children's crayons, a clown's outfit and a pensioner's walking stick - from people attending an environmental protest camp at Kingsnorth power station.

A list of more than 2,000 possessions taken from protesters, who were repeatedly searched going to and from the camp last August, has been obtained through a freedom of information request by Liberal Democrat justice spokesman David Howarth.

It shows that officers took packets of balloon, tents, a clown's outfit, camping equipment, cycle helmets and bike locks, plastic buckets, bin bags, blankets, soap, banners and leaflets, books, party poppers and nail clippers. A toy plastic gun, life-jackets, inflatable dinghies, paddles and foot pumps were also confiscated, police say, to stop protesters taking to the river around the Hoo peninsula in Kent. Much of the property has yet to be returned.

It is the latest attack on what has been criticised as over-the-top policing of the Climate Camp near the site where the government is planning to allow the construction of a £1bn coal-fired power station by the energy firm E.on. The project is seen by activists as damaging to the environment and a key obstacle to the UK achieving carbon reduction targets.

Kent police were embarrassed over the event last year when, after ministers had justified what they called the "proportionate" £5.9m cost of the security operation by pointing out that 70 officers had been injured at the event, they then had to admit that the injuries reported by officers included heat exhaustion, toothache, insect bites and headaches.

Howarth said:


"It is not the police's job to confiscate protesters' banners, pensioners'
walking sticks and children's crayons.
"The police admit that almost all the items seized had a legitimate purpose. The
idea that it is appropriate to seize ordinary people's property on the
off-chance that it might be used to commit a crime is a dangerous precedent.

"Almost anything can be invested with sinister intent with enough
imagination. I even heard of one case where police confiscated a camper's soap
on the basis that it could be used to make them slippery and evade capture by
police. This is simply farcical.

"This kind of pre-emptive policing is
out of all proportion to the threat posed by environmental direct action and
should not be acceptable in a democratic society."



Sarah Perkins, a member of the Climate Camp's legal team, said their main concern was that they believed police misused "stop and search" legislation.


"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."

Green party MEP Caroline Lucas, who attended the week-long event, said at the time that she had witnessed police confiscating disabled access ramps, board games and fire safety equipment.
Kent's assistant chief constable, Allyn Thomas, defended the actions, saying the aim was always to enable a lawful and peaceful protest to take place. "This included our objective to prevent unlawful incursion of the power station," he said. "Had the station been shut down, there would have been a possible loss of power to over 300,000 homes.

"There was also the need to protect protesters who trespassed on the site as Kingsnorth is very hazardous for people without the appropriate training and safety equipment.

"While the majority of people were law abiding," he added, "it was clear from the first day of the camp setting up that a number of people were intent on causing trouble.

"By seizing items which could be used to commit a crime, we were able to ensure criminal acts were not carried out and more importantly no one was injured by some of the items which potentially could have been used to harm others. Arrests were prevented and many of the items have now been returned.

"We hope that anyone who attends a similar event in future accepts their responsibility to do so lawfully and in a legal manner."

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1 Comments:

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that the law enforcement community has to be educated about the real world.
Maybe we can have them make some promises; www.earthpromise.com

 

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