EDITOR'S CHAIR: The peace camp that sparked a war of words

Public meeting held at Pill Millennium Centre regarding the NATO Pill Peace Camp.  Pictured is the panel during the meeting being chaired by Chris England. (9221122)

Public meeting held at Pill Millennium Centre regarding the NATO Pill Peace Camp. Pictured is the panel during the meeting being chaired by Chris England. (9221122)

First published in News by

WHAT a mess.

Newport is exactly three weeks away from the start of the Nato Summit.

We all know the event will bring protesters to the city, possibly in their thousands.

We all know the summit's opponents plan a peace camp.

But, with 21 days to go until the eyes of the world focus on Newport, no-one has any idea where protesters will pitch their tents.

What we do know is the peace camp will not be held on Pill playing fields, following a stormy public meeting on Tuesday at which the anger of residents was clear for everyone to see.

Despite claims to the contrary, most local people at the meeting said there had been no consultation with them about the peace camp plans. And if there was it was obviously woefully inadequate.

How on earth can the views of local people be ignored in such a way?

The council seems to have learned nothing from the PR disaster of last year's the Chartist mural destruction.

Protest groups seem to have a total disregard for the community they wanted to live among.

The really damning fact in all of this is that dialogue between protesters and Newport council started on June 9. Yet last Friday, two months after protesters wrote, via their solicitors, to the council asking it to make land available for a peace camp came the announcement that Pill was the chosen venue.

The council made it clear Pill was the protesters' choice and that it had not given permission for them to lose the land.

But yesterday the No Nato Newport group told me Pill was always unsuitable but the council, in consultation with the police, had agreed to facilitate toilets and waters there.

Someone isn't being straight with us.

And the people who need the truth are the people of Newport.

If dialogue between protesters and the council started at the beginning of June, why are we in this mess in the middle of August?

It could have all been so different.

As soon as Newport was announced at the venue for the Nato Summit it was obvious the events would attract protesters in substantial numbers.

The vast majority of these people want to do nothing more than protest peacefully against Nato and its role in world affairs.

The authorities - whether that be the city council, the police, the Welsh or UK governments, or even Nato itself - have had many months to find ways in which a peace camp could be beneficial to both the peaceful protesters and the people of Newport (some of whom, it should be pointed out, are one and the same).

Local businesses, particularly those who sell food and drink, could have been encouraged to get involved.

And I cannot believe it would have been beyond the wit of man to find a suitable site for such a camp within Newport's boundaries, providing people living nearby were fully involved in the planning process.

Instead we have a situation where protesters and the council, residents and protesters, and the council and residents are all set against each other.

What a mess. What an avoidable mess.

Comments (7)

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9:40am Thu 14 Aug 14

DavidMclean says...

Exactly!

Did the council think by being awkward they could deter all protests from coming to the event?

Protesters WILL come. That much is certain. It is vital that the council does what it can to work WITH the decent organised protesters to ensure a trouble free event. If the decent voters can be accommodated, it makes it easier for the police to deal with the more menacing shadowy elements who will undoubtedly also turn up as well.

By not helping the organised protesters they risk scattering them through the city, which will make it easier for the nastier elements to operate.

Protest is a right our grandfathers sacrificed their lives for in two world wars. Newport also has its place in the history books for the Chartists movement, so we should as a city be able to recognise the importance and legitimacy of protest, whether you agree with the protest or not.

Ultimately this whole farce has served only to illustrate how unsuitable Newport is to hold the event. The council is too immature in its attitude and too inexperience to hold such a major event. It loves the idea of the fame, but has been clueless all along about the realities. Small town thinking and inexperience meets a big city international event.

Talking of size, do you realise that Newport is the smallest city EVER to host a NATO Summit? We are basically guinea pigs for some bizarre international experiment.

'Opportunity'? For who exactly?
Exactly! Did the council think by being awkward they could deter all protests from coming to the event? Protesters WILL come. That much is certain. It is vital that the council does what it can to work WITH the decent organised protesters to ensure a trouble free event. If the decent voters can be accommodated, it makes it easier for the police to deal with the more menacing shadowy elements who will undoubtedly also turn up as well. By not helping the organised protesters they risk scattering them through the city, which will make it easier for the nastier elements to operate. Protest is a right our grandfathers sacrificed their lives for in two world wars. Newport also has its place in the history books for the Chartists movement, so we should as a city be able to recognise the importance and legitimacy of protest, whether you agree with the protest or not. Ultimately this whole farce has served only to illustrate how unsuitable Newport is to hold the event. The council is too immature in its attitude and too inexperience to hold such a major event. It loves the idea of the fame, but has been clueless all along about the realities. Small town thinking and inexperience meets a big city international event. Talking of size, do you realise that Newport is the smallest city EVER to host a NATO Summit? We are basically guinea pigs for some bizarre international experiment. 'Opportunity'? For who exactly? DavidMclean
  • Score: 3

9:40am Thu 14 Aug 14

KarloMarko says...

"Not waving, but drowning".
"Not waving, but drowning". KarloMarko
  • Score: 4

9:46am Thu 14 Aug 14

landyman3030 says...

Welcome to a normal day in the world of Newport City Council.
I know. Lets all vote them in again as soon as we can. They are doing such a bang up job.
Welcome to a normal day in the world of Newport City Council. I know. Lets all vote them in again as soon as we can. They are doing such a bang up job. landyman3030
  • Score: 0

10:20am Thu 14 Aug 14

paddyparry says...

My understanding is that there was a publicity embargo that was put in place by the security people controling this from Whitehall. That expired last week and the police and council are now able to release more information to the public. Even so it doesn't explain why the council are unable to get their facts straight, as to what was advised and agreed too. Either way they are not doing themselves any favours..
My understanding is that there was a publicity embargo that was put in place by the security people controling this from Whitehall. That expired last week and the police and council are now able to release more information to the public. Even so it doesn't explain why the council are unable to get their facts straight, as to what was advised and agreed too. Either way they are not doing themselves any favours.. paddyparry
  • Score: 1

10:48am Thu 14 Aug 14

Kevin Ward - Editor says...

Paddyparry
Your information is incorrect. There has been no publicity embargo.
Paddyparry Your information is incorrect. There has been no publicity embargo. Kevin Ward - Editor
  • Score: 9

11:52am Thu 14 Aug 14

Woodgnome says...

This is down to the culture at Newport Council. Just sheer arrogance on the part of senior officers and Councillors. This will carry one unless there is a dramatic cultural change.
This is down to the culture at Newport Council. Just sheer arrogance on the part of senior officers and Councillors. This will carry one unless there is a dramatic cultural change. Woodgnome
  • Score: 7

2:53pm Fri 15 Aug 14

bodlondon says...

Woodgnome wrote:
This is down to the culture at Newport Council. Just sheer arrogance on the part of senior officers and Councillors. This will carry one unless there is a dramatic cultural change.
Been like that for at least the last half century
The city's residents and the city itself have entered the 21st Century
Sadly the council officvers & councillors still see themselves as lords of the manor who aren't answerable to the polulace
[quote][p][bold]Woodgnome[/bold] wrote: This is down to the culture at Newport Council. Just sheer arrogance on the part of senior officers and Councillors. This will carry one unless there is a dramatic cultural change.[/p][/quote]Been like that for at least the last half century The city's residents and the city itself have entered the 21st Century Sadly the council officvers & councillors still see themselves as lords of the manor who aren't answerable to the polulace bodlondon
  • Score: 5

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