Climate protesters accuse police of 'sensationalism' over disorder fears

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CLIMATE-change campaigners set to descend on the capital this week have accused Lothian and Borders Police of vilifying them and insist their protests will be peaceful.

Organisers of the Climate Camp, which is set to begin on Thursday when about 1,000 activists will gather in Edinburgh, said they are following a tradition of civil disobedience as practised by the Suffragettes and Gandhi.

Climate Camp spokesman Kevin Smith told The Scotsman that while activists are set to break the law they are planning to do so in a non-violent way by staging activities such as blockades or sit-ins.

At previous camps, which began in 2007 at Heathrow and have been held annually since, problems have been caused by the police and not campaigners, Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith was responding to a statement released by Lothian and Borders police warning local businesses about possible disruption and stating that the force will take "appropriate action against any disorder or unlawful actions".

Mr Smith said: "There always tends to be a bit of sensationalism from the police before the camp, but afterwards it's a different story as it never lives up to their ideas."

The protesters have not told police the location of the week-long Climate Camp or what activities they will be carrying out. They intend to publicise the location to activists at the last minute.

"It would make life a lot easier for us if we could make the location of the camp known beforehand," Mr Smith said.

"But our experience is that when we have been open, the police do everything they can to stop it."

The main focus of the week will be a day of "direct action" against the banking giant Royal Bank of Scotland, taking place at its headquarters at Gogarburn, with the intention of disrupting its operation for the day.

The activities will involve hundreds of people, according to Mr Smith, and could see a blockade of the complex or activists forcing their way into the building and refusing to leave.

The protests are also likely to target other companies that they say support fossil-fuel electricity generation.

The protesters claim that RBS is the largest UK bank investor in the "dirty energy sector", including coal extraction in the UK, global oil exploration and tar sands exploitation in Canada, which produces three to five times as much greenhouse gas as conventional oil production.

"Our activities are well targeted and not designed to affect members of the public and the people of Edinburgh," Mr Smith."RBS and other fossil fuel criminal companies will be targeted but there won't be any disruption to other businesses."

However, RBS is the sponsor of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Royal Mile street entertainment zone, something the campaigners claim they will be targeting "without disrupting the festival itself".

Lothian and Borders Police declined to comment.

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