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Report of Police liaison meeting, 16 February 2012

Present: Craig Kirk and Bruce Turnbull (Avon & Somerset police), Zoe Smith and Andreas Speck (Stop New Nuclear)

Craig asked at the beginning of the meeting to come back to some issues raised at the debriefing meeting in November, to clarify some of the criticisms raised by Stop New Nuclear.

  • On the Friday before the action, the chief inspector drove onto the camp site without being invited, which was criticised. Craig clarified that in future police would only do this if there would be a need for the police to act, or if there would be an invitation or permission from the owner of the land.
  • SNN raised concerns about the mode of dress of the protester liaison officers, that they were not easily identifiable as police. The mode of dress has not yet been decided. They want to avoid uniform, because this might be confusing to other police officers (due to the higher rank of the protester liaison officers). But they would be clearly marked as police, front and back, and carry name and rank or number. We were informed that nationally the term for protester liaison officer is changing to “protester engagement officer”.
  • The distance of the car park and toilets: The toilets had been put into the wrong field by the contractors.
  • Banners being put on the gate or the fence: Craig clarified that the gate and the fence are private property, and it is up to EDF to either allow or not allow this. The police has no say in this.
  • Access road: There will be no parking or stopping allowed, as was the case last time.
  • Spill over of protest onto the field (for spokescouncil, etc). This was tolerated last time, but the land is private land and it depends on the owner of the land.

The protest in March 2012

The police had had initial discussions with EDF about the March protest. EDF is willing to again provide car parking and toilets, in the same place as last time.

Policing will be by Avon & Somerset police on Saturday, and later by Devon & Cornwall police, due to a football match in Bristol, for which a lot of Avon & Somerset's forces will be needed. However, Avon & Somerset police will always have the overall command.

Silver commander(s):
First shift: Super Intendant Ian Smith
Asked about the numbers of police on duty, we were told they would be similar to last time.

The principles of policing would also be as in October:

  • no surprises
  • facilitate peaceful protest

Timeline of the day

Craig asked to confirm the timeline of events on the day. Assembly would be from about 12-1pm, and we confirmed this would mainly be at the main gate, and said that we might want to have speeches and music while people assemble.
The surround action would begin at about 1pm, and from about 3.30pm to 5.30/6pm would be a rally with speeches and music, again in front of the main gate. The blockade would begin after that, and last until about 2pm on Sunday.

We clarified that we see the two actions as having a distinct character:

The rally: We see this as exercising our right to peaceful assembly, including the surround action. We asked how much they would like to know about the surround action in advance, and they replied that they would like no surprises, and would like to know in advance what is happening, or on the day via Bruce.
We asked to clarify whether we would need to notify about a “procession” in advance, and Craig said he would check this, and get back to us.
We emphasized that the rally and surround action should be a safe space for everyone, with nobody having to fear arrest.

Blockade: We clarified that while the rally might have a blockading element (due to the fact that it takes place on the only access road), the blockade is clearly an action of civil disobedience, and people participating in the blockade will be prepared to get arrested, and will not move out of the way when told to do so.
When asked, Craig replied that he does not yet have any indication how the police wants to deal with the blockade – whether they are going to tolerate it or not. He pointed out that there will be two shift changes during the time of the blockade, and that it has to be balanced with the safety of the site. He said that workers have to get in and out, as they have to be replaced to run the site.
We pointed out that the blockade will not prevent Hinkley Point staff from walking onto the site, as only vehicle traffic will be blockaded. There was then some discussion of people not knowing what to expect and being fearful. We mentioned the practice at some of the Sizewell blockades, where EDF chartered coaches to shuttle staff up to the gate, and staff then walk onto the site. The experience is that while protesters are subject to verbal abuse from staff, this is not the case the other way round.

When asked, we clarified that the non-violence guidelines are the same as last time, and the same rules regarding emergency vehicles apply. We confirmed that if people use lock-ons, they will be able to unlock to make way for emergency vehicles, but that we would expect the police not to make use of the situation to prevent people from getting back into the road. Bruce replied that this would be a breach of trust.

We raised the issue of the need for equipment to be brought close to the gate, to facilitate the rally and to care for the well-being of protesters during the surround action and the blockade. We said we would prefer to do this in our own vehicle.

We will need:

  • tea stall
  • PA equipment
  • portable compost toilets

There was some brainstorming that this could be put up in one of the lay-bys near the gate, if police vehicles would be parked slightly further away. We especially mentioned that it would be difficult and unpractical for people to walk the 400m to the car park, possibly in the middle of the night and with rain, to get a hot drink or go to the toilet. We also said that we would rather provide our own toilets, and not depend on EDF, as people feel that this would be more appropriate.

Craig replied that something can be organised with the commander on the day.

We said that it is better decided before, as we would need to make different arrangements otherwise. It was agreed that we send them an email detailing what we wanted, and they will ask the commander.
We also said that we would rather provide our own shuttle for people who cannot walk from the car park.
When asked by Bruce we clarified that this would only be used to transport the agreed items.

Bruce mentioned that the police also used the toilets provided by EDF. We emphasized that there would need to be a clear position on police using our toilets, which would also need to be communicated to everyone.
Craig asked about plans for getting onto the site, and mentioned that the civil nuclear police are armed.

We replied that we are calling for surround and blockade, and that we do not encourage people to go onto the site of Hinkley A&B. In our briefing we also spell out the dangers and legal consequences of getting onto the site.

We asked whether it is already known when the public footpaths will be diverted.

Craig replied that they will not be diverted before March.

Police stations

We asked which police stations would be used should the police decide to arrest people.
The answer was that it will be the same as last time:

  • Bridgwater
  • Minehead
  • Taunton (might be refurbished)
  • Weston Super Mare

We will be informed were people are being brought by Bruce or other protester liaison officers.

Communication will be by email for now, but we will get an Orange mobile number from them, so that we can reach them during the days in March. We will also provide them with a mobile number of ours, which will always be with our police liaison team on duty.

We agreed to have another meeting a few days before the action.

Next meeting: 7 March, 2pm.

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