Climate camp: interview with imprisoned activist

James Thorne, a climate camp protestor is currently in Elmley Jail, after being arrested during the Climate Camp. His conditions for bail were that he should not re-enter the Hoo peninsula, the site of the camp. He refused the conditions and was jailed as a result. His hearing will take place on Monday. PR spoke to him today from prison.

What’s been going on?

The level of police repression against the Climate Camp is remarkable. Around 1,500 officers have encircled the climate camp, with constant harassment of campers and their supporters. Helicopters constantly circle overhead, there are systematic searches of people entering or leaving the camp, the sexual assault of women protestors by female police in front of male officers, the theft of campers equipment, including children’s crayons and bike locks (attached to bikes), the arrest of protestors for a variety of generally trumped up charges, and the bailing of those protestors on condition that they do not re-enter the Hoo peninsula, during the climate camp.

What happened to you?

I was arrested on Thursday afternoon at approximately 5pm, allegedly for “assaulting a police officer” when entering the Camp for Climate Action! I probably don’t need to tell you the ridiculous circumstances of the arrest but try and imagine a kneeling man with an injured hand…

And then what?

I went to court on Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to police assault, but the court would only grant me bail on condition that I did not go on the Hoo peninsula.

I would not accept that restriction on my freedom of expression so I withdrew the bail application. This is becoming a pattern; at DSEI in 2007 they banned protestors from the borough of Newham for the entire duration of the event. I think the charge was police assault there too. So we need to resist this ban on protesting. What I feel we should do is to refuse to accept bail if the bail conditions conflict with our human rights. There have been about 20 people arrested so far (up to Saturday).

The climate camp legal team are dealing with people. The other thing for me is that if I had taken the bail conditions I could have either gone home to Manchester, which was out of the question, or they are inviting me to break my bail conditions which is another offence, so my other option was to come to jail.

How is jail?

Well it is quite interesting. I have had some experience of the prison officers; from their point of view they were incredulous. I’ve told them to write to their MPs. Similarly with the SERCO guards; one of them was in Greenpeace and she said “nice one lovee”. And prison is a place that is full of humanity. I’m in the first night wing, which is to provide a reassuring environment, with an Iraqi guy and Nigerian guy in our three man cell. They call it a bachelor pad! According to Meridian reports, which is the local ITV news, their reporter was searched in a very intimidating way. I will probably get out on Monday or Tuesday.

The magistrates said that “your bail conditions could allow you to go back to the camp once, accompanied by a police officer to collect your things”, to which I replied “I’d rather have my human rights than my tent!”

What were your impressions of the camp?

There are 1,500-2,000 at the camp, which has been a liberated zone since Monday when the cops were pushed off. It’s been under siege since Monday, including the Lib Dem MP, there have been incidences of sexual assault by women police officers when they are searching women, in front of male police officers.

Everyone at the climate camp is discussing questions around authority and the state, but it has been a very positive experience, although on Monday I was pepper sprayed and my finger was almost broken in a separate incident. And it’s not true about porridge in jail – you get cornflakes!

Additional info

On Thursday 6 July at approximately 1pm James was remanded in custody until 12 August. He had given the Camp for Climate Action as his bail address as he is currently homeless and considers this community his home for the week. He was offered the option of bail conditions that excluded him from the Peninsula. He withdrew his application for bail because of this. We are challenging this in the Crown Court on Monday.

Other people are also refusing the restrictive bail conditions that are being imposed solely to restrict our freedom of expression and our right to protest.

They inspire us, and we want this inspiration to be with us on Saturday as we think of how angry they will be to miss the event and how proud they will be of our actions.

For a further report of life in the climate camp, see PR’s main site.

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