Tuesday, 1 September 2009

An activist's guide to the law

To #climatecamp for a law lecture to celebrate finishing and sending off the first draft of my PhD contextual chapter. I've been meaning to go up to the camp before it disbands tomorrow to see what's still happening on my doorstep, and I thought I'd pick up some useful information to pass onto any students thinking of going on demonstrations or covering them as student reporters.

The title, an Activist's Guide to the Law, suggested that this probably wasn't the sort of course you'd expect at law school. The venue was a tent on Blackheath and the most comfortable seat was a hay bale. There was plenty of useful advice about what to do if you were arrested and charged while on an "action", about how important it was not to tell the police if you had mental health issues unless you wanted them to put you on suicide watch and wake you in your cell every hour, and how the most important thing was not to grass on your mates. Check out Activists' Legal Project for more.

But the average age of the audience was probably mid-20s and most of them looked as if they'd be back up at university at the end of the month. Apart from a couple of seasoned campaigners, none of them had ever been arrested. The majority of the group was female and looked about as threatening as a girl guide pack. They had their notebooks out and their hands up and wanted to know the answer to very sensible questions - such as: "What effect will getting a criminal conviction have on my job prospects/mortgage/insurance?"

There's been much indignation among campers about reports in the Daily Mail portraying them as middle class. That would be too sweeping (what else can you expect from the Mail?) Idealistic, definitely. Approachable, polite. And they'll hate me for saying this - but pretty well organised. Anyone who can organise that many people, run an impressively varied programme of activities over four days, raise important climate issues and get locals on-side like they have, deserves some praise. And they call this anarchy?

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