riots for G20 leaders' arrival in London" by Robert Mendick and Niger Rosser, which appeared in the Evening Standard and Daily Mail on 20th February. The complaint has already resulted in the headline and content of the article being changed on the papers websites. Last year complaints such as these solicited retractions and apologies from several papers.
According to your news report, there is concern at Metropolitan police headquarters that green activists could soon be "joining forces" with "middle-class campaigners" over issues such as Heathrow's third runway, leading to "angry demonstrations" that could "open the door to powerful coalitions" (Britain faces summer of rage - police, 23 February).
Superintendent David Hartshorn says: "Middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year."
Hartshorn is one of several senior officers who have, in the past months, attempted to frighten people into not protesting about climate change. Late last year an Observer article claimed that police were "concerned a 'lone maverick' eco-extremist may attempt a terrorist attack aimed at killing large numbers of Britons". The story was based on a "senior source" in the police's National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, but the unit later said the report "wasn't an accurate reflection of its views" and the Observer withdrew it.
Now, the police, it seems, are exploiting the recession-provoked threat of social unrest. This week's article refers to intelligence reports of "known activists" who, according to Hartshorn, "would be good at motivating people, but they haven't had the 'footsoldiers' to actually carry out [protests] ... Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that". And he cites "elements" that will supposedly "hijack" an otherwise peaceful protest and "turn that into disorder".
Every year the existence of a supposed "hardcore minority" with the power to subvert the masses is raised as an excuse for heavy-handed policing against anyone engaging in protest. There's never been any evidence to support the existence of these powerful and sinister protest svengalis planning to brainwash the masses. At our Heathrow camp the drip-fed stories were that we would use bomb hoaxes. Nothing of the sort happened. At our Kingsnorth protest, we'd turned into knife-wielding thugs. Again, it was all in the imagination of senior police officers.
The Home Office told parliament that 70 officers had been injured while dealing with protesters at Kingsnorth. The real number was zero (officers had in fact suffered injuries at the hands of a wasp and a van door). The Home Office apologised for misleading parliament.
In reality the people involved in the climate camp at the G20 meeting in London on 1 April (the protest causing most concern, it seems, to Hartshorn) are committed, just as we were at Kingsnorth and Heathrow, to pushing for real action on climate change by practising civil disobedience. To claim that they would willingly be recruited by a machiavellian cadre of "known activists returning to the streets to foment unrest" is a smear that holds no weight.
The police are supposed to operate on evidence, not on febrile imaginations. Hartshorn's comments are yet more evidence, as former MI5 head Stella Rimington put it, that people in the UK are made to feel that they "live in fear and under a police state". The 1 April protest will be about carbon markets, taking climate change seriously and, it seems, democracy itself.
• Kevin Smith is a participant in the Camp for Climate Action firstname.lastname@example.org
The Evening Standard has been mounting a smear campaign against the Camp for Climate Action, and we've been taking them to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
During Climate Camp 2007 at Heathrow, the PCC upheld our complaint that their front page article article by Robert Mendick "Militants will hit Heathrow' (13 August 2007), was fabricated. The story by the Standard, which the PCC called "materially misleading" and "alarmist", was picked up by a number of other tabloids. They have also apologized here and here
In the lead up to our 2008 Camp at Kingsnort an article by Mr Mendick and Mr Rosser, "Eco-protesters target school run mothers" (31 March 2008) has been retracted by the Evening Standard. They will print today the following "Further to our article of 31 March (Eco-protestors target school run mothers), we wish to make it clear that there is no evidence that climate change protestors had plans to target school run mothers, deflate tyres or cover the windscreens of moving vehicles. No such action took place on 1 April 2008."
Now, they're at it again.
Media Advisory, Tuesday, February 24th
Climate Camp launches Press Complaint over G20 article
Today, the Camp for Climate Action lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) against the Evening Standard. The camp claims the Standard's article regarding the April 1st event "Climate Camp in London's Square mile", to be held during the G20, is misleading.
The February 20th article was written under the deceptive headline "Anarchists plan City riots for G20 leaders' arrival in London," and contained no evidence whatsoever that anyone was planning a riot. In fact, the camp's website http://www.climatecamp.org.uk/g20 says "Bring a pop-up tent if you've got one, sleeping bag, wind turbine, mobile cinema, action plans and ideas...let's imagine another world."
The Evening Standard is engaging in a campaign of misinformation and fear against the Camp for Climate Action. We will not tolerate their smears, especially in the run up to our April 1st, Climate Camp in the Square Mile.
The Daily Express published the following psuedo-apology:
"On 17 August 2007, we published a report in the Daily Express entitled 'Extremist yobs hijack airport demo in plot to cause mayhem'. Our report included information that some protesters had threatened to infiltrate terminal buildings dressed as holidaymakers and leave hoax packages. In the light of the Press Complaints Commission ruling of 10 March 2008, we would like to point out that The Camp for Climate Action had no plans to do such a thing and we apologise to them if our article was misleading. We had no evidence that anything other than non-violent civil disobedience was being planned." - Express 19 Dec2008
The Sun managed this brief u-turn:
"FURTHER to the article first published on this website on 14 August 2007 regarding 2007’s Camp for Climate Action at Heathrow Airport, we are happy to make clear we had no evidence anything other than non-violent civil disobedience was being planned." - The Sun 24 Feb 2009
The Daily Mail agreed the following clarification:
"On 18 August 2007 an article headlined 'Militants planning Heathrow break in' reported that anarchists were planning to hijack a climate change protest at Heathrow airport. While there were concerns that some were planning extreme measures, there was no evidence that any militant groups planned to break through the perimeter fence or leave hoax packages in halls. We are happy to make this clear."
The Telegraph has so far failed to offered a satisfactory retraction and that currently remains unresolved.
I found a copy of the complaint here on the CC website