Page last updated at 08:44 GMT, Sunday, 10 August 2008 09:44 UK

Protesters show united front

Philippa Young
BBC News, Kent

Protest sign
The protesters had police 'expecting the unexpected'

The roadworks have obviously confused the sat-nav. The arrow wavers nervously in the middle of a field nowhere near where I am. I look for a sign. Any sign. That I'm in the right place.

It comes in the shape of four protesters with bright yellow lifejackets. I asked the people carrying them if this is the right way to the Kingsnorth power station.

"Yep", came a voice from one of the party, buckling under the weight of a rucksack, sleeping bag and portable stove. "But there's loads of roadblocks. Good luck!"

Further up the road and the police are distracted by a collection of unfeasibly large rucksacks to be searched. I reach the main group of protesters, who've had Kent Police "expecting the unexpected" all week.

The noise is incredible. Police helicopters hover overhead. There's every possible combination of drums, whistles and tambourines you could imagine. And Elvis is thumping out "It's now or never" on a sound system mounted on a convoy of wheelbarrows. The speakers get a wheelbarrow each.

protestors at Kingsnorth
A couple of protesters breached a perimeter fence before turning back

There's excited talk that "we can get to the front of the gate, they can't stop us".

The horses look placid enough. But the officers frowning down from on top of them clearly have other ideas about what's happening.

Kent Police have drafted in 1,400 officers from 26 forces. Those directing the colourful line down this stretch of country road are from the Met.

A woman is stopped at another roadblock and asks how she's supposed to get to the train station. "Dunno darlin'" he smiles, "I'm from Hackney." She gives a thumbs up to the protesters and turns round.

Leave the coal in the ground so my young lad can breathe clean air
Alan, local carpet fitter

It's a mixed bunch. There are young families with babies in slings and toddlers, hopping excitedly next to the pushchairs they'll no doubt have to retire to before much longer.

There are grandparents lamenting the state of a government that can commit to reducing carbon emissions, yet consider coal-fired power. And teenagers who are as worried about climate change as their parents were about nuclear war.

I'm walking with two men who've come from Belgium to learn about how the "British protest at climate action".

They've come from Liege by bus, train, and hitchhiking, with their flags and fierce-looking cigarettes. "You need to struggle from all of Europe," they say. "It is one world and we should all fight to keep it beautiful."

Symbolically, some people did get over the electric fence, it's sending out a powerful message. This is democracy
Neale Upstone, protester who breached the fence

Kingsnorth power station is not beautiful. Not many would argue with E.On UK's plans to demolish it. But everyone's here today to fight the plans to replace it with a coal-fired unit.

Many of the protesters are local. Alan, a carpet fitter, can see it from his living room window. "With all the talk of carbon footprints and wind and solar energy, leave the coal in the ground," he says, "so my young lad can breathe clean air."

Lib Dem councillor Neale Upstone got over the barbed wire and over the perimeter fence.

"Symbolically, some people did get over the electric fence, it's sending out a powerful message. This is democracy."

He adds: "The local people have been really friendly and supportive. We did have a few local kids turn up to the Camp after a few beers."

They went home apparently, after they couldn't find any "naked hippies".

But there is no shortage of exotic costumes.

protesters from Scarborough
Scarborough's climate change group sent 15 people to the protest

Jennie Stephenson and Jane Gresham are from the Scarborough branch of the Campaign Against Climate Change. Jane is resplendent in silver star-shaped sunglasses and pink feather boa. Jennie's also gone for pink, accessorised with a white tutu. And silver false eyelashes.

The protesters are heading away from Kingsnorth now. A lady stands in the rain by the side of the road, applauding them. "Well done" she says, "I'm with them all the way. They've done a good job today."

Have they? There's a sense of achievement and a sense of community. People of all ages and backgrounds, all walking home past a broccoli field to say "no" to plans for a new coal-fired power station.

Medway Council has approved the scheme. The final decision rests with the government.


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