Page last updated at 19:08 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 20:08 UK

Police and eco-protesters clash


Police clash with protesters at the site of the proposed power station

Police in riot gear and protesters have clashed at the Climate Camp near Kingsnorth power station in Kent.

About 500 people gathered in the field on the Hoo peninsula about two miles from the power plant.

Police said they were in negotiations with organisers about the lack of safe access or emergency exit routes from the protest site.

But camp spokeswoman Alex Harvey said the force's operations were "political policing of the worst kind".

A total of 9 people have been arrested at the location, which has become the focus of opposition to plans by E.ON UK to demolish the existing Kingsnorth plant and replace it with a coal-fired unit that it claims will be 20% cleaner.

Medway Council has approved the scheme and the final decision will be made by the government.

If approved, E.ON said the power station would be operational by 2012 and provide energy for 1.5 million homes.

One arrest came after midnight on Sunday, when a 40-year-old man was held on suspicion of possessing a prohibited weapon.

Five other people were arrested early on Monday, four on suspicion of public order offences and a fifth on suspicion of obstructing a police officer.

Three other people were held later on suspicion of public order offences.

We are really outraged by this
Alex Harvey

There had been stand-off between police and protesters from about 0530 BST when officers removed cars considered to be blocking access at the Climate Camp in Dux Court Road.

Between 1500 BST and 1600 BST activists and officers clashed in a field close to the A228 at one of the entrances to the site.

Kent Police said they held negotiations over increasing concerns about lack of safe access.

Ms Harvey said: "At 4 o'clock, completely unconnected [to the car removals], police in riot gear on three different sides of the site came en-masse.

"We are baffled by what is political policing of the worst kind to disrupt and delay being here to talk about climate change. We are really outraged by this."

'Safe evacuation'

A statement issued by Kent Police said there was a "lack of safe access or emergency exit routes" from the campsite in Dux Court Road.

It said that vehicles were blocking the only usable gate.

The statement said: "We raised this concern with their representatives yesterday and their response was to increase the number of vehicles obstructing this gate.

The response from protesters has required us to increase our presence on the site
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge

"Officers therefore sought to provide clear access to allow safe evacuation or access for emergency vehicles should this become necessary.

"Protesters have actively tried to prevent police from doing this."

Officers also carried out identity checks after a number of campaigners were thought to have attempted to breach a court order prohibiting them from entering the site.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge added: 'We used absolutely the minimum force necessary to ensure safe access and entry routes to and from the site.

"However, the response from protesters, including those who have 'locked on' to the vehicles causing the obstruction, has required us to increase our presence on the site."

Kent Police has said it has 1,400 officers from 26 forces on standby while the Climate Camp remains.

Activists staged a rally followed by a march to the power station to mark the opening day of the protest.

Campaigners will spend this week taking part in climate change workshops, culminating in a planned day of direct action on Saturday, when more than 1,000 protesters are expected to "shut down" Kingsnorth.

Among the activities at the camp are debates on energy issues. Former National Union of Mineworkers President Arthur Scargill addressed one meeting and called for people to protest against nuclear power rather than opposing coal-fired stations.

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