In true Climate Camp tradition our weeklong camp culminated in a mass action on April 29th. A coalition of direct action groups including South Coast Climate Camp, UK Uncut, Smash EDO, Brighton ABC, Queer Mutiny and the Squatter’s Network of Brighton converged by the West Pier for a party and protest in the sun to celebrate International Worker’s Day.
In the spirit of the casino banking culture responsible for the meltdown of the financial system, a giant dice was rolled to select targets for the demo. The Town Hall was duly selected first, so off marched a merry bunch of around 300 face painted demonstrators with sound systems in tow, dancing and banging drums whilst being chaperoned by around 200 plod including some on horseback. The scenes that followed were deplorable despite being completely predictable. Moving as one bloc down a side street towards the Town Hall, the march was quickly penned into a moving kettle. The police, citing non cooperation from protest organisers as the reason for their massive presence, made their intentions clear from the start, using overtly aggressive tactics and intimidation to curtail the free movement of the protest. As with all situations where ‘containment’ is deemed a necessary tactic, tempers started to fray. The course of the day saw eight arrests, for reasons ranging from refusal remove a face covering to assaulting a police officer. Snatch squads were in operation throughout, with one protester being delivered into the waiting hands of the MET.
Despite the unwanted and unnecessary outcome of Sussex Police’s tactical approach and the frankly upsetting failure of the dice game, there were many positives to be taken from the day and lessons to be learned. For the general public it was a chance to view firsthand the heavy handed police treatment of anti capitalist or anarchist protesters, with many shocked and appalled by what they witnessed. And for the direct action groups of Brighton it was a chance to show and feel solidarity on the streets of their town.
Tactically, there are valid questions to be asked, with some feeling that the presence of black blocked or masked demonstrators at a demo billed as a ‘party and protest’ was unnecessary and perhaps inflammatory. However this must be balanced with the right of protestors to shield their faces from the ever present FIT teams, and the use of the face mask as a general symbol of resistance and defiance. Luckily, amid the fallout of Mayday, some of us had the shelter of another little world to go back to…
A month ago we sat around a table wondering how this would ever happen, making a camp of our own seemed such a daunting task with so many contingencies to consider, but with the commitment and skills of a core organising group and the dedication of a fair few more we have made it happen. The changes we wish to see are taking root here, but determination and more hard work will be needed to push on to the next stage and save St Anne’s from development.
Around us are clear and exciting examples of another way, from the concrete surrounded enclave of Grow Heathrow to the meadows and forests of the Zad occupation, real working models of sustainable futures are already taking shape. We know that other neighbourhoods are still active, we hear that Manchester Climate Camp are now planning a little jaunt of their own at the end of a runway!! We offer our support in any way we can, and encourage other neighbourhoods which may have been discouraged by the ‘death’ of Climate Camp to take this opportunity to get organised, get local. The national breakup has given us the freedom to focus on taking back the power on our doorsteps. If we are to effectively implement an even remotely form of sustainable society post peak oil, post coal, post capitalism, then spaces like St Anne’s will be the key. You can grow food on a disused building site like the Mound, but you can’t dig. And that won’t do for the Diggers of St Anne’s.
Solidarity and support to all, from our world to yours.
South Coast Climate Camp