London’s Climate Camp will begin today, when thousands of protesters stationed at seven locations around the city converge on the now top-secret location. A camp will then be set-up for one week and participants will learn how to live more sustainably, build a wind turbine and take part in direct action training. At the end of the week protesters will engage in mass action against a climate change target.
The reason for the top-secret location stems from police harassment at April’s G20 Climate Camp in front of the Bank of England. Several protesters sustained severe injuries after police encircled the camp with riot gear and refused to let anyone in or out. A newspaper vendor, caught up in the mess, was also struck by police and later died.
The incident has become a major blemish on London’s police force. According to a recent poll, half of UK adults now think that “policing of environmental protests is too heavy handed or involves too many officers.” As a result, the Metropolitan Police have made extraordinary efforts to prove that they will be handling this protest differently.
For one, they have promised to use a more “community-style” policing operation and limit the use of stop-and-search of protesters and surveillance units. They’ve set up a Twitter account to send out “operational information” to the protesters.
The most interesting change to procedure, however, is that they’ve decided to put female officers in charge of the operation, relying on new research that shows (not surprisingly) female officers are less likely to use excessive force than their male counterparts because they favor deescalation tactics over authoritarian behavior. (Check out this fascinating Guardian piece for more info).
Climate Camp organizers have mostly balked at these changes in procedure. In the above video, they state, “Judging from past experience the best thing the police could do to ensure the health and safety of Climate Camp in 2009 would be to stay as far away from it as possible.”
While that seems unlikely, a peaceful interaction between police and protesters will be a good thing for everyone, except the big polluters. But that’s OK.