Thursday, 21 July 2011

Tuesday 19th July 11, Danny Chivers event

Good to be at home and to be able to have my normal muesli for breakfast!

I had a fairly computer-based day, although also did some phoning and other admin stuff connected with sorting out a problem with the conservatory, selling David's old port and Champagne and contacting a housebuilding company to see if I can have the trees they are going to have to cut down to build a couple of houses nearby... and I hopped on my bike and cycled to Thomas's to buy bread.

I had a text from Danny Chivers to say he was going to be at the station soon after 4.30 and I offered to meet him and take him to City Screen where he was due to perform this evening.

So I got ready to go down there at about 4, and cursed the very heavy rain which soaked me as I cycled down.  Dave Taylor met us at City Screen, and after a coffee Danny made sure his laptop worked with the projector the Basement uses, after which we went for a short walk to see the Minster, PurpleMan and Barley Hall, and then to El Piano to have something to eat.

I asked after Rachel, who has finished working for El Piano, apparently, and was told she'd be in later for a meal with her parents.... and then she appeared, and beamed at me in her usual way, and we chatted about what she's going to be getting up to.  I shall miss her as an El Piano person, but hope we'll continue to meet in York occasionally.

Danny and I enjoyed our meal and at 7 set off for City Screen again to get ready for his talk, 'Undercover And Over The Top, How an Undercover Cop Made My Climate Trial Collapse'. Danny explained that back in April 2009 he had been minding his own business in Oxford and a friend had asked him if he wanted to come and find out about a demonstration against a big polluter.  The demo was top secret and he would have to go somewhere and meet a minibus which would take him to a secret meeting... so of course, Danny, being an inquisitive person, and keen on preventing CO2 emissions as they are rapidly rendering this planet uninhabitable, said 'Yes!'

The minibus took the group to a school near Nottingham, and behind the school were some meeting rooms which had over 100 people in, all curious to know what was being planned.  Only a small number of organisers had the whole picture... they were suggesting that some of the assembled 'climate campers' and other activists might want to shut down the second biggest coal-fired power station in the UK, at Ratcliffe on Soar, which was close to where they were.  The group heard about how some of them could get onto the coal conveyor belts, others might block the gates, and others could scale the chimney and prepare for a week-long occupation.  They were told that national electricity supplies would not be threatened, as e-on, the owners, would switch on a gas-fired power station or two... but they preferred to use the coal powered one as it was cheaper to run, despite emitting twice as much CO2 as a gas-powered station.

As Danny was preparing to go to sleep and wondering whether he would take part, the police arrived and smashed down the doors and arrested all 114 people there, under the new crime of 'Conspiracy To Commit Aggravated Trespass'.

What the group didn't realise was that one of the group, a chap called Mark Stone, was in fact Mark Kennedy, an undercover policeman who'd been part of the Climate Camp (and others) for about 6 years, and had gained the trust of the group.  In fact, as he was a driver, and knew the Nottingham area well, he had been one of the original scouts for Ratcliffe, and driven some of his friends there to have a look at it in January, when the action to stop it's CO2 emissions was being thought up.

The activists were eventually let out of the police stations and over the coming weeks and months, most of them had their charges dropped, but for some reason, Danny was in the group of 26 who were told they'd be going to Crown Court.  20 of these were convicted, although the Judge gave them the lightest sentences possible as he was convinced they were genuinely good people who were acting with the best possible motives.  The 6 who were left included Danny, who had said all along that he hadn't made up his mind whether to participate by the time he was arrested, and therefore wasn't guilty of 'conspiracy'.

However, quite separately to the slow legal process, some of Stone's friends had become suspicious of him and then found documents in his real name and confronted him and he'd confessed to being a police spy.  This sent shockwaves through the activist community, and the mass arrest in the school then began to make more sense. The police had known about the plans since the very beginning, and could have stopped the process much earlier as they knew all about it and who was more centrally involved.

The 'outing' of Kennedy meant that the defendants in the trial knew that the police had the information which would prove them innocent, but the prosecution said that they didn't have any such information..... until the very last minute, when they said, oops, yes, something has come to light and we're dropping the charges, you six go free now.

This information also meant that the head of the Crown Prosecution Service also invited the 20 who were convicted were invited to appeal against their convictions, and TODAY their case has been heard and they have been exonerated.

However, the existence of Kennedy raises a lot of questions about the CPS, as they brought the prosecutions, yet they knew all along that the protesters were innocent.... or at least that their convictions wouldn't be safe.

Danny told us his account of this debacle, with a few slides to illustrate, and with discussion as it was a small audience, and finished off with an interactive poem about climate change deniers.  My friends Allison, Rich and Julian sat with me, and I really enjoyed the evening.

Danny, Allison and I walked up to the Rook and Gaskill and were joined by Rich and later, a musician called John, and stayed there til chucking out time whereupon Danny and I walked back home, and he bedded down in the front room, and I stayed up til 2am doing assorted writing, mainly.

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