Hundreds of riot police pushed back protesters at the Kingsnorth coal power station "climate camp" in Kent yesterday, as officers raided the site and made eight arrests.
Kent Police seized four men aged between 24 and 45 for public order offences in dawn skirmishes. A 27-year-old man was also arrested for obstructing police and a 40-year-old man was held on suspicion of possessing a prohibited weapon.
Scuffles broke out as shield-carrying officers moved in to surround protesters in the afternoon after the high-profile arrival of five campaigners who are trying to breach a court order banning them from entering the site. Police also stopped food deliveries to the camp.
The five protesters – Paul Morozzo, Jonathan Stevenson, Ellen Potts, Mel Evans and Oli Rodker – were among 29 that were arrested in June for stopping a coal delivery train outside Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Their bail conditions ban them from going near any British power station and from attending the climate camp but they phoned ahead to warn the local police commander of their arrival aboard the 1.33pm train from London Victoria to Chatham, Kent.
Mr Morozzo, 41, was arrested after being identified as a bail-breaker but the other four managed to sneak inside the camp despite the police sealing off the perimeter and holding identity checks. Another man was arrested at the time. Lawyers warned the group they are likely to face prison by entering the site. A spokeswoman for Kent Police said: "Police are investigating the arrival of campaigners believed to have breached their bail conditions but we cannot confirm how many arrests have been made."
About 700 protesters were on site yesterday; police sources said they expect about 2,000 this week, gathering to show their disapproval at plans by the plant's owners, E.ON, to build a new coal-powered station on the site. Protesters have promised to shut down Kingsnorth on Saturday.
Before arriving at the site, Mr Morozzo said: "I'm pretty nervous about being arrested because I've never been to prison. It will be bad but the worst thing about being arrested will be that I won't get to go to an event that I have been planning for a long time. This is one of the most important issues of our generation and it's vital that we are allowed to discuss it. It's tragic that the police seem to want to stop that."
Mr Stevenson, 26, who remained at large last night, had prepared for arrest by posting his father a birthday card and texting his parents: "I'm sorry I haven't said anything before, but I didn't want to worry you. It looks like I might be arrested at climate camp. It is my choice and it's something I feel strongly about. Please don't be angry." Ms Potts, 32, added: "We are also doing this because we feel our bail conditions are disproportionate to our supposed offences. I can see the logic in keeping us away from power stations, but to keep us away from this event, where people are meeting to discuss how to tackle climate change, is wrong."