You're not bringing that in here...

A table cloth triggers a police crackdown at Climate Camp

Dear Marina,

It was lovely to meet you at Climate Camp last week. My Harold was quite taken with you. And you make such a wonderful pot of tea. Thank you for taking the time to help us and listen to our concerns. When we’re moved out of our home we will take with us a lifetime of memories including time spent with people like you at Climate Camp. I was very concerned at the heavy handedness of the police. Did you have any problems?
Hilda, Sipson Village

Thank you Hilda and up yours! Since I was doing no wrong – merely exercising my right to empower others to protest – I haven’t come away with any lasting problems, other than having my grandmother’s table cloth confiscated under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act. I might, apparently, have used it as a weapon.

It was in fact, required to keep up my own exacting standards while serving tea to protesters. The tea was still served – but it’s never the same without doilies and a cloth.

The police have since lost the cloth – claiming they returned it to camp. I have no recourse for complaint because under Section 60 the police can do anything. Their words.

I am left bereft of a family heirloom and scratching my head: you never notice the erosion of civil liberties until the rug of rights is gone from under your feet or more pertinently the cloth of democracy is gone from the table.

Male officers, despite declaring my wit as the only sharp thing about my person, also subjected me to some pretty full on body searches. Once again I cannot complain because under Section 60 the police have the powers "to do anything" as they repeatedly insisted.

During one search, to put this into context, with that many witnesses, had it been a member of the public rather than the long arm of the law touching me in that way, I’d be pressing charges for sexual assault and expect justice to be done.

Tell me Hilda, have you and Harold ever considered anarchy? I only ask because it seems to me that dismantling our current system of government is our only hope if we are seriously going to address systemic problems within planning law. Without changes any efforts to halt or curb the progression of climate chaos are futile.

But hey, given the current trajectory of state interference and the rise of police powers, I guess they’ll shoot us all long before progress is made.

Dear Marina,

I’m all for saving money. That’s why I’ve turned down the thermostat and installed energy efficient light bulbs. But I’d hardly claim I was playing my part to halt climate change given government plans for airport expansion and no plans for improving public transport. Should I give up or what?
Confused, Leith

Saving money is a good thing, especially when you spend your savings wisely. And of course every drop of greenhouse gas prevented from escaping into the atmosphere has to be a good thing. So obviously, don’t give up.

If anything, now is the time to increase activity that may help us stabilize the climate. Eating more vegan food and less meat and dairy products is good. As is super gluing yourself to the doors of the Department of Transport or DEFRA. Such actions won’t make much of a difference to your own personal carbon footprint, or indeed to that of the civil servants employed in such places. It will however highlight the scale of the problem to others and give you a day in court on charges of criminal damage. But since once the glue has been dissolved, it's hardly likely to be a scratch on any structure you might adhere yourself to, you’d have to come before a pretty grumpy judge not to have your case dismissed. Good luck!

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism