John Stewart is a terrorist


It was like a scene out of a New York cop movie.  Only it was happening for real.  And to me.  I had just arrived at New York’s JFK Airport to talk to American activists about the success of the campaign to stop the third runway at Heathrow.  They had invited myself and Plane Stupid activist Dan Glass to tour the country – by train - for a month talking about the campaign - http://aviationjustice.org/.  But I never left JFK. 

When my flight touched down, it was boarded by six New York cops who escorted me off the plane.  I had apparently made threats against President Obama.  I was questioned by the Immigration Service, the FBI and the American Secret Service.  After 7½ hours I was sent back to the UK.  I had never before taken a transatlantic flight.  Now I had taken two within 24 hours!

But it was the nature of the questioning, particularly by the FBI, which was so revealing.  Next-to-nothing about threats to Obama.  What they wanted to know about was Plane Stupid, direct action and Dan (who had super-glued himself to Gordon Brown in protest against the 3rd runway).  They saw Dan as a man who – shock! horror! – “actively advocated” civil disobedience.  They even used the word “terrorist”.  When Dan had tried to apply for a visa, they said they were afraid he might super-glue himself to Sarah Palin!  When questioning me they said they feared my talks might result in armed protesters occupying JFK Airport!  Now that would be material for a movie.  Pure fiction!

What is so disturbing is that Plane Stupid – a network whose actions are rooted in the tradition of non-violent civil disobedience – can be branded terrorist.  As it happens, I personally have no convictions but somebody didn’t want me, in association with Dan, talking with American audiences.  I learnt once I returned to London that a phone-call had been made once by flight had taken off alleging that I had made threats against Obama.  We’ll never know who made it but it provided the perfect opportunity for me to be questioned at length at JFK.

A new book by Will Potter suggests that in America, green has become the new red.  The US authorities are now seeing a green under every bed planting seeds of revolution and sowing sedition.  If that’s the case, a tour telling the story of a successful and radical environmental campaign, which overcame the power of the aviation industry, would have worried the American authorities.  If the process were to be repeated across Europe and the US, it would harm the corporate interests of the aviation industry.  Potter argues in Green is the New Red that it is precisely to protect the profits of corporate interests that environmentalists are being targeted.  He has written, “much like the Red Scare and the communist witch hunts of the 40s and 50s, the Green Scare is using one word—this time, it’s “terrorist”—to push a political agenda, instill fear, and chill dissent”.

I must learn to stop associating with green “terrorists” and super-glue addicts.

Plane Stupid protester wins kettling court case at the High Court

Back in 2009 Plane Stupid were among a festive group of folk protesting against the terrifying implications of carbon trading as part of the Climate Camp at the G20 demonstrations. Our own Josh Moos was one of the two activists who not only took a beating that evening, but went on to jump through legal hoops to try and bring those responsible for police violence to account. In a remarkable ruling, the Police were in the dock and found guilty today.

Here is Josh Moos's statement on the ruling:

"I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of police violence before. The police have a history of gross violence, and what I saw on the 1st and 2nd April was deeply disturbing because of it's sheer scale. The officers behaved as if they had been unleashed upon us and were free to use as much force as they wished without provocation or any other justification. This was not misbehaviour by a few, out of control 'bad apples'; it was systematic and orchestrated. Today the court has ruled, in clear terms, that it was unlawful and nothing I nor anyone else demonstrating at the Carbon Exchange did in any way to justify the kettling and violence to which we were subjected. The ruling is very welcome, but better still would be an acceptance by the police of their own wrongdoing. That has still to come."

Police harassment begins early for Great Climate Swoopers

Climate activists have been harassed, threatened and detained by police, just days before a mass action to take over a coal-fired power station near Nottingham.

On Wednesday at 8.10pm, an activist from Leeds was walking back from a Climate Camp meeting, when an unmarked car stopped and the drivers asked his name. When he gave it, the drivers identified themselves as police officers, and arrested him on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

After being questioned by Nottinghamshire police and having his notebooks rifled through at the police station, the Climate Camper has now been bailed to return at 1pm on Saturday - the exact time of the Swoop on Ratcliffe coal-fired power station.

Over the past two days, UK border police have also used anti-terrorism legislation to detain 4 activists who were traveling to Copenhagen to attend a meeting of the international network Climate Justice Action. The network is discussing protests due to take place during the United Nations climate talks in December.

Yesterday Nottinghamshire police also rang up the info phone of action group Plane Stupid, to tell them not to go to Ratcliffe "because if they did, they would be arrested." Tracy Singh from Plane Stupid said "the police are acting like hoodlums. We are absolutely disgusted."

Richard Bernard from the Climate Camp: "They're threatening and arresting people for just thinking and talking about taking meaningful action. It's very obvious to all of us that the police are only interested in protecting companies like E.ON which are causing climate change."

"This is clear intimidation - they're just trying to scare us. But what's really scary is climate change, and that's why we're going to take control of Ratcliffe on Saturday."

The Great Climate Swoop will be awesome and takes place at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station tomorrow at 1pm. There are loads of resources on the Camp for Climate Action website, including maps and instructions on where to go, which bloc to join, and how to sign up for text alerts.

Off-topic: cops cancel Big Green Gathering. Bastards


I know this is off topic, so feel free to skip, but I'm really pissed off. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of spending the summer touring various festivals, promoting sustainable transport. We did Glastonbury in the pouring rain, which was hard work, but we also did the Big Green Gathering, a genuinely awesome little festival tucked away in deepest Cider country.

The local bobbies have always had it in for the festival: it didn't take place last year because of ridiculous security requirements and made a loss the year before after shelling out to turn the festival site into Fort Knox. This year they went one better and sought an injunction against the landowners, which would have been heard today. Bear in mind that the event starts on Wednesday, and that the cops have known about the legal threat for at least three weeks, and you start to get an idea of what's going on.

Let's make one thing clear: bastards at the council are claiming it was cancelled for safety reasons. Bollocks. The security company, many of whom are ex-coppers with a 'special relationship' with the fuzz, were up to something, demanding loads of cash up front from the cash-strapped festival organisers and then calling the cops to say that no one would be keeping the hippies in line even though their extravagant cheque was in the post.

Anyway, this great little festival won't take place this year, which financially screws over a bunch of nice people who've spent all their meager pennies on beer for the Last Chance Saloon as well as some nice random hippy families who had it booked as their one summer holiday. I hope the tossers at Mendip Council are happy with themselves, but they're already on holiday in Malaga anyway. Grrrrr.

If you are as agrieved as I, why not email Suzanne McCutcheon, arch-partypooper at Mendip Council, to suggest that we use her back garden for a knees-up instead?

Cop watch: cops caught trying to bribe a Plane Stupid activist

For the past few months Plane Stupid has been aware of efforts by the police to recruit paid informers on our movement. One of our activists, Tilly Gifford, has been recording secret meetings between herself and the police, in which they made a number of outrageous claims about the group and offered to pay her make her student debts go away.

Tilly recorded the meetings to expose how police seek to disrupt the legitimate activities of climate change activists. She met the officers twice; they said they were a detective constable and his assistant. During the taped discussions, which you can listen to on the Guardian's website [1] [2] [3] the officers:

  • Indicate that she could receive tens of thousands of pounds to pay off her student loans in return for information about individuals within Plane Stupid.
  • Say they will not pay money direct into her bank account because that would leave an audit trail that would leave her compromised. They said the money would be tax-free, and added: "UK plc can afford more than 20 quid."
  • Accept that she is a legitimate protester, but warn her that her activity could mean she will struggle to find employment in the future and result in a criminal record.
  • Claim they have hundreds of informants feeding them information from protest organisations and "big groupings" from across the political spectrum.
  • Explain that spying could assist her if she was arrested. "People would sell their soul to the devil," an officer said.
  • Warn her that she could be jailed alongside "hard, evil" people if she received a custodial sentence.

Read the transcripts and listen to the recordings here:  [1] [2][3].

Cop watch: climate profiteers are the real criminals

Over the last six months, Plane Stupid activists have been targeted by a campaign of police intimidation. Many of our activists have been approached and teased with incentives to inform on the rest of the group. Elderly activists have been held in a cell overnight for innocently writing 'you fly, we die' in the snow. Now we can reveal that one of our activists, Tilly, was offered a blunt choice: either she spies on Plane Stupid or risks being unable to finish her degree.

The police claimed it wasn’t Plane Stupid they were “worried about, but individuals within Plane Stupid”; individuals, they claimed might be planning acts of violence in the name of our cause. We've heard it all before. At the Climate Camps, it was the elusive “hardcore of trouble-makers” intent on provoking violence, and in the case of the Nottingham conspiracy, “those arrested posed a serious threat to the safe running of the site." EON, the owners of the alleged target of the alleged protest, gave us a helpful clue about what is going here in their statement following the arrests: “While we understand that everyone has a right to protest peacefully and lawfully, this was clearly neither of those things.

Did you spot the deliberate mistake? Their statement conflates the notions of ‘lawful’ and ‘peaceful’ protest. But the critical distinction between these two lies at the heart of the question of whether the level and type of policing being applied to the climate movement can be justified. Peaceful does not mean the same thing as lawful. No activists at Plane Stupid or the Climate Camp have ever been convicted of a violent crime, and we are proud to be a part of the long tradition of non-violent protest. Plane Stupid welcomes direct action in its name, so long as it is peaceful and accountable.

We know what we have to do. Stopping runaway climate change means taking action to stop and expose those working to protect a system which protects profit over the planet. Plane Stupid is not a threat to anyone‘s health or well-being. But we are a financial threat to big business and a financial threat to carbon-heavy industry. Aviation is still the fastest growing source of Co2. If the Climate Change bill is to be enforced, the industry has to scale down massively. For us, this isn’t merely about Plane Stupid and the police, it is about exposing 'police' tactics which protect a criminal justice system that defend big business instead of civil liberties.

The actions we take are necessary and sensible in light of the scientific evidence. We are a growing movement of concerned citizens who are prepared to put our bodies in the way of these high-carbon developments. We do so because we believe it is both justified and necessary, and that the negative consequences of our actions are better than the consequences of inaction. There's no need to carry out surveillance to catch us, we’re not going anywhere – you’ll find us chained by our necks to a conveyor belt, or superglued to the Prime Minister’s jacket. There is no need to punch or kick us either – that’s why we’re chanting “this is not a riot” with our hands in the air.

It is time to drop the discredited pretence of preventing violence against people, and start a serious conversation about all of this: about why the lie of violence has been accepted for so long despite the absence of any evidence to support it; about what constitutes appropriate policing of peaceful protest, even when it may be unlawful; and about whose interests are really being served by devoting such extravagant police resources to preventing peaceful disruption to major polluters, companies whose core activities are driving us ever closer to the precipice of catastrophic, runaway global warming.

Police promise 'summer of rage'


riot porn

Extremists are rumoured to be planning a 'summer of rage'. The organiser of a shadowy group known as the Metropolitan police's riot division (motto: Beating up protestors since 1816) has threatened that this summer will be full of chaotic scenes as heavily armoured riot cops wade into demos and make sure they "kick off a bit so the media gets some tasty photographs".

Dismissing claims that it's often the police who like to wade into protests and cause a ruck, Superintendent David Hartshorn said "that sounds like exactly the sort of thing these bloody peacenicks would say" before threatening to spray CS gas at anoyone who suggested otherwise.

Anyone not put off by the steady escalation of police threats (see the now infamous NETCU 'eco-activists = terrorists' article in the Observer last year) should make sure they come to the Camp for Climate Action for a Financial Fools Day action on April 1st. Bring pop-up tents, music, water and soothing aromatherapy oils in case any of these extremist coppers show up demanding a riot.

More news about super-duper police spy team


Cops at Climate Camp

Yesterday we covered the Daily Mail story about the Confidential Intelligence Unit - a special task force set up to tackle "domestic extremism". For those of you who missed the memo, the new unit has been set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers: a private company which is unanswerable to the public, believes itself outside of the remit of the Freedom of Information Act and generally lords it about the place.

Thanks to the power of t'interweb we've found the job description for the head of the CIU. Successful applicants will be tasked with "manag[ing] the covert intelligence function for domestic extremism, and the confidential intelligence unit" and "Develop[ing] the business of the confidential intelligence unit to support NCDE [National Covert Domestic Extremist] units and the wider DE policing objectives."

They will be asked to "Represent NPOIU [National Public Order Intelligence Unit] at Public Interest Immunity hearings, and legal meetings regarding sensitive source material" - basically refusing to give any info about who they are and how they work, should anyone be prepared to risk arrest and ask. It's very important that officers "Consider and shows respect for the opinions, circumstances and feelings of colleagues and members of the public, no matter what their race, religion, position, background, circumstances, status or appearance"... unless those opinions and feelings happen to be anti-state, in which case it's open season.

Update: according to yet another document we've taken off the web, people with concerns about CIU, NETCU, ACPO and the like should contact Laura Holford at the Home Office. You can phone her on 0207 0848739 - but be polite! She'll probably record all your details and pop you in the database.

Top secret police force to spy on Plane Stupid!


Allo, allo, allo. What's going on here then? I'm Inspector Clouseau, of the Confidential Intelligence Unit, and I'm here to investigate rumours that you may be part of Plane Stupid, the anti-aviation direct action group with a penchant for bad puns. Have I found anything out? I can't tell you: all our intelligence is confidential.

Yes, this is the news, first leaked by the Mail on Sunday, that bored plod at the Association of Chief Police Officers have started up a new super secret group to investigate any groups which have anything nasty to say about capital and the state. ACPO is the private company that masterminds the nutkins at NECTU, last seen leaking reports to the Observer that pretended environmentalists were dangerous terrorists. They've named Plane Stupid as one of the groups singled out for special interest.

Other groups under investigation are anti-Zionist groups, those who instigated the recent wildcat strikes and animal rights groups. We shouldn't be surprised really: history shows that the state and industry will do anything it can to protect itself. At least they got one thing right: they're also looking into groups of fascists; suggestions that they might like to start with ACPO or NETCU should be sent to Steven Pearl, Constabulary HQ. Hinchingbrooke Park, Cambridgeshire. PE29 6NP.

Camp for Climate Action - 1,727 stop and searches

Camp for Climate Action

Anyone visiting the Camp for Climate Action last month might be forgiven for calling the policing a little 'over the top'.

Called to account by the Green Party's Jenny Jones, Sir Ian Blair, head honcho of the Metropolitan Police, wrote a letter which manages to avoid answering any of the difficult questions about police brutality, unlawful detention, or just why 'Operation Hargood' cost £7 million.

He does, however, reveal that the total number of searches during the week was 1,727, of which 230 were conducted under anti-terrorism legislation. Quite what the unlucky 13% were up to that made them so specially terror-istic remains to be seen, as does whether those frisked by over-eager Bobbies felt it was "entirely reasonable" to use such legislation against peaceful protesters...