Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Handcuff Direct Action at Council meeting

24 hours after the night before, and I am completely overwhelmed by the messages of praise and support. Thank you! The Tory Chair of the Scrutiny Committee swiftly called for an adjournment, and moved the secret meeting to another room - entirely expected by the way - so our attempt to stall the Waste Procurement process was thwarted.

However, it is fair to say that a lot more people are aware of how commercial sensitivity is being used to hide the truth about what is being built. Just look at these examples:

Protestors handcuff; Protest over incinerator plans; Protestors Handcuff; Croydon Campaigners Force Meeting Move; Railing Against Incinerator Plans

My co-handcuffee, Dave Pettener, explained how big business has been calling the tune (throughout the process) in his submission to the most recent stage of the South London Waste Plan (SLWP) consultation:

The consultation process for the SLWP has NOT been inclusive or clear, it has been long and complicated and absolutely the reserve of specialists. I feel it has ignored the concerns of local residents rather than try to address them. There has been no attempt to present the plan in plain English and it is unfair to expect an ordinary member of the public to decide whether or not the SLWP is good or bad when you are not being told what will be built or where. It feels as if more consideration is being paid to the needs of the potential bidders than the local residents who the SLWP is supposed to be helping.

What ifs?

Whilst it was entirely predictable that the councillors would move to another room, what wasn't clear is how security at the Council would react. Would they call the police?? Would they be aggressive towards us?? As it turned out they spent much of the time looking for a pair of bolt cutters. Friendly dialogue was maintained throughout, and we even discussed the incinerator issue with them. Thanks also to Brendan, Barry and Chris for staying behind with us when the meeting adjourned.

One scenario that ran through my mind, was what if they thought I was an Islamic terrorist?!! An amazing thought I know but, having been stopped and searched for looking like a terrorist before, I couldn't eliminate the possibility. A friend, with experience in direct action, even suggested I wear a T-Shirt and trousers - no layers! Certainly if it was December 2005, rather that December 2011, I would have worn a T-Shirt. What a thing to have to consider.

The key was to point out from the start that:

This was a peaceful non-violent protest in order to highlight how Croydon Council, along with Sutton, Merton and Kingston councils are secretly planning to build a health damaging incinerator. The way the councils hope to build this incinerator is by simply ensuring as few as people as possible are aware of their actual plans; and one such example is this evening, where they are using "commercial sensitivity" to stop the public knowing what is to be built.

Arguably, the financials about the Waste Procurement could be kept private BUT the remaining documents must be made available to the public. It was an appalling move by the Chair of the Committee, Councillor Hollands, when he said he was "comfortable" with the decision to keep the discussion in private. WHAT ARE THEY HIDING?

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Standing up for what matters