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Lib Dems reveal police injuries at Kingsnorth protest - 6 insect bites and a toothache

December 16, 2008 12:34 PM

Well done to Lib Dem Justice spokesman David Howarth for showing the extent of police misinformation during this summer's week-long Climate Camp protest against Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent.

When protesters descended on the site of the Kingsnorth power station the scale of the police operation to cope with them was enormous. The Green Lib Dem website editor, Cllr Alexis Rowell of Camden, was among the protesters and reported at the time that he'd never seen anything like it since his times as a BBC correspondent working in Eastern Europe. Read here for more on Alexis's experience at the Climate Camp: http://www.belsizelibdems.org.uk/search?q=police

Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP for Lewes, who was also at the Climate Camp, said: "I personally witnessed unnecessarily aggressive policing, unprovoked violence against peaceful protesters, an extraordinary number of police on site, and tactics such as confiscating toilet rolls, board games and clown costumes from what I saw to be peaceful demonstrators."

The police also ran a sustained misinformation campaign. At one point they announced that weapons had been found buried in the nearby woods. it turned out to be a penknife and a bike lock - both items that were being confiscated from Climate Campers as they entered the site through the gigantic police holding area.

But government ministers justified what they called the "proportionate" £5.9m cost of the operation, pointing out that 70 officers had been injured in the course of their duties. However data obtained by David Howarth MP under the Freedom of Information Act, and published this week by the Guardian, puts a rather different slant on the nature of those injuries.

Of the 1,500 officers policing the Kingsnorth site 12 suffered reportable injuries during the protest. Only four of the 12 reportable injuries involved any contact with protesters at all and all were at the lowest level of seriousness with no further action taken. The other injuries reported included "stung on finger by possible wasp"; "officer injured sitting in car"; and "officer succumbed to sun and heat". One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one "used leg to open door and next day had pain in lower back".

A separate breakdown of the 33 patients treated by the police tactical medicine unit at the climate camp shows that three officers had succumbed to heat exhaustion, three had toothache, six were bitten by insects, and others had diarrhoea, had cut their finger or had headaches.

Coaker claimed in a parliamentary debate in September that the police had acted "appropriately and proportionately", despite hundreds of complaints over unnecessarily heavy policing and calls for an investigation of police conduct by MPs, MEPs, councillors and members of the public.

The list of items deemed potentially dangerous by police and seized from protesters included glue, marker pens, board games, cushions, carpet, wood, paint, and scissors as well as bicycle locks which could have been used to lock protesters to fences. Police also seized anything that could have been used to set up camp, including spades and duct tape, generators and hammers and nails.

David Howarth said: "That the minister could defend as 'proportionate' a £5.9m policing operation in which there was not a single injury to police officers caused by the protesters beggars belief. The threat posed by environmental direct action is being systematically overblown by both the government and the police.

"I hope the government and the police will now stop trying to portray peaceful protesters as somehow equivalent to terrorists or violent extremists. In light of this new evidence, one has to ask, were climate campers so heavily policed because they posed any genuine threat of violence, or because they posed a challenge to government policy?"

Nick Thorpe, a spokesman for the climate camp, said: "Policing of peaceful protest has become increasingly heavy-handed. We saw thousands of officers swarming around a legal camp in a colossal waste of public money. The police and the government claimed there was a 'violent minority' of protesters but this Home Office admission reveals this as a complete fiction."

Thanks to Guardian for reporting this story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/15/kingsnorth-climate-change-environment-police