Tag Archives: UK police state

Thatcher’s Britain and Putin’s Russia: Separated at Birth?

The Battle of Orgreave (June 18, 1984):

There were 95 miners arrested at Orgreave and prosecuted for riot, a charge that carried the potential for a long prison sentence up to a maximum of life. But a year later, on 17 July 1985, all 95 were acquitted. The prosecution withdrew, from the first trial of 15, after police gave unconvincing accounts in the witness box: it became clear that the miners had themselves been attacked by police on horses or with truncheons, and there was evidence that a police officer’s signature on a statement had been forged.

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The Battle of Bolotnaya Square (May 6, 2012):

According to a report by the newspaper Izvestiya, which cited a statement issued by the working group of the Presidential Human Rights Council: the events of May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow were provoked by the police and cannot legally be deemed to be riots. By the evening of Thursday, January 31, the statement had been signed by about half of the Council’s members. 

According to Izvestiya’s information, the statement had been signed by the journalists Leonid Parfenov and Ivan Zasursky, civil society activist Irina Khakamada, and head of the Russian Aid Foundation (Rusfond) Lev Ambinder. Having completed an investigation into the circumstances of the incidents at Bolotnaya, the human rights activists decided that the opposition protesters had been compelled to act the way they did. The statement calls for all the accused in the “Bolotnaya Case” to be released from custody. 

“Neither before nor since 6 May, have the police created such unbearable and provocative conditions for demonstrators,” the working group declared in their statement. Notably, the statement specifically drew on evidence provided by members of the Human Rights Council, who had been present at Bolotnaya as public observers. They stressed that the disorder arose as a result of the pressure caused by the huge police cordons, Lenta.ru noted. 

[…]

In May, at Bolotnaya Square the “March of Millions” escalated into clashes between protesters and the police. At present, twelve people involved in a criminal case pertaining to the alleged riots are awaiting sentence in custody. Investigators want to send one of the alleged rioters for compulsory psychological treatment and another five are under house arrest. The only sentence in the case – 4.5 years in prison – was handed down in November against Maksim Luzyanin, who confessed to attacking the police. 

Previously, in May 2012, Federal Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin had declared that there had not been any rioting at Bolotnaya Square, but merely isolated clashes between demonstrators and police. In November, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group proposed that a public inquiry be held based on Lukin’s findings. But on January 30, 2013, it emerged that an independent group consisting of people opposed to the government had already interviewed around two hundred witnesses to the disturbances and presented this information to independent experts.

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Now check out the surprise ending:

Putin Decrees 2014 as Year of British Culture
09 April 2013
The Moscow Times

With an eye on further improving ties with Britain, President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree designating 2014 as the year of British culture in Russia.

The decree, which is aimed at fostering closer relations between the two countries, also calls for a celebration of Russian culture in Britain next year, the Kremlin said in a statement Tuesday.

The head of the organizing committee on the Russian side will be Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, Interfax reported. Committee members will include Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Kremlin cultural aide Mikhail Shvydkoi, and the heads of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters and the Pushkin and Hermitage museums.

Relations between Russia and Britain have shown a revival in recent months after falling to a low point after Moscow’s refusal to extradite State Duma Deputy Andrei Lugavoi in connection to the 2006 poisoning death of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced in mid-March that Russia and Britain had agreed to set aside 2014 as a year to celebration of the other country’s culture.

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Photos courtesy of John Sturrock/Socialist Worker and politzeki.tumbler.com. Thanks to the invaluable Comrade Agata for the heads-up. Read her timely 2010 interview with artist Jeremy Deller, who re-enacted the Battle of Orgreave in 2001, here.

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Filed under international affairs, political repression, protests, Russian society, trade unions

How’s It Going with That (Classist, Racist, Neocolonialist) Neoliberal Austerity Thing?

Tottenham is ablaze.  Not for the first time in its history.  Not for the first time over police violence and killing either.  But nor is this is the first major riot since the Tories took office.  It may well be the first to make a serious impact on national politics, but remember the riots in Bristol and Lewisham.  The party of order expected this.  That is why the police handling of protests has been so provocative and brutal.  That is why ‘exemplary’ sentences have been handed out for minor protest offenses, with even Murdoch’s pie-man being given a custodial sentence.  The intention has been to show that the party of order can keep control throughout the coming battles.  I hope, with every fibre in my being, that they cannot.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Because in Israel the colonial dynamic still predominates, and because the vast majority of Israeli workers have not begun to break with Zionism, and indeed many could reasonably claim to get some benefit from it, how these social antagonisms and elite fissures work out depends primarily on the regional context.  If the Arab Spring continues and radicalises, the weakening of Israel’s position, its usefulness to Washington, and its ability to sustain military policies that sections of its ruling class already find burdensome, then the prospects of major social struggles in Israel are increased.  If not, then I suspect the Israeli ruling class can resolve its difficulties at the expense of the Palestinians and take a further lurch down the road to some sort of fascism.

Moreover, the impending United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood in September imposes a deadline of sorts on the protesters. If Palestinians react by marching on Israeli army checkpoints to demand freedom, Israeli protesters will have to choose between losing internal support by siding with the Palestinians, or abandoning any claim of a pro-democracy agenda by siding with the Israeli soldiers charged with suppressing them. Before September comes, the protesters must first secure some more earthly achievements, like rent control in Israel’s larger cities, or perhaps, as the placards demand, even bring down Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition government. Only then could a sense of victory and democratic empowerment propel Israelis toward challenging the occupation, which remains the single greatest obstacle to social and political justice on either side of the Green Line.

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Filed under film and video, international affairs, protests, racism, nationalism, fascism, urban movements (right to the city)

“All of us must be Bryan Simpsons” (Defend the Right to Protest, UK)

defendtherighttoprotest.org

Bryan Simpson – a university student facing charges for occupying Millbank against education cuts

SHOW SUPPPORT FOR PROTESTERS AT THEIR HEARINGS
City of Westminster Magistrates Court, 70 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2

THURS 9th JUNE, 9AM
Hearings of students including Alfie Meadows

FRIDAY 10th JUNE 10AM
Hearings of students including Bryan Simpson
(www.defendbryansimpson.org)

MONDAY 4 July, 9AM
Hearing of Fortnum & Masons occupiers
(www.fortnum145.org)

LEAFLET TO DOWNLOAD

The right to protest is under serious threat in Britain today.

The police are increasingly resorting to extreme tactics including kettling, mounted horse charges and battering protesters with extreme force.

The results have been horrific. For Alfie Meadows, a student on the anti-fees protests last year, this led to severe wounds to his head and emergency brain surgery to save his life. For Ian Tomlinson, an encounter with police on a demonstration proved to be fatal.

Peaceful activists have been targeted for arrest and arbitrary detention. 145 members of UK Uncut were arrested and charged for a sit-in at Fortnum and Mason during the mass TUC anti-cuts protest on 26 March. The extent of damage caused by them appears to have been one smashed chocolate rabbit. For this they have been charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ for which they could be sent to jail.

On the day of royal wedding, protesters and others celebrating an alternative party in Soho were arrested and detained on suspicion that they might be about to commit a ‘breach of the peace’. Here we are in an Orwellian world of ‘pre-crime’, arrested for something that you may do in the future.

We stand with all those who have been targeted by the police in recent months and those who are now facing jail terms simply for exercising their right to protest. The attack on Alfie Meadows, the Fortnum and Mason 145 and all the rest, is an attack on all of us and our democratic rights.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
Encourage people to sign up to the Defend the Right to Protest petition and the petitions for Alfie Meadows and Bryan Simpson.

Build support for the campaign. Invite a Defend the Right to Protest speaker to your trade union or student union, campaign group or organisation. Pass a motion to affiliate to the campaign.

Contact us with ideas for future actions, or to let us know about any support you can give whether its web and press skills or just hours to dedicate to the campaign.

If you have been arrested or witnessed arrests or violent behaviour by the police please get in touch confidentially.

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Editor’s Note. Thanks to the infinitely valuable Infinite Thought for the heads-up.

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Filed under activism, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, student movements, trade unions

Crushing the Right to Protest (Alfie Meadows Charged with “Violent Disorder”)

The UK seems to have decided to join the Russian Federation in the race to the (police-state) bottom…

Take a deep breath, and don’t let it out until you’ve finished this sentence: the Metropolitan Police are charging Alfie Meadows with ‘violent disorder’. Now you can collect your jaw from the floor.

Alfie Meadows is the student who was beaten so badly by police that he had to undergo serious brain surgery. He was also, reportedly, denied an ambulance by police for a considerable period of time. When he finally boarded an ambulance, police attempted to prevent the ambulance from delivering him to Charing Cross hospital on the grounds that the hospital was reserved for the treatment of injured rozzers, not their victims. This happened on the afternoon of 9th December, Day X 3, the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees when tens of thousands protested in Westminster and across the country. It was on that evening, you may recall, that police engaged in a particularly nasty, punitive ‘kettle’ of protesters on Westminster Bridge. Alfie Meadows was beaten across the skull by a policeman with a baton, but is being charged for an offence that carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Eleven people have been charged with various offenses under the Public Order Act by the ‘Operation Malone’ unit of the Metropolitan Police. The unit in question was set up with 80 officers solely to investigate the student protests, and as such represents a massive outlay just to arrest people who are either innocent of any crime, or at most guilty of very minor ones. The inclusion of Alfie Meadows on the charge sheet is clearly politicised, bearing in mind the IPCC’s ongoing investigation into the case. One also has to take into account the recent High Court decision that the kettling of G20 protesters was illegal, which could and should result in thousands suing the police. But it’s also typical of the police’s way of handling cases where they may be vulnerable. You might recall the example of Jake Smith, who was arrested after the Gaza protests in 2009. The case collapsed when it was disclosed that the footage showed, not Jake Smith engaging in ‘violent disorder’, but rather the police engaging in a violent attack on Jake Smith.

Of course, everything that is done by the state with reference to the student protests has a wider social mission, which is to preemptively criminalise the coming social struggles and validate the police’s pre-meditated violence. Take the case of Edward Woolard, the 18 year old who dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof of Tory HQ. He was disgracefully given a sentence of 32 months. This was longer than the sentence handed out to some rapists, though no one was harmed. The judge’s homily explained that the court was “sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way that an offence of this seriousness will not be tolerated”. Of course, sending out ‘messages’, or rather heavily moralised threats, is what the criminal justice system does by nature. And we get the message alright.

Yes, they beat someone’s skull in. Yes, this was part of a series of violent tactics deployed by police, which included assaults on young boys, and teenaged girls. Yes, if the protests had continued, and the police had continued with their tactics, they probably would have killed someone just as they killed Ian Tomlinson. We’ll be lucky if, in the next few years, they don’t kill another protester. And their very clear message is that whatever happens, just as they did with Jean Charles de Menezes and the Koyair brothers, they will always find a way to blame the victim, exonerate or protect the guilty, and continue as before.

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Reaction to the charges brought against Alfie and the others yesterday has been, in the main and entirely reasonably, a combination of bewilderment and anger. The only places I can see where people haven’t responding in this way have been on an anonymous police blog and a similarly anonymous police forum, where posters are desperately trying to cling on to ‘rumours’ that Alfie was hit by a ‘concrete block’ and not by a police truncheon (rumours generated by those sites in the first place). It’s pathetic, but predictable and suitably cowardly that active (though nameless) members of the police force would be so desperate that they would resort to such weaselly and baseless insinuations. Similarly the idea that there’s something ‘suspicious’ about Alfie’s ‘silence’ in the past few months: well, a combination of recovering from major brain surgery, a major IPCC investigation and legal advice might have something to do with it -but hey, unless the spectacle gets fed constantly I guess people start to forget that there’s life beyond the internet and TV…and seriously, ACAB, fuck the CO19 with their shoot to kill policy for the royal wedding, fuck banning people from the city they live in and fuck the version of a fearful world that cops inhabit and try daily harder to bring into existence for everyone else.

The charges brought against Alfie and the others are purely politically motivated in every respect, from the timing, to the charges themselves, to the specific people they picked on. Anyone who still believes (or ever believed) that the police are in anyway related to justice has got to wake up and quickly: similarly, how long can it go on that the IPCC never, ever finds against the police in any serious way? Something’s got to give and hopefully before we see yet more unchecked police arrogance and unpunished brutality towards those exercising their desire to protest freely.

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In what can only be described as a colossally misjudged act of PR, the Metropolitan police have decided to charge several of the student protesters arrested in the wake of last year’s demonstrations with violent disorder, affray and criminal damage. They include Alfie Meadows, the student who had to have brain surgery after he was allegedly hit with a truncheon.

These are serious charges which carry potentially heavy jail sentences. Their timing does not seem to be coincidental. The hearing dates for those arrested had been set for late May and June; they have now been moved forward. But to what end? This weekend will see not only the royal wedding, of course, but also 1 May protests stretched across a four-day holiday (for some, anyway).

By charging these allegedly dangerous individuals and banning them from Westminster and the City for the next week, the Met can reassure the public that they are pre-emptively protecting them from a violent social menace – despite the fact that none of the protesters have yet been found guilty of anything.

But apart from the crudeness of such tactics, does this kind of political policing achieve anything more than public disgust at such underhandedness? The police seem to be operating under the misapprehension that the recent protests have been led by identifiable leaders who can then be picked out, thus leaving crowds bereft of direction. What the protests at Millbank, Whitehall and elsewhere demonstrated, however, was that this assumption is increasingly wrong. A mass movement doesn’t need to rely on charismatic figureheads for strength.

Protesters at recent demos know very well what the coalition is doing to students and workers alike, and that so many of them are prepared to stand up to the government and those paid to violently enforce their policies is clearly causing consternation, and more repressive responses, among the powers that be.

Alleging protester violence rather than questioning their own dangerous tactics, such as kettling, the police can try to put potential protesters off; they can try to make those with families afraid to march with their children (though the huge TUC march last month provided plenty of evidence that this tactic isn’t working); and they can intimidate those who may never have protested before.

At the same time the police (some of whom work for “counter-terrorism”) are creating large groups of criminalised youth, largely young men between 15 and 25, some of whom are students trying to save their EMA and their chance to afford university in a few years’ time. Fingerprints are taken, names and faces noted, and photos of those “wanted” are splashed all over the media, destroying anonymity and carrying the implicit message that if you protest, for any reason, we can and will destroy your future.

Many of those arrested for the first time are unaware of their legal rights, coerced into accepting cautions and distressed at the thought of bringing disrepute to their families, schools and colleges. At the same time the expense to taxpayers created by heavyhanded policing and high-profile arrests is immense.

But there are ways of fighting back. One student arrested in a dawn raid after the 24 November protest, Bryan Simpson, has set up a campaign which is holding a rally in Glasgow on 29 April.

A new campaign group, Defend the Right to Protest, has been launched with the support of John McDonnell MP, Naomi Klein, Tony Benn and others. There are many in Britain who may not ever want to attend a protest, but they’d be certain they’d want to live in a country in which people could protest. This pre-emptive criminalisation of protesters and the propagandistic tactics of intimidating future protesters is a worrying sign of things to come.

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Jody McIntyre versus the BBC

Watching the BBC’s live, continuous coverage of the December 9 student protests in London against the ruling coalition’s plan to raise fees and slash funding, one couldn’t help but come away with the impression that this august and taxpayer-funded allegedly journalistic organization was very much operating on the side of the police. One of the victims of police abuse that night was Jody McIntyre, a blogger and activist who suffers from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. In this interview, Mr. McIntyre makes short work of the police agent who slipped into the BBC studios disguised as a news presenter. By the way, during the events in question, the “violent protesters” slapped a “Fuck” sticker on the man’s overcoat. Here he proves that he very much deserved that moniker.

Thanks to the increasingly essential Lenin’s Tomb for the heads-up.

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Filed under film and video, interviews, political repression, protests, student movements