guardian.co.uk | Climate change protesters today accused police of conducting a smear campaign after officers said they had recovered knives and makeshift weapons during searches of the protest camp at Kingsnorth power station in Kent.
Police said the confiscated items “strongly indicated” that a hardcore group of protesters intended to break the law. Gary Beautridge, the assistant chief constable of Kent police, said that while most of the people at the camp were peaceful, it was “clear” a minority intended to use the equipment for “criminal purposes”.
The weapons, which officers said included an adapted knife, a knife block containing knives and a large chain with a padlock, had been found in woods near the camp. “There is no justification whatsoever for having these weapons,” Beautridge said in a statement.
“I would suggest that a minority of people had hidden them with the intention of causing harm to police officers, and possibly to the horses or dogs we are using on patrol.”
Camp organisers reacted angrily to the claims, condemning the statement as “an irresponsible stunt” intended to deter people from attending the camp.
“To link a stash of knives allegedly found somewhere in the Hoo peninsula [in Kent] to the Camp for Climate Action is nothing but a smear campaign against us,” said Ester Davies, one of the camp organisers.
“To suggest that the campers – environmentalists living at a camp serving only vegan food – would even consider hurting a police horse shows the police’s press release to be nothing but political policing.”
Other equipment seized since the camp began on Thursday included bolt croppers, climbing ropes and padded suits, which police said suggested that protesters were intending to break into the power station.
Isabelle Michel, another camper, said demonstrators had not made any secret of the fact that they intended to take direct action at the power plant. “This in no way justifies the way the police are treating the camp,” she said. “It is disgraceful to suggest that the campers have criminal intent.
“This is obviously an attempt by the police to distract us from raising issues about climate change.”
Organisers have urged MPs Bob Marshall-Andrews and Colin Challen and MEPs Caroline Lucas and Chris Davies, who have already written to Beautridge to complain about his policing of the event, to investigate the latest claims.
Demonstrators and police have been involved in repeated standoffs since the camp opened. Protesters have accused police of being heavy-handed, while officers said they were forced to use riot shields in clashes yesterday.
Beautridge defended the police’s actions in entering the camp to remove obstacles to two access points, saying officers “will not compromise on safety”.
Campaigners are protesting against proposals by the plant’s owners, Eon, for a coal-fired facility – the first such plant to be built in Britain for over 30 years. More than 1,000 protesters are expected to try to shut down the power station in a planned day of mass action on Saturday.
Twelve people were arrested yesterday. Seven have been charged with offences including possessing a blade, driving without insurance and obstructing and resisting a police officer.