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Die-ins, lock-ons and reclaiming the power

Reclaiming the power 2015

Didcot power station, Oxfordshire, Britain. Scott Wylie under a Creative Commons Licence

Although the Reclaim the Power (RtP) camp appeared almost deserted on Monday morning, inside the busy media marquee the atmosphere was tense with anticipation as we waited for news. At 9.04am the media phone rang for the first time and we heard that a group had succeeded in occupying the offices of UK energy company RWE Npower in Leeds to raise awareness of the links between climate crisis and people who freeze from lack of affordable fuel or energy for heating. The national day of action had started! The many weeks of preparation and hard work were finally paying off, resulting in shouts of excitement. Activists shared photos to social media, sent press releases, and called journalists. It was like a dam had broken. It seemed that no sooner had we written one thing up on the ‘action board’ than another call was coming in, and although in previous years RtP has focused more on the issue of fracking, this time the targets were drawn from all areas of the fossil fuel industry.

In the first few hours of the morning, protesters blockaded the offices of coal investors Invesco by locking themselves onto the revolving doors to highlight the links between corporations and government, while a banner drop outside shut down the road. Gas-masked campaigners in hazard suits marked off a nuclear contamination zone and staged a die-in outside PR company Carmargue, whose clients include Horizon Nuclear Power and Npower. At the same time, activists with brooms and aprons blocked suited delegates from all the entrances to a major coal conference taking place in an exclusive venue in the middle of London’s Pall Mall, leaving the suits milling around uncertainly on the pavement. With people glued across the main doors, and banners reading ‘you can’t clean coal’, the message was clear: leave it in the ground.

All through the morning the calls kept coming in, and we stopped working only to re-caffeinate ourselves and move the entire media operation to the more stable geodome as the winds began to pick up and shake the flimsy marquee. National news crews came to interview us, before rushing off to cover a ‘love-in’ between corporations and the Big 6 energy companies at a local Conservative headquarters. While anti-fracking Lancashire Nanas danced with giant fossil-fuel dinosaurs outside the gate of Didcot power station a more sober note was sounded by the shivering group of blanketed ‘grannies’ who presented the Oxford offices of British Gas with a ‘bill of wrongs’ including the 15,000 excess winter deaths from fuel poverty.

At 1.00pm cheers erupted around the camp as news came that we had just broken last year’s record of 13 different actions in one day and a 14th action had begun in the National Gallery in protest at oil sponsorship of the Arts. As the action board filled up and a new one was started, a call came in informing us that another group in London had set up a 10-metre tripod outside City Hall and super-glued themselves to the front door to highlight London Mayor Boris Johnson’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels.

While all this was going on the rest of camp was keeping busy with the kitchen crew preparing food for those on site, as others packed down the large marquees and carefully de-rigged the wind-turbine. By this time we had been working flat out for hours, and only the freshly baked vegan coffee cake was keeping us going. Not all the actions went off without a hitch, however. The group trying to get to Cuadrilla’s main offices in Litchfield had been stopped and searched by police. At 1.59pm, as the first groups of weary activists began trailing back in the gate to be met with hugs and applause, reassuring news came in that the group had finally managed to reach their Cuadrilla target. Obviously worried that something would happen, Cuadrilla’s offices appeared to be in total lock-down, with staff exiting the offices in an orderly manner as our activists cordoned off the building with hazard tape, and declared it a ‘Frack Free Zone’.

In total 18 separate actions took place all over Britain in the space of just 8 hours, with only 11 people arrested. These courageous actions were carried out by grandmothers, students, professionals taking a day off work, those experienced in taking direct action, and those who had never done anything like this in their lives before. What all of these diverse people have in common is the belief that the current fossil-fuelled path can only end in destruction, and if the governments are not going to do something about it on their own, then it is down to us to make sure they do. In the lead-up to the UN climate summit in Paris in December, where representatives from energy corporations are expected to be lobbying to push their own profit-driven agenda, it is vitally important that those of us concerned about this decision-making make our voices heard. After today, these voices will definitely be harder to ignore.

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