Thousands of people ‘swooped’ into the heart of london on Wednesday 1st April at precisely 12:30pm to shut down the European Climate Exchange and to hold a 24hr ‘climate camp in the city’.
Among them were a group of four Cumbrians and two Lancastrians who travelled together to support the action and to add their own voice to the growing multitude opposed to the market driven farce of carbon trading.
Bishpsgate – a typical busy street in the heart of London’s financial district. The Climate Exchange is the second building on the right.
The same scene shortly after 12:30pm after thousands descended to shut down the Climate Exchange.
The Camp was located outside the European Climate Exchange on Bishopsgate, to protest against the G20′s plans to use deeply flawed carbon trading mechanisms to tackle climate change. Within minutes of 12:30 the whole street was packed with thousands of people; tents popped up in the middle of the street, banners were put up and the street blockaded with bicycles.
Throughout the day a programme of workshops was conducted on issues such as carbon trading, COP15, the history of social movements and climate change poetry. Pedal-powered sound systems and live bands provided entertainment, a kitchen provided hundreds of meals and a farmers market gave away organic vegetables.
The atmoshere was peaceful and happy and we were joined by many office workers who came out of their offices to take part, or simply watched from their office windows. It was a great feeling to be surrounded by so many like minded people and you couldn’t help but start to feel strongly that together, we can change things.
As evening fell the mood became more festive as live music sprang up all across the street and people started dancing.
It was at this point, around 7pm, that the police decided to get violent and a large group of riot police in balaclavas violently forced their way into the camp. They were met by peaceful campers who put their hands in the air shouting ‘this is not a riot’ and refusing to move. In response the police used batons and shields and several campers were injured. The situation remained tense for approx 30 mins before things began to settle down. The police had forced their way down half the street before being stopped by people lying on the street in their way.
Despite the police violence and intimidation the camp atmosphere quickly returned to festivity as a ceilidh was held at the north end of the street. At the southern end of the street however police aggression continued throught the night as they repeatedly used batons, shields and boots on peaceful protestors. This was the worst police violence I have ever witnessed, and it now seems standard police practice to meet peaceful direct action protest in this manner. Shame on them.
The camp remained festive during the evening though at the southern end of the street things remained tense all night as police used sporadic acts of violence on peaceful protestors.
Eventually, at around 1am, after hours of extreme action by the police the camp was forcibly dispersed, which was a horrible thing to witness. Despite the end the whole day was amazing and a fantastic thing to be part of, and most importantly the message from the climate camp remains upbeat:
We were there to expose carbon trading as a financial fraud which has nothing to do with climate change. Our success in turning Bishopsgate into an eco-camp has clearly rattled the authorities, who once again have used unnecessary force against us.
We will not be deterred, however. Climate change is the most urgent issue in the world, and our movement is growing stronger all of the time.
See www.climatecamp.org.uk and get involved!