WAKE UP!! It's yer sort-of-weekly...
The free weekly direct action newsheet published in Brighton since 1994 - Copyleft - Information for Action
It has been a rather bumpy road for the Climate Siren brand over the last few months. Beginning as a somewhat strange one page anonymous call-out on a previously unheard of website, it raised the suspicions of activists from the start, even getting in the Guardian denying that it was a police honey trap.
What we got to witness however was a bit of pro-royalist direct action begging the Queen to share her son's interest in the environment.
At 2pm on Saturday 4 people approached the gates of Buckingham Palace, climbed them and hung banners with slogans including a recent quote from Prince Charles. Surprisingly both SO14 (Royal Protection) and the Scots Guards on duty were more restrained than might be expected and no shots were fired. The small number of supporters present no doubt had something to do with the “are they or aren't they spies?” controversy. The four climbers were eventually arrested several hours later after a cherry-picker was brought to the scene. One of those arrested was Phil Thornhill the leader of the one man band that is the Campaign against Climate Change (CaCC), which is best known for its relentless organising (in the face of persistent institutional indifference) of an A to B marches through London every year to coincide with the UN climate talks. Whether the decade of being politely ignored by politicians has taken its toll and caused him to snap we have been unable to ascertain but one suspects he will find that Her Majesty can politely ignore people with the best of them.
The collapse of the climate movement since Copenhagen has certainly left a huge hole that needs filling but the adoption of such tactics by those without any radical message is rather incongruous to say the least. One wonders if some of the remnants of Climate Camp are at present huddled in a darkened rooms discussing taking up armed struggle just to distance themselves from such an embarrassing display of direct-action royal fawning.
Unfortunately we're still not much wiser as to the nature and motivations of the Climate Siren entity (we hesitate to use the word group). A review of what we do know might allow readers to make their own judgements.
Climate-Siren.com called out for "a great effort of civil disobedience" – in particular on 23rd June, the day after the Rio+20 Summit ends (full name Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development). To facilitate this action the website asks for readers to supply their e-mail address or mobile phone number so they can be contacted nearer the time. Climate activists smelled something fishy going on. Nobody seemed to have heard of the group, and no indication is given on the website of what groups or individuals are behind the site. The front and only page consists of vague text with no real targets, aims or methods of action mentioned. If this were all that there was to the story this could be explained by naïve optimism – i.e. the site's author hoping that activists would supply details to someone that they do not know and that they would turn up to an action which they know nothing about. As it turns out, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
SOUND OF DA POLICE?
The name and address of the person registering the domain are given as Nick Bennett, a Conservative Party County Councillor for the Alfriston, East Hoathly and Hellingly division in East Sussex. The same Nick Bennett was also a chief superintendent with Sussex Police until a few years ago.
Dodgy as it sounds, the story gets dodgier still – a story published in the Guardian on 13th June claimed that the domain had been setup in the "Tory councillor's name without his knowledge" and that it had "been reported to the police by a Conservative councillor after he learned that his personal details had been used to register the website's domain name". Bizarrely the registration details have since been changed to that of Leo Hickman the Guardian journalist who wrote the story. However SchNEWS can confirm that these denials in the press only appeared after questions were asked about the registration of the website within the activist community. This does raise the question of how Nick Bennett found out that his details had been "misused" without paranoidly checking to see if someone has registered a website in your name, how would you ever know?
So who exactly is Nick Bennett and how likely is it that he has nothing to do with the website? Interestingly one of the interests he declared as a county councillor was that he is employed by Naylor & Osborn Ltd. Naylor & Osborn are a private security company headquartered in Croydon whose namesakes have some quite interesting backgrounds. Robert Naylor (Managing Director) is an ex-Metropolitan Police inspector and Nick Osborn (Operations Director) is currently studying for a PhD at Portsmouth University, researching the "National Intelligence Model and its application". While the public face of Naylor & Osborn is RNA Training, the name they trade under to teach "investigation skills, managing investigators and counter terrorism awareness" it seems entirely possible that they also actively engage in using the skills they teach, particularly "intelligence-led investigation and analysis". The fact that the hosting company for the website in Malaysia is a multinational that appears to only advertise to corporate clients and heavily touts its "network security and monitoring" services doesn't inspire much confidence either.
Even if the people behind Climate Siren are genuine, they do provide an example of precisely how not to organise an action. Activism is if nothing else founded on trust and while anonymous callouts using social media might potentially have some uses, in most cases if the trust ain’t there how can people expect to organise? Even if the Climate Siren case has some innocent explanation the way that it has been organised shows such poor judgement that it is unlikely to build trust in the future. The whole incident is also a reminder that whatever the exact nature of this case the threat of infiltration by police or private security companies has far from receded. In fact in the present Jubilee/Olympics period (with who knows how much money sloshing around for private security companies to play with) people need to be even more vigilant while at the same time not allowing such tactics to stifle much needed resistance.
Just when we were all getting to grips with fracking, another mind-blowingly stupid and dangerous form of extreme energy extraction gains momentum.
Schnews gets the real dirt on the refuse situation as Brighton's Cityclean workers take to the streets once again, despite pressure from the Council.
Hundreds of anti-capitalistas confront an overwhelming police presence in London as part of a pre-emptive strike against the G8 summit
Twenty one climate activists escape jail at sentencing after shuttng down coal fired power station for seven days
Residents of Balcombe, West Sussex, warn the frackers they're ready for direct action to prevent the first exploratory well from being drilled just south of their village
It's Hove vs Gove as the education secretary aims to concrete over recreation ground in the name of God.
More updates from Calais No Borders Network
UPDATE: They finally coughed up. After two days of consistent hassling by activists at the Department for Transport earlier last month, during which one person got nicked, the DfT sheepishly released the previously top secret (read: problematic and embarrassing) documents about the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.