Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Camps and Criminals

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Camps and Criminals

Article excerpt

There were no police at the Peace News Summer Camp, held in a field in Oxfordshire from 23-27 July: no stop-and-search, no barricade, no line of frowning coppers. "One policeman did drop by," said an organiser, "but we were in the middle of a workshop so he said he'd come back later, and I don't think he did."

But police intelligence is, as ever, faulty. Two of the organisers were breaking court dates to be there, and another camper, Susan Clarkson (in her sixties), had come straight from prison, where she spent 21 days for causing criminal damage to the Northwood airbase. "I painted a sign red and cut a wire fence. And then I wouldn't pay the fine." She had exacted a gentle vengeance by "spending some of the money they gave me on my release on my fare here".

Of the hundred or so people at the camp, many have done jail time, or at least been arrested. There were veterans from Greenham, and younger activists who have been at Faslane or Aldermaston, where arrest is all in a day's work. "It's not a badge of honour," they say, but more something they take for granted as part of the work of campaigning against war. It's true that they are not hardened criminals, but they do not shy away from confrontation. Workshops--on subjects ranging from Chomsky and protest camps to Iraq and non-violence--were energetically argued, and the discussion of non-violence reportedly got a little fraught.

There are plenty who wonder what, really, is the point. After I was ejected from one meeting because there were objections to having journalists present, several people approached me to register their dismay: "We spend all our time moaning about not getting any support or coverage, and then we go and do this! …

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