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‘A blatant act of political sabotage’

The festival season is in full swing in Britain (so that’s why it’s raining so much…) but for would-be attendees of the Big Green Gathering near Cheddar, Somerset, there was last-minute disappointment when the event was cancelled, apparently after police and Mendip council intervention. The independent wires are now buzzing with theories behind the sudden cancellation, as summed up in this press release from Undercurrents:

Undercurrents is as dismayed as the rest of the 20,000 people planning their journey to the UK’s largest Green festival this week. The shock news that Police and Mendip council have forced the festival to be cancelled, promoted us to dig a bit deeper to find out the reasons why.

Brig Oubridge, Chair of the Big Green Gathering, wrote about how the police are forcing the end of outdoor festivals in the UK. He said:

‘The licensing process this year has been a nightmare. The costs of satisfying the security concerns of over £200,000 were forced on us just a few weeks before the event. We had set the ticket price the previous November on the assumption costs would be no more than £100,000. A figure considered adequate because of our good record on health and safety and the recommendation by the previous police inspector that the Big Green Gathering did not needed policing. Sadly, this year we have a new police inspector with a completely different attitude. He seems to have absorbed the antiterrorist vocabulary, with an often-repeated insistence on the need for us to “target-harden” our event.

Demanding additional security measures, including extra security patrols, watchtowers and steel shield fencing’ www.redpepper.org.uk/What-price-security

Schnews report on ‘Operation Fortress’:

A police commander at a planning meeting was overheard saying into his radio ‘Operation Fortress is go’. Police have already set up roadblocks and promised to turn festival-goers back. Chief Inspector Paul Richards, festival liaison, later con?rmed to one of the festival organizers that ‘This is political’, adding that the decision had been made over his head at county level. One of SchNEWS’ sources on site said that the police were frank about the fact that the closure had been planned for two weeks. ‘This was a blatant act of political sabotage – the Big Green Gathering is now completely bankrupt, they knew that we were going to be closed down and yet they carried on allowing us to spend
money hand over fist on infrastructure.’

Stuart Security were forced on the BGG by police, and on Wednesday last week, they suddenly announced that they wanted 60 per cent of their fee up front. Even though the BGG scraped the cash together, the company still wanted out. So the BGG hired another firm – against police wishes. The fact that Stuart Security rely on police approval for lucrative contracts at Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Bath & West Show, WOMAD, Reading Festival, and Glade Festival has, of course, no bearing on the matter.

The paperwork and hoops which the BGG had to jump through to satisfy the council and police are here:

Many are seeing this as a political act by a new police inspector seeking revenge for environmental activists exposing police violence during protests against the G20 and Kingsnorth Climate Camp. Will the mainstream media investigate deeper? We hope so.

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