Provocative policing

It's hard to see the police approach to this year's climate camp as anything other than a bid to pro

This first of my regular newstatesman.com blogs finds me between my campaign for Brighton Pavilion and protesting in Kingsnorth, where I’ve been heavily involved in attempts to get the police to pull back from their campaign of harrassment of the camp.

Everyone who enters the site is being searched. Police officers are taking anything away that “could be used for illegal activity”, with efforts being made to strip protestors of such hardcore weapons of choice as biodegradable soap and toilet paper!

More seriously, they have raided the camp on a number of occasions, continue to withhold vital equipment such as wooden boards which form part of the toilet infrastructure (an obsession with personal hygiene is only one of the more bizarre police tactics here), and have apparently broken vehicles’ windows before towing them away on the ground that they have been “abandoned”.

It’s hard not to see this as a strategy to try to provoke protestors into less peaceful behaviour.

I was at the camp earlier in the week, and will be back again on Saturday, the main day of protest and non-violent direct action. As on many previous occasions, I will be prepared to be arrested for making a peaceful protest.

Most political leaders try to avoid the obvious tension between being a law maker, and a law ‘breaker’. But I believe that it is everyone’s right, and perhaps duty, on occasion to stand up in the face of actions that could otherwise bring catastrophe.

At Kingsnorth, we face the first in a series of around half a dozen new coal stations, which, if built, will commit the UK to a new generation of climate-busting energy infrastructure.

This will not only prevent Britain from investing in clean technologies, but will undermine all of our attempts to persuade other countries to reduce emissions as well.

Given that scientists are saying that action to reduce emissions in the next ten years will be crucial if we are to avoid runaway climate change, the government’s policy is here not just foolhardy, but a danger to all of our livelihoods.

Kingsnorth is not just a symbol, it is the frontline of the political struggle to avoid climate change. It is of the highest importance that we stop this new generation of coal stations from being built, and that is why I am personally willing to join others in peaceful, but law-breaking, protest.

If I am, as I hope, elected the first leader of the Green party in September, I am totally committed to continuing to protest when it is needed. I believe this type of stance is on occasion essential, not just for us as individuals, but also for society’s leaders, including politicians.

That is why I challenge David Cameron and Nick Clegg to put their alleged commitment to avoiding climate change into practice by supporting the protestors at Kingsnorth, and joining them, maybe you, and myself there on Saturday.