Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Incinerator Squatting

Camerawoman Zoe Broughton is no stranger to unusual filming conditions on environmental protests. The recent Greenpeace occupation of a 100 feet incinerator tower in south London was her latest windy journalistic challenge. She sent this report back after being hauled down from her perch by bailiffs.......

March 2002

In 2001 I faced two court cases for filming Greenpeace actions, one for filming up the top of an oil rig in the Cromarty Firth and the second where I spent a very smelly sixty hours inside the waste pit area of the Sheffield incinerator. Neither cases have even come to court yet, but the police saw the error of their ways and have dropped the charges against me once they realised I was simply a video journalist doing my job, but last week I got arrested once again.

In the early hours of the 25th of February, Greenpeace protestors took over the SELCHP waste incinerator site in South London. Now feeling a bit more confident about working at heights, I headed to the top of the 100 metre incinerator tower to film three campaigners. Damien and Richard, experienced climbers, and Mark, a Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner. Once inside the tower, it took about five hours to get to the top with all the equipment they had prepared to sit it out and keep the incinerator shut for as long as possible.

This incinerator is spewing out the European equivalent of the maximum level of dioxins for one million people per day. But 'don't worry', it's blown about by the wind up there and so luckily it doesn't all land on the housing estates directly below! Despite the incinerator not actually working whilst we were up there I wore a mask with filters the entire time I wasn't eating.

Luckily for us, inside there were ladders with back bars right to the top. By the last stretch of ladder I was hot and tired and very thankful of being handed a hot cup of tea by Richard who'd started getting a camp together. Out on the roof, I beamed out the footage I'd got, using a microwave link set up, and it made it onto the local news.

In other parts of the site different groups of protestors were also busy. In the waste pits, protestors had stopped the conveyor belts that supplied the furnace, and off one side of the building climbers battled again the wind to hang a banner.

Over the next few days I filmed the campaigners barricading, capping one of the flues, and Mark did some great pieces to camera on the roof, shouting to get heard over the howling wind.

In the quiet moments we played backgammon, Richard beat me 16-0. We cooked up good meals and having a radio with us meant I was able to keep up with the Archers and we tuned in to hear Mark live on Drive Time on Monday and Tuesday.

The weather was not kind to us. The wind howled around for three days. I never realised these concrete structures swayed quite so much making my hammock swing around as I slept. On the third evening the sheriff's bailiffs arrived, took one look at the barricade and announced they'd be back tomorrow.

The sit out lasted till Thursday 28th morning. I filmed and beamed the footage out live as the bailiffs angle-grinded their way through the top hatch and forced their way onto the roof. Again it made it onto the local news. As I was escorted down one climber told me how he now knew where his monthly Greenpeace subscription went. The police arrested me and took me to Lewisham Police Station, despite me showing them my press card and being clearly labelled as press both on my hat and jacket.

As they checked me in, a policeman asked "As a journalist do you know what the law is on me keeping your films?" I pointed out that I thought it was completely illegal to arrest a journalist whilst they were doing their job. He looked puzzled, his colleagues laughed.

Six hours later and I was released with all my kit and I'm now on bail to return next month, but am hoping they again decide to stop wasting journalists' time and deal with the real issues that affect their area.

Related Articles
Video Journalist Nicked At Incinerator Action, Sheffield - When Zoe Broughton was filming a Greenpeace action in Sheffield, the police went OTT - 22nd-May-2001