Policeman Undercover by Daria Hlazatova.
One day a few years ago I agreed to go on an intrepid action to highlight the causes of climate change. I didn’t know where or what it would be, but as a climate activist I trust the many people that I know who are willing to invest a huge amount of time, effort and (often their own) money in taking action for climate justice. So it was that I came to be in the Iona School in Nottingham on Easter Monday, 13th April 2009. In a hall packed full of committed climate activists I discovered the sheer scale of the unbelievably audacious covert operation and as I looked around I tried to imagine how we could possibly pull it off: we all suspect that undercover cops must operate within our networks. We were fed, given instructions concerning our target and duly sent to bed in one of various rooms in the school which had been hired out for the weekend. Having made sure that my day pack was ready (warm clothes, a book, some high energy food) I rolled out my sleeping mat, got into my pyjamas, stuffed ear plugs into my ears and settled down for a short night’s sleep before we headed down to Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal fired power station in the early hours of the morning.
Ratcliffe Disaster by Victoria Archer.
Ratcliffe has been the focus of quite a few climate change demonstrations, not least the Great Climate Swoop, a publicly advertised assault that took place on this huge coal powered station later in 2009. Ratcliffe-on-Soar was chosen because it is one of the biggest coal fired power stations in the UK and it’s owned by E.ON, who were the energy company behind plans to build a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth (now shelved) and who were the focus of Climate Camp actions throughout 2008 and 2009. In the event of a successful shut down electricity for the surrounding area could easily be obtained from other sources.
Ratcliffe by Farzeen Jabbar.
As I went to bed there was an the air of the calm before the storm, especially after we received conflicting reports about a growing police presence near the power station. It just seemed so incredibly unlikely that out of the several hundred people involved in the planning of the action (including drivers, hosts, etc) no one could have let slip our plans. Nonetheless I was tired and soon fell asleep.
A few minutes after I dozed off I was woken by my friend screeching POLIIIIIIIIIICE in my ear. No amount of deeply inserted ear plug was going to stop me leaping into immediate bleary eyed action as I realised that the entire building was surrounded and being battered from all sides. I just had time to struggle into some decent clothing before our room was filled with policemen who immediately handcuffed us all, regardless of our state of dress. I never knew I would find out what it’s like to be treated like a terrorist, but I can now safely tell you that I do. And it was utterly surreal. We were kept in our respective rooms (chosen for the type of action we would be taking) for what seemed like hours. As we waited we could hear people singing protest songs up and down the corridor. Domestic Extremists we might be. Your standard terrorists we ain’t.
Amelia Gets Arrested by Abigail Daker.
I was desperately keen to take my belongings with me as we were finally led out of the room – I’ve had previous experience of them being kept by police and I knew how long it would take to get them back (nearly a year as it turned out), but my arresting officer would not allow me to pick them up despite others being allowed to do so: the first sign of a somewhat shambolic operation with far from clear instructions.
Ratcliffe on Trial by Rukmunal Hakim.
Things were shortly to get much more surreal. We were frogmarched two by two – handcuffed to our respective officers – into an impromptu photo studio that had been set up in the school nursery. Our mugshots were taken in front of the kids’ brightly coloured artwork before we were packed off into vans and taken to holding cells at police stations all over the city. I was held through the night and for most of the ensuing day. Being a well trained activist I kept to No Comment throughout my interrogation, though the investigating officer was very interested in my ear plugs (convinced they were a clue that I was headed to the noisy coal conveyor belt) and my Climate Rush badge (at that time I was still involved with the Suffragette inspired group).
My Mugshot by Alison Day.
My DNA was taken before I was eventually allowed to leave, taking none of my belongings. I was simply ejected into the night. With no money and absolutely no idea where I was in Nottingham. Fortunately there was legal support waiting in the station car park and I was scooped up and taken to a safe house. I spent another night sharing a bed with an activist before hitching the first lift out of Nottingham. By this time I was desperate to get back to London because I was worried that my house would be raided – someone else had left a piece of paper with my details on in their wallet and it had been waved at me as evidence in the police station. I spent the next few weeks worrying whether I would be raided when my interns were in the house, thereby putting their computers at risk as evidence too. In the end my worries were unfounded, though many other people were raided.
Ratcliffe Trial by Matilde Sazio.
It has taken nearly two years for this case to come to court, during which time I have not been able to talk about it for fear of affecting the outcome for the 26 who were charged (out of the original 114 activists who were arrested). Many of those spent the better part of December 2010 fighting their case in court in Nottingham. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas gave a statement and James Hansen testified. Despite comprehensive evidence proving that the climate crimes of corporations such as E.ON are way worse than anything we were planning to do, the activists were all convicted and given a mix of fines, conditional discharges and community service. Maybe the jury was won over by the prosecution argument that we would have been better off spending our time getting Cheryl Cole to promote second hand clothing. Bleurgh. The judge did however praise the defendents for their “intelligence and dedication” – climate activists are certainly some of the most clever and interesting people I know.
Illustration by Gareth A Hopkins.
Six more activists were due to go to court today with a defence of Not Guilty because they had not yet decided to take part in the action when they were arrested. It was set to be an extraordinarily interesting case that would challenge the excessively expensive largest ever pre-emptive arrest, which in retrospect seems to be have been designed to capture the details of the entire UK climate activist network in one fell swoop. But their plans have at the last moment been thwarted. The reason? Our very own police mole.
Ratcliffe by Gemma Birss.
A few months ago the indymedia networks were rife with the news that a climate activist mole had been unmasked. For seven years Mark “Flash” Stone (so called because he always seemed to have lots of cash) was a familiar face on the activist circuit until he was outed by ‘close’ friends who eventually became suspicious of him. He also happened to be involved in much of the preliminary planning for the April action on Ratcliffe: hosting meetings, driving trucks and planning to lead climbers up the huge chimney stack.
Now it is revealed that Mark has left the police force, apparently ashamed of the consequences of his actions. The Ratcliffe Trial blog states that he was even planning to provide evidence in favour of the defendants he did so much to help arrest back in 2009. However it appears that outside pressures (the police he used to work for? surely not) recently caused him to withdraw his offer. The case was then mysteriously dropped in its entirety after the defence pressed the powers that be for details of Mark Kennedy’s involvement in the initial planning stages of the Ratcliffe action.
Climate Change by Jane McGuinness.
Even before today’s revelations it already seemed a sure bet that Mark’s insider knowledge helped to secure huge funding for the police raid, which cost upwards of £700,000 and ensured that officers were drafted in from across the county on huge overtime wages over Easter. That’s over £6,000 on the cost of arresting me alone. Not to mention the fact that the extremely expensive court case may have collapsed in its entirety had Mark’s involvement been known earlier. I can think of better ways to spend cash, can’t you?
Police The Community Ignore The Environment by Gareth A Hopkins.
In the last year Climate Change has all but dropped off the mainstream media agenda and many of our most committed activists have been tied up in lengthy court proceedings. Yet climate change continues unabated. Next month Climate Camp will run a five day long event at Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset called A Space for Change, which will seek to “reflect and re-assess climate justice activism, re-dream what a radical movement can be and re-invigorate ourselves and our network.” There’s never been a better time to get involved in climate activism. You can find out more details here.
A Space for Change, Abigail Daker, activism, Alison Day, Caroline Lucas, Cheryl Cole, Climate Camp, Climate Change, Climate Rush, coal, Daria Hlazatova, Direct Action, DNA, Domestic Extremist, Dorset, E-On, Farzeen Jabbar, Gareth A Hopkins, Gemma Birss, Iona School, James Hansen, Jane McGuinness, kingsnorth, Mark "Flash" Stone, Mark Kennedy, Mark Stone, Matilde Sazio, Mole, Monkton Wyld Court, No Comment, nottingham, Paul Lewis, police, Ratcliffe, Ratcliffe 114, Ratcliffe On Soar, Rob Evans, Rukmunal Hakim, Suffragette, Terrorist, Undercover, Victoria Archer
- The Great Climate Swoop – the mass action of the year!
- The Great Climate Swoop 2009: A retrospective
- Bloom In Bloomsbury – A student focused day of outreach and action.
- Shutting down Didcot Power Station
- Hooray! The Climate Camp site has been secured