Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Updated on September 1, 2009

I haven’t seen or heard much about the Climate Camp environmental get-together that’s been taking place in south London since last week.

Spotting this tweet from the Metropolitan Police over the weekend saying that their mobile police station is closed as there’s no demand for it made me curious to see what was actually going on.

After all the fanfare last week, I would have expected to have seen some TV coverage on at least one of the days. Maybe there has been and I just missed it. Or maybe it’s been all over the social media space in areas that I don’t pay a lot of attention to. That looks likely.

A news search pulled up a story in yesterday’s Telegraph quoting a report in Sunday’s Observer that the police have been conspicuous by their absence.

Five days in and there are no more toilets to put up, no more drainage systems to figure out, no more marquees to erect. The camp neighbourhoods all have their kitchens working, the rotas are full, the water hasn’t run out and no one has set fire to anything.

As for the police, they have been pretty much invisible, going so far as to reject the idea of training a light on the camp at night in case it’s seen as “invasive”…

And the campers admit that, actually, it feels a bit odd without them. After all, much though they may deny this, the police have actually been incredibly useful to Climate Camp – uniting the campers in the face of the common enemy, and keeping them in the headlines in the months between camps. Now members of the legal team are wandering around like lost souls. The hay-bale barricades erected around the gate earlier in the week have been dismantled and turned into comfy seats.

Interesting tactics by the police, in complete contrast to what seems to have been the expectations of confrontation in their approach.

Looks like any confrontation is taking place online, although it’s pretty mild stuff.

Hoping it stays that way, virtually and really.

[Update @ 2.30pm] A Climate Camp protest in a number of London locations today made the lunchtime news: I saw a report on BBC News.

The protestors targeted not only ‘big business’ but also their PR firms, in this case Edelman, with a naked rooftop protest.

[…] A further 15 activists staged a naked demo and climbed the roof of central London public relations firm Edelman. Climate Camp protesters also occupied the building’s lobby and entrance. Edelman’s clients include energy firm E.on, which owns Kingsnorth power station in Kent. Climate Camp protesters have criticised E.on’s plans to build a coal-fired power station there.

Alice Fielding, a protester at the Edelman headquarters, said: "Edelman PR are nothing more than new coal spin doctors, intent on making profit out of E.On’s activities at the expense of the global climate."

Edelmen’s chief executive officer Robert Phillips said the Climate Camp protesters caused "no disruption whatsoever.  We offered them the opportunity to come and discuss the issues with us – preferably fully clothed – but they declined," he said.

"Everyone all around the world is concerned about a balanced energy policy but the fact remains that someone has to keep the lights on."

From the photo in the BBC report – not, not a nude one – it all looked rather good natured.

Edelman UK MD Robert Phillips has a good account in his Twitter stream including offers for dialogue that were spurned by the protesters.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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