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

Video Journalist Nicked At Incinerator Action, Sheffield

Zoe Broughton has been a prolific environmental camerawoman for years. Then one day in May, whilst filming a Greenpeace action in Sheffield, the police went OTT.......

22nd May 2001

Last week for me was not just another run of the mill week. I got a tip-off from Greenpeace to go and film an action in Sheffield. Once there, I discovered the issue. In Sheffield there is a waste incinerator which continually breaches government regulations. Greenpeace were there to shut it down.

The action took place in the early hours of 22nd May. The Greenpeace group split into two, each with five Greenpeace volunteers and a member of the press. One group climbed up the incinerator tower, the other, which I was filming, ran into the rubbish delivery area, stopping the huge pits of waste go to the incinerator. The climbers I watched then abseiled down from hand-rails and ended up hanging above the tonnes of smelly waste.

On the Tuesday my footage was broadcast on the local ITV news. I'd got my footage out, but I didn't feel like I'd go the complete story unless I got the ending too, but I didn't realise quite how long I would have to wait.

Sixty hours after the campaigners first went in, the council got an injunction through, and Greenpeace was forced to leave by the court. I'd spent two nights in a rubbish dump. The smell was awful, especially at night when the workers shut the doors. The huge building resembled the inside of a hoover bag, with thick dust getting everywhere, and the hot weather increased the number of flies. I wore a hot sweaty face mask most of the time, and idled my time away filming, reading or watching the rats scurrying around below.

When the time came to leave, I had the camera rolling. I had made it very clear that I was a freelance journalist, and the police said they knew that. They let me film the group I'd been with getting arrested, and put into the police vans. They let me hand my tape over to get it out immediately. It was broadcast on local BBC and ITV news. Then, when I started on another tape, they announced I was also under arrest!

I'd never been arrested before. At the police station, the police felt obviously torn. These weren't their normal criminals, everyone was polite and good humoured. And the policeman that took my fingerprints and photo, told me he'd be in Oxford, my home town, over the weekend and he's got three young children. He was glad they'd highlighted the issue of how the people of Sheffield are being polluted with dioxins and many other noxious substances. Could he buy me a pint? The police were polite and friendly, gave me lots of tea and a good meal, much appreciated after three days of roughing it.

I felt perfectly calm about it all until they announced that they wouldn't grant me bail until they'd searched my home! I hadn't heard of this happening to journalists before. I was shocked and very worried that they'd take work-related equipment which would stop me doing my job. Luckily there was no-one in and the Oxford police obviously decided against breaking down the door, though apparently they had the right to do so.

Seven hours later I was released without my trousers or shoes. I had to wear daft looking police hand outs. More importantly, they have kept my camera kit which I desperately need for my work. I am hoping that my case will get dropped before it comes to a court case, but I am angry that as a journalist they can threaten to impose on your home life.

The protestors painted 'Toxic Crime' down the incinerator tower and I have been accused of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, even though I was clearly labeled as Press with my Union card.

This incinerator has breached government regulations 157 times in the last three years! Who are the real criminals?

Zoe Broughton

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Incinerator Squatting - Camerawoman Zoe Broughton sent this report back after being evicted by bailiffs from a Greenpeace occupation of a 100 feet incinerator tower in south London - March-2002