Thursday, 16 August 2007

Climate Camp protest

Grounded: protesters dressed as cabin crew Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA(from

Climate Camp has begun, and its in all the media thanks to those wonderful people at BAA. They tried to have an injunction on about 5 million people from approaching Heathrow, members of all sorts of organisations like the national trust, RSPB, etc would have been banned. The police would have been arresting themselves if they had to enforce this. The camp is dealing with what is a fairly distressing subject - distressing because it is insane that this industry is being subsidised by the Government to such a large figure; because it's not helping poor people travel at all.

Most people who fly are wealthy, some with second homes abroad who fly lots to visit. A Mori poll published in 2001 found that people most likely to have flown that year were those earning over £30,000. The mystery is why its so cheap to fly, yet so expensive to go by train or bus. A few years ago part of this mystery was revealed, local authorities subsidise flights to get people passing through. The campaigning group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) has calculated that a single person on the average wage of £25,000 is paying an extra £557 a year in income tax to meet the cost of aviation's tax exemption. Hacan were the only people banned from the climate camp.

Brendon Sewill says in 'The Hidden Cost of Flying' that "Petrol for cars is subject to duty at 45.82p a litre and VAT at 17.5% of the price after payment of duty. The result is that motorists pay around 75p a litre, while airlines pay around 18p. The industry has also managed to avoid paying VAT on any aspect of air travel: tickets, aircraft purchase and maintenance, baggage handling, aircraft meals. It is all zero-rated - at a cost to the public of around £4bn a year. Friends of the Earth says that, between 1984 and 1999, bus fares rose by 42% on average, and rail fares by 35%. By contrast, over the past 10 years, air fares have dropped by 42%. See,,1099739,00.html

Flying is a horrible experience for most, queue up for hours, then treated like a sardine as the plane wobbles through 'turbulence', not to mention the contributing to emissions. Its unpleasant for those underneath, as pollution and noise descent on you.

Why does the idea of direct action so frighten people? Most protest is peaceful, its very rare for any violence at all, but then some of that can be down to police. I think the way police constantly video peaceful people is a waste of their time and resources, but it tells you that someone is scared of your action.

Camp organisers promise no behaviour that is going to cause any danger, but haven't ruled out illegal behaviour, they quite rightly point out that "Historically a lot of movements have required people to break the law to make things change. Just look at the suffragettes or the civil rights movement." (Indian independence, road building, you name it and someone broke the law trying to make the right thing happen).

Below some news from activists at the camp.

Late Saturday night, a field close to Heathrow airport site was occupied by about 100 people, the first wave of setting up the 2007 Camp For Climate Action. Twin double decker tripods were quickly erected and despite being just 800 metres from BAA's head office, it took the police two hours to find the site. There have been reports of two arrests and police copying data from mobile phones during searches.

There are now several hundred people on site and the camp taking shape. Police have been searching people and preventing access to the site on and off but in the last few hours this seems to have solidified into a state of siege with police refusing to let vehicles with power, water or toilet facilities onto the site.

Meanwhile, local residents celebrated "the place we call home" in the community arts and history project "our place".

campers info line 0207 043 3783
The following information is copied from the website:
We are on Sipson Lane, between the villages of Sipson and Harlington, North of Heathrow.

By public transport:
Train from Paddington to 'Hayes and Harlington' station.
From there bus 90, 140 or H98 heading South. Get off at the corner of Harlington High Street and walk West along Sipson Lane about 600 metres.
About a 2 mile walk - south into Harlington village then as above.
Go one station further on to West Drayton and take the 222 bus to the Western (Sipson) end of Sipson Lane.

Staines is quite far away - if you want to make your own way to the site don't go to Staines!

If you get lost trying to find the camp or any other enquiries then call 0207 3779088 . There will be someone manning the phone at the London Action Resource Centre 10am to 6pm from 2nd August who will be able to help you.

There will probably be policeman filming you at the station and elsewhere. Do not be intimidated.

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