Page last updated at 21:33 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 22:33 UK

Climate Camp policing condemned

Police and protesters clash
Police said clashes followed concerns about safety access to the campsite

A Labour MP has condemned a decision by Kent Police to let officers wear riot gear during a clash with activists at an environmental protest camp.

Bob Marshall-Andrews said he was horrified by the footage he saw showing police and campaigners clashing at the Kingsnorth plant on the Hoo peninsula.

Activists gathered at the site to halt plans by E.ON UK to demolish the plant and replace it with a coal-fired unit.

The force said officers needed the gear to protect themselves from missiles.

But, following an hour-long meeting with senior officers, Mr Marshall-Andrews said the decision to use shields and helmets was "provocative and heavy-handed".

A group of hardcore protesters had thrown coins and forks, according to Kent Police.

'Police provocation'

Mr Marshall-Andrews, who is the Labour MP for Medway, said the scenes in a field about 2m (3.2km) from Kingsnorth power station had prompted him to return to his constituency.

Bob Marshall-Andrews
Mr Marshall-Andrews said he was hopeful the situation could be resolved
"I find the use of police in riot gear incomprehensible and I think it was a mistake," he said.

"A large proportion have not said they are going to break the law as far as I am aware.

"One of the things we want to avoid in circumstances such as these is provocation, and I think that it was.

"In the camp, reprehensibly were found a number of smoke grenades. They have been confiscated , should be confiscated, and the people that kept them should be prosecuted."

The protesters were hostile to the police, so much so that officers had to use their personal protective equipment
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge
He said the vast majority of the people at the climate camp were "thoroughly decent people" and he was hopeful the differences between the police and activists could be resolved in the next two days.

Mr Marshall-Andrews added: "Of course I don't condone breaking the law. That's the whole point, what is happening at the moment is not breaking the law."

Kent Police said officers went to the site in Dux Court Road on Monday after asking activists to keep access routes to the field clear.

Weapons found

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge said: "The protesters were hostile to the police, so much so that officers had to use their personal protective equipment.

"It is essential that the two access points to the site are kept clear of obstructions so that the emergency services can get immediate access to the site or carry out an evacuation if needed."

Map of Hoo peninsula

Police said on Tuesday evening that there had been 13 arrests and eight people had been charged in connection with incidents at the Climate Camp.

Officers said weapons, including a knife and a throwing star, were found in a wooded area on the Hoo peninsula on Monday evening.

But protesters said the weapons were nothing to do with the camp and accused police of a "smear campaign".

About 1,000 activists have gathered on a field about two miles from the power plant in a week-long protest against plans for a coal-fired unit.

E.ON UK claims the coal-fired unit 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.




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