Tag Archives: protest

Police kettle student protestors yet again

James Turley discusses the critical problem of organisation in the student movement


When I wrote for this paper on the subject of the November 10 Millbank occupation, I warned that we might not have it so easy on the next round of anti-fees protests (‘After Millbank: the way forward’, November 18). One did not have to pick this up from the pages of the Weekly Worker – the Metropolitan Police had been making bellicose noises ever since what can only be described as its rank humiliation at the hands of a throng of spirited students.

And so it came to pass – when the November 24 day of action came around, the cops were ready. Armed with the grotesquely undemocratic ‘anti-terrorism’ laws, all they needed was an excuse. They made their own, leaving a lone police van suspiciously behind enemy lines. Sure enough, the excitable youngsters, along with idiotic black bloc types, attacked the van. The trap was sprung. Thousands of protestors, a handsome proportion of whom – perhaps even the majority – were school and college students, were kettled for up to 10 hours on a bitterly cold November day.

It really has to be emphasised how cynical the police action was. It looked every inch a set-up. Knowing that some kind of action was planned at Liberal Democrat headquarters (though the Socialist Workers Party, by far the keenest that something should happen there, stopped short of calling for an occupation). At the back end of a nest of small streets near Millbank, containing protestors would have been difficult, and perhaps impossible without cutting a portion of the police ranks off from the rest. So they resolved to stop us on Whitehall – and stop us they did, with all the efficiency of a planned military operation, until well into the night.

It is true, with the exception of a few meat-headed mounted police charges against fleeing protestors, that the day passed without much in the way of direct physical repression. Yet that is to make a mockery of how kettling actually works. If the police had turned up with a hundred paddy wagons and carted us all off to holding pens for 10 hours without charge, denying us food and water, the outrage would have reverberated around the world at such a flagrant violation of nominal civil rights and, indeed, basic human decency. The only difference with kettling is, so to speak, that the mountain comes to Mohammed – instead of putting the victim into a cell, a cell is built around the victim. The police do not like to use the word ‘kettling’ – perhaps they would prefer the more accurate term: mass arrest.

The same criticism holds for those who, once more, have been horrified by sporadic destruction of property in the kettled zone. In a peculiar profile of University of London Union leader and Counterfire supporter Clare Solomon, The Daily Telegraph summarises the November 24 events in London thus: “She led the march last Wednesday which led to mayhem in Whitehall, where thousands of demonstrators as young as 13 smashed a police van and clashed with officers” (November 27).

It only takes a handful of people to smash up a police van, and indeed only a handful were responsible. Add to the tally a couple of battered bus stops; that is more or less the extent of the damage. (Anything flammable was burned; not in pursuit of nihilistic destruction, but because fire is warm, and late November is cold.) Readers can judge for themselves whether this is the main story of the day rather than the enforced confinement of several thousand 13-18-year-olds, many turned away from police lines in visible distress, in physically punishing conditions.

Any attempt to hold the protestors responsible for the treatment meted out to them has to be vigorously opposed. The blame lies wholly with the police, with any MP who has not consistently taken a principled stand against ‘anti-terror’ laws and the ever-expanding repertoire of police powers, with the hypocritical scaremongers of the bourgeois media … and, indeed, with the ruling class as a whole, who should expect nothing less than rambunctious protests, given the scale of attacks on our side they intend to prosecute. Those arrested (in the legally accepted sense; we were all arrested) should face no charges and be free to go about their business – and, indeed, to protest without police interference.

Mercifully, the day’s events appear to have backfired somewhat on the police. People, it should be remembered, hardly rallied around the denunciations of the Millbank invasion – on one side there was the political establishment, the rightwing press and the National Union of Students leadership; on the other, everyone else. The sights, sounds and smells of November 24 have hardly alienated the masses of people from the students’ cause – rather, to a certain level of wavering political solidarity has been added basic empathy. There is not much political capital in kettling 13-year-olds.

The Whitehall events have also to be put in the context of actions up and down the country. Ten thousand, by some counts, came out in London, and thousands more in Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and hundreds of other towns and cities – 100,000 in all. On November 30 more protests took place – once again, school and FE students were heavily involved. The danger was that, instead of getting angry, the first-time protestors on November 24 would get demoralised. That does not seem to have happened.

The government, too, shows signs of feeling the pressure. Disquiet among the Lib Dems is reaching a considerable pitch. Not only have its leading lights reneged on very public promises to vote against tuition fee rises, with only the most risible excuses trotted out; they have also had the front windows of their HQ saved only by dubious police actions of a sort they once affected to oppose. Vince Cable has intimated that he may abstain on the Commons fees vote – despite having written the legislation himself; 104 Lib Dem parliamentary candidates have signed letters urging their party’s MPs to break ranks with the coalition government and vote against. Education policy has been a consistent flashpoint for discontent in their ranks, and the unease has only been exacerbated by very visible displays of anger from the student population.

The organisers of the November 30 protests seem to have learned some of the lessons of the previous week: the march was smartly rerouted on the spot wherever police blockages were encountered, in order to frustrate attempts to confine it. A short-lived (relatively-speaking) kettle in Trafalgar Square aside, the police did not have so easy a time of it. News reports in the run-up found young protestors dressed for Arctic conditions and armed with the phone numbers of solicitors.

Protestors, however, need to be more than simply reactive to the hard lessons of previous protests, and their attention must be on more than simply matters of match-day tactics. We must have a strategy to take this movement towards success. And the two key strategic problems are, firstly, that attacks on education are one small part of an enormous cuts programme; and, secondly, that the government’s cuts are one part of an international and indeed global ruling class offensive in response to the crisis.

The student protests have a certain amount of symbolic import in the anti-cuts movement as a whole: they have helpfully discredited the notion that militant and vibrant demonstrations are something for the hotheads on the continent rather than sensible Brits. Displays of practical solidarity between students and lecturers (such as the University and College Union’s mobilisation on November 10, but also teachers’ – usually passive – encouragement to students intending to walk out) are also welcome.

There is a need for far more effective unity in action, however, which poses the critical problem of organisation. At the moment, the student movement is divided three ways – firstly, the officials (the NUS leadership and ‘loyal’ student unions); then the Education Activist Network (effectively an SWP front); and finally the National Coalition against Fees and Cuts (including the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Workers Power/Revolution and others). Only the latter has anything approaching a democratic culture, which is likely what scares the others off. (The Socialist Party’s front, Socialist Students, also stands aloof.) As for anti-cuts campaigners more generally, they have their pick of the Coalition of Resistance, Right to Work, National Shop Stewards Network …

This situation cannot continue. Duplication of effort is inevitable, though the student protests have at least seen the different fragments agree on dates and places. Lasting unity can only be achieved on a democratic basis, but the sectarian culture of the left – in which self-appointed priesthoods of the revealed word cannot abide the thought of being outvoted – is a serious obstacle to this.

It is an old Trotskyist fetish to explain the disunity of the left with reference to isolation from the ‘real’ class struggle. In fact it is the other way round. Our disunity – and the competition between slender front organisations – itself isolates us from the masses. A united national campaign could receive affiliations from countless anti-cuts groups at campuses and colleges around the country, which could make it their own by sending accountable delegates to oversee it.

As for the international dimension, that is in the last analysis a profoundly political question. It demands international solutions, rather than the incipiently nationalist Keynesian shopping lists that much of the left propagate today – and, for that matter, the welcome but insufficient calls for Europe-wide one-day strikes. For the capitalist class to change course on cuts, we must offer them at least a glimpse of something worse than the negative consequences of not implementing them (soaring interest rates, flight of capital, etc). That something is the prospect of revolution on an international scale.

Yes – we need a (democratic, accountable) campaign that unites all prepared to fight the government’s cuts programme. But, more desperately than ever, we need a united Communist Party that can fight, openly and under its own politics, for leadership of the movement.

james.turley@weeklyworker.org.uk

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Milton Keynes students protest

Report taken from www.heart.co.uk where you can see a full gallery of photos:

By Victoria Meakin, 24th November 2010, 16:55

MK Student Demo

Hundreds of students have marched through Central Milton Keynes today (Wednesday) in protest against planned rises in university tuition fees.

Organised largely on Facebook, pupils walked out of schools and colleges across the new city, where they gathered at Campbell Park just before midday. Many of the protesters had made banners which carried slogans like “No ifs, not buts, no education cuts” and “Students say no to cuts”.

At 12 o’clock the hundred strong crowd – led by 17-year-old Rhea Simpson, who was the driving force behind the demo – left the park and moved towards the City Centre.

En route they received support from drivers, pedestrians and cabbies. They walked through centre:mk, around Midsummer Place and ended up at Milton Keynes Council offices, where they continued with their chants of, “9k – no way” and “They say cut back, we say fight back “.

Rhea Simpson – who was determined the Milton Keynes protest should be a peaceful one – told Heart:

“Education is becoming a privilege and students are being told not to have education because they want to, but to have education if they can afford it, or if they need it for a job. It’s becoming a commodity and it’s becoming a service rather than someone’s dream.”

Richard White – who’s 18 and goes to Stantonbury Campus – admits money needs to be saved – but thinks the government should look elsewhere.

“Cuts need to be made somewhere, but education isn’t the place for that to happen. It doesn’t make sense economically when it’s a high skills based economy – based on knowledge and higher education. Cutting education isn’t going to help the economy in the long term.”

Ian Tomlinson’s death caused by police kettling

Outrage over non-prosecution of PC Harwood puts establishment on the defensive, notes Jim Gilbert


Last week’s decision by the director of public prosecutions not to charge police officer Simon Harwood with the death of Ian Tomlinson – caught up in the heavily-policed G20 Meltdown demonstration in London on April 1 2009 – came despite clear video evidence showing the uniformed thug wantonly knocking Mr Tomlinson to the ground. No-one in officialdom can feign ignorance, of course, as the images of the attack have been available online for some time.[1]

What may have been shocking to the general public was the fact that Ian Tomlinson, who was apolitical, was simply making his way home from work when he was fatally attacked near the Bank of England. His death from abdominal haemorrhage was a direct result of a political decision from on high to intimidate everyone demonstrating on that day. It is pretty obvious that the police were following the orders to ‘Clear the scum from City streets’. Out came the batons to kettle, contain, and repress demonstrators – and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in striking distance.

When a vigil was held the day after Tomlinson’s death, the actions of sergeant Delroy Smellie in brutalising a woman protester were also caught on video, leading to his prosecution for common assault. He was unsurprisingly found not guilty at a magistrates court in March this year, reinforcing the message that illegal demonstrators and anyone in the vicinity of an illegal demonstration are fair game for the filth.

A week after the Tomlinson killing, even The Daily Telegraph headlined an article ‘G20 death: we want a police force, not brute force’.[2] Although claiming there was “a sizeable minority bent on violence” at a largely peaceful demonstration, its writer did state, “But even if Tomlinson had been carrying a placard, it cannot be justified that he was treated in this way when he had, so far as we know, done nothing wrong.”

However, no manslaughter trial awaits Harwood because of conflicting evidence (an initial inquest claimed he had died of natural causes). Despite the announcement that the PC faces the sack from the police force, he will not face prosecution for assault due to a six months’ limit on prosecutions for ‘minor’ offences. Clearly within the higher echelons of the police service and government the Tomlinson killing is deeply embarrassing and the failure to prosecute leaves a bad smell.

Just as they have done frequently since the 1960s when on the rampage, some police officers at the G20 demonstration in 2009 covered up their badge numbers. Under cover of anonymity, much is possible. Why would they do this unless they intended (even hoped) to commit acts for which they might otherwise be brought to account later?

As anyone who has attended demonstrations over the last four decades can attest, police agents provocateurs are commonly deployed. From the anti-Vietnam war demos to the miners’ Great Strike of the 1980s, this ostensibly illegal method of policing was once again used at G20 Meltdown in 2009 several times. Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington was there and witnessed clearly one such instance. The Observer reported Brake’s observations the following month: “‘When I was in the middle of the crowd, two people came over to me and said, ‘There are people over there who we believe are policemen and who have been encouraging the crowd to throw things at the police.’ But when the crowd became suspicious of the men and accused them of being police officers, the pair approached the police line and passed through after showing some form of identification.”[3] In addition, the photo-op breaking of bank windows that day looked suspiciously as if it had been staged; whether it was contrived with Special Branch connivance we shall probably never know.

In the past fortnight we have also seen another blow to the right to demonstrate: Democracy Village in Parliament Square, London was uprooted on July 20. While long-term protester Brian Haw, Maria Gallastegui and hunger-striker Len Miskulin have for the moment been left undisturbed on the pavement nearby, the whole grassed area of the square has now been fenced off, leaving serious questions about its future use by demonstrators. Undeterred, however, some of those who were evicted have set up tents on the adjacent pavements. There have been ill-advised suggestions that Tory mayor of London Boris Johnson might try to recoup from demonstrators the estimated cost of £300,000 for eviction legal fees and cleaning.

No doubt politicians across the way in the Houses of Parliament found the Democracy Village too much to stomach, since one prominent theme espoused by its inhabitants has been opposition to the war on Afghanistan. They had intended to stay there until Britain got out. The fact that polling shows 77% of the UK’s population wants troops brought home at the most “within a year or so”[4] seems continually to escape most parliamentarians as well as the mayor; their gung-ho opinions on Afghanistan are shared by less than a quarter of electors. According to film-maker Rikki Blue, “Protesting in Parliament Square is not a party, it’s not a joke – it’s a hard-won, heart-felt struggle in the face of draconian laws put in place by arrogant and so-far untouchable politicians (who) are seeking any excuse to clear the square of the protest that daily reminds them what war criminals most of them are.”[5]

From the Blair and Brown New Labour governments into the first months of the present Con-Lib Dem one we have witnessed these sporadic, but cumulative attempts to deny the people of Britain the right to freely demonstrate. At least the ruling class and its state is consistent on this question, regardless of which parties happen to be in office. Our class response needs to be not only consistent, too, but also united and vigorous.

While we favour the prosecution of Simon Harwood, we oppose the scapegoating of individual police officers. The police force as a whole were responsible for brutally attacking the whole G20 protest which resulted in many injuries (if only one death). We do not support calls for the police to be ‘democratised’ or otherwise made accountable, however, since this merely provides a pseudo-democratic fig leaf for their continued class actions. No, we want the police disbanded, just as we call for the abolition of the armed forces. They all need to be gone and in their place must be established a militia in which all adults will participate. A disciplined, well-regulated and democratically controlled militia must become the goal of all extreme democrats.

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Notes

  1. See video footage passed to The Guardian: www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2009/apr/07/g20-police-assault-video ;and www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2009/apr/21/g20-ian-tomlinson-new-video
  2. www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/philipjohnston/5126464/G20-death-How-can-we-trust-the-police-now.html
  3. The Observer Sunday May 10: www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/10/g20-policing-agent-provacateurs
  4. The Independent on Sunday April 18: www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/afghanistan-a-conspiracy-of-silence-1947857.html
  5. Quoted on the New Statesman blog: www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/06/democracy-protest-freedom

Iran: workers organise against regime

More than 300 workers in the Abadan oil refinery gathered on Thursday November 12 to protest against non-payment of wages and bonuses, saying they had not been paid for more than three months. Yassamine Mather reports

The refinery authorities associated with what remains of the state-owned Iran National Oil Company say the workers are employed by a contractor and they cannot do anything about their demands. The protest followed a strike by the whole workforce of 450 involved in the development of Bandar Abbas Oil refinery. This was their third walkout in less than three months and the strike is continuing. The Iranian government’s privatisation plans are notoriously corrupt and generally help empower and enrich the Islamic Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards). But in the oil industry it is different from elsewhere. Privatisation has been undertaken with the aim of dividing workers and hampering national negotiations over wages and conditions, in the knowledge that for oil workers deployed in various sectors of the industry, working for so many different contractors, it would be impossible to negotiate common terms and conditions.

Private ownership of some oil functions is still prohibited under the Iranian constitution, but the government has permitted buy-back contracts, allowing international oil companies to participate in exploration and development through an Iranian affiliate. The contractor receives a remuneration fee, usually an entitlement to oil or gas from the developed operation. Iran’s total refinery capacity in 2008 was about 1.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d), with its nine refineries operated by the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company. Iranian refineries are unable to keep pace with domestic demand, while the threat of sanctions and removal of fuel subsidies have created price rises and the fear of a shortage of refined fuel.

The current protests are very significant because the Islamic government, wary of the power of oil employees, has so far avoided confrontation with this section of the working class by making sure they receive regular payment and imposing very strict security measures in refineries, services to the oil industry and oil extraction fields.

Iran ranks among the world’s top three holders of both proven oil and natural gas reserves. It is Opec’s second largest producer and exporter after Saudi Arabia, and fourth largest exporter of crude oil globally. Natural gas accounts for half of Iran’s total domestic energy consumption, while the remaining half consists predominantly of oil. The continued exploration and production of the offshore South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf is a key part of the country’s energy sector development plan. Iran has nine oil refineries with a total capacity of 1.4 million bbl/d. They include Abadan, which was one of world’s largest when it was destroyed in 1980 in the Iraq-Iran war. It was also the refinery where the first political strike took place in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, gasoline demand is forecast to grow at around 11.4% per year.1

The Islamic government has not forgotten the significant role of oil workers in the events that led to the February uprising of 1979. In November 1978, a strike by 37,000 workers at Iran’s nationalised oil refineries initially reduced production from six million barrels per day to about 1.5 million. That strike not only cost the government about $60 million a day in oil revenue, but also suddenly raised the spectre of petroleum shortages in Japan, Israel, western Europe and, to a much lesser degree, in the US; all these countries to one extent or another depended at the time on Iranian crude. After a week of strikes and protests, some oil employees went back to work. But the strike played a crucial role in encouraging further militant action and boosted opposition to the regime. It was also significant in asserting the role of the working class in political struggles. The oil workers’ walkout climaxed two months of labour unrest that had spread to nearly every sector of the economy. Demands ranged from pay rises to compensate for spiralling inflation to political reforms, an end to martial law and the release of all remaining political prisoners. A strike of a million civil servants and government workers followed that of the oil workers.

There are many parallels between those strikes and the current unrest amongst oil employees. The present strikes follow weeks of political protests up and down the country. Also Iran’s economic situation is worse than anyone can remember – in addition to rocketing inflation, mass unemployment and systematic non-payment of wages, the new subsidies legislation, passed only a week ago, has already increased the price of basic goods. Everyone is predicting major price hikes.

Bread prices reached 1,000 tomans ($1) in Tehran this week. The newspaper Hemayat said that the two traditional breads, barbari and sangak, were being sold for 600 and 2,000 tomans respectively. The semi-official news agency, ILNA, predicts that both a litre of milk and a kilogram of sugar will soon reach 1,000 tomans. The estimated average wage is around $223 a month, and many workers are not paid for months at a time, while the employer can use the threat of job losses to get away with this form of systematic super-exploitation. In recent statements Iranian workers have once more called for international solidarity and support for their demands – and they are adamant that such support must be from fellow workers. Over the last few years labour activists inside Iran have sometimes been innocent victims of the foolish mistakes of sections of the Iranian ‘left’ that have collaborated with social-imperialist political groups and pro-imperialist, rightwing trade unions.

Those who maintain the principled position of opposing war and sanctions have a duty to show genuine international solidarity with Iranian workers. We can do so by supporting their immediate demands. One of the major organisations trying to unite the current nationwide struggles, the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ Organisations, has issued a number of statements regarding recent events, as well as a list of basic demands. Sections of that statement can be summed up as follows:

  • The Iranian working class is struggling against the entire capitalist system (all factions of the regime). There is a need to safeguard the independence of the working class in the class struggle. Our movement uses the strength of its organised and conscious forces against political power in its totality; that is why workers must unmask ruthlessly the reformist capitalist faction, a faction that misleads workers by creating the illusion of reform within the system.
  • The unity of the working masses in the struggle against capitalism and the need for promoting its material and moral ability to struggle for the abolition of the wage-slavery system requires that this class initiates its organised and conscious struggle from basic demands as described in the Charter of the Fundamental Demands of the Working Class of Iran.
  • The main condition for the success of these efforts, including the takeover of factories, the general strike or any struggle for the abolition of capitalist social relations and seizing political power, is the existence of anti-capitalist councils of the working class.
  • There must be a struggle against unemployment caused by factory closures, against various forms of intensification of exploitation in the workplace. Proposed tactics include taking over closed down factories or those that are on the brink of closing down in the first instance, and strikes in the second instance.

“Based on the above points,” the statement reads, “we call upon all anti-capitalist activists of the working class movement to unite around the following points” for the organisation of the class against capitalism:

  • Agreement on the basic demands of the working class.
  • Efforts to form anti-capitalist councils of the working class within workplaces and neighbourhoods.
  • Unified planning for launching strikes in all centres of work and centres of production.
  • Preparations for the takeover of factories that have closed down or those on the verge of closing down.
  • Participation within the current movement, with the aim of forming an independent line for the realisation of the basic demands of the working class.

“Workers, let’s get organised against capital!” concludes the call from the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ Organisations.

We in Hands Off the People of Iran must continue our efforts in support of Iranian workers, not just as an act of international solidarity, but as an integral part of our international efforts to confront the economic crisis. Excellent work has been done in 2009, with funds raised by the Fire Brigades Union, Unite, Unison and the RMT, and the efforts of the Labour Representation Committee and Hopi cricket teams. But we must do a lot more in 2010.

Notes

  1. www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Iran/Profile.html
  2. hopinewsfromiran.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/fundamental-demands-of-the-working-class-of-iran-coordinating-committee-to-form-workers%E2%80%99-organization

Kettling and the right to freely demonstrate

policeviolence1

Police thugs randomly searched and brutalised G20 protesters. Chris Strafford reports

The G20 summit saw thousands of people protest outside the Bank of England on April 1. The demonstration was called by a variety of groups under the banner of G20 Meltdown.

From early on the police had protesters hemmed in a ‘kettle’, which restricted access, compacted the crowd and prevented people leaving. The mood quickly turned sour, as the police kept pushing the crowd tighter and tighter. Later riot police began to attack, hitting out indiscriminately.

The police were clearly up for a fight and had been over-exaggerating the threat of violence in the weeks prior to the G20 summit. Unfortunately, the bankers will be “hanging from lampposts” and other such “humorous” statements, however qualified, from comrade Chris Knight et al played into their hands.

Sections of the media then did their bit playing up of threat of violence for all they were worth in order to excuse the pre-planned police violence well before what the G20 Meltdown organisers called their “carnival street party” had even begun.

It was in this atmosphere that Ian Tomlinson lost his life. It seems he was not part of the demonstration, but just on his way home from work. What is clear from numerous eye-witness reports1 and now a video released by The Guardian2 is that he was caught up in the action and collapsed, apparently from a heart attack. I say ‘apparently’, because a post mortem was held with indecent haste and “heart attack” was given as the cause of death, even though medical personnel are asked not to use the phrase on death certificates because of its vagueness.

The rightwing media and the BBC did their utmost to either bury the story or push the blame onto demonstrators for preventing the police from helping the man and then allegedly hurling bottles at medics. The video footage clearly shows the opposite. The police assaulted Tomlinson and then refused to aid him after requests from protestors.

An investigation is underway by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Normally one would expect a complete whitewash, but in this case a section of the establishment has decided to weigh in against the police – not only the likes of The Guardian, but the Liberal Democrats too.

It was obvious to anyone who was at that demonstration that the tactics of the police were dangerous, provocative and at times downright brutal. So what we have to be wary of is the possibility of blame being pinned onto a single officer. The attempted cover-up must have gone all the way to the top, as the statement which was released on April 1 bears no resemblance at all to the events that occurred and have subsequently been caught on numerous pictures and video. There should be a public enquiry into Tomlinson’s death that allows us full access to all police footage and documents relating to the protests; there should be absolute transparency to enable the public to scrutinise the events.

For the best part of a day protestors where kept inside the ‘kettle’, with sporadic outbreaks of violence from the police and angry attempts to break out by protestors. Bottles and other small objects where thrown at the police and at one point several hundred people did break through, only to be quickly pushed back by reinforcements of riot police. At around 7pm the police began a concerted effort to squeeze the remaining 2,000 or so demonstrators (by this time people had been allowed to leave) into a smaller space. Again demonstrators responded with bottles … and so did the police.

Stories of agents provocateurs are commonplace, but for the first time I saw this with my own eyes. Two plain-clothes officers were throwing bottles and were chased away by demonstrators suspicious at their behaviour. On reaching police lines they showed warrant cards and were let straight through. Presumably the aim was to justify their own brutal violence and tactics in front of the watching media.

The police could not even claim to be protecting anybody, but ‘kettling’ has been validated by the highest legal authority. As The Guardian reports, “The tactic was challenged in the courts by two people who were held for seven hours at Oxford Circus, central London, during the May Day protests in 2001. They claimed their imprisonment breached their rights to liberty, but a House of Lords judgment ruled the tactics legal.”3

The ruling on this legal challenge gives the police the power to detain masses of people without charge for hours at a time, if they suspect (or claim to suspect) a threat of violence to people or property. By this tactic the police have in effect overruled the legal right to free assembly and to demonstrate – which evidently must include the right to move to and from the scene of protest.

It also gives the police the opportunity to pick out and profile known activists. The only way you could leave the ‘kettle’ was through a police line, where surveillance officers would pick out individuals for search and/or arrest. In this way the police were able to collect a vast amount of information about protestors – relating to their political affiliation as well as their personal details.

On April 2 nearly a thousand people gathered once more outside the Bank of England to protest against the brutality meted out to G20 Meltdown and Climate Camp protestors, and called for an independent investigation into Tomlinson’s death. At first the police response was as violent as it has been the previous day, although eventually they were pulled back – perhaps it dawned on senior officers that pictures of police brutality at a demonstration against police brutality would not be good PR.

There was a further demonstration of around 600 people at the Excel Centre, largely from different exile communities. This passed off without violent incident, but saw the police stop and search hundreds of individuals.

The state is arming itself with new laws (and new weapons, such as taser guns) at a time when in the current economic climate, protests are likely to become more common. The police are undemocratic and largely unaccountable. In their place, communists pose a workers’ militia; alongside that, universal military training and service for all under democratic control.

Our movement needs to get smart and get organised. We need to be able to defend our movement, our demonstrations and our picket lines. But only a mass workers’ party can hope to do this in a consistent and efficient way.

Notes

1. london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/1019
2. www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/07/ian-tomlinson-g20-death-video
3. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/03/g20-protests-police-tactics

Demonstration at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, 21st March 2009

For An End to Immigration Detention

Saturday 21st March 2009 Gather 11.30am at Bedford Town Centre (at the intersection of Midland Road and Harpur Street) to march from Bedford to Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, to demonstrate between 12.30 and 2pm.

Here is the text from the No Borders leaflet:

End indefinite immigration detention of women, men and children:
About 25,000 people – including 2,000 children – accused of no crime, are detained indefinitely each year at great human cost and great expense to tax-payers. All detention centres are operated for profit. Many of the people detained are victims of rape and other torture whose trauma is exacerbated by being detained.

End the “fast-track” process whereby 99% refused asylum, including
torture survivors: As they enter the UK, some asylum-seekers are detained on the “fast-track” process and denied legal representation. Their claims are refused within days, before they can gather evidence about the persecution they have suffered, and they face deportation back to war-torn countries.

An end to medical abuses and the detention of torture survivors including victims of rape: People with severe mental and physical health problems and disabilities are routinely detained, some for months or even years. Around 70% of women in detention are rape survivors. Detainees are frequently denied access to adequate medical care.

An end the detention of children and families:
Children, pregnant women and families are detained indefinitely in Yarl’s Wood removal centre and elsewhere. Some young mothers are separated from newborn babies to be placed in detention, causing permanent damage to both parents and children.

An end to forced deportation and the use of violence in deportations

Stop the planned expansion of Yarls Wood and the “detention estate”:
The government want to increase the current detention capacity of 2500 by 60 %!

Yarl’s Wood was half destroyed by fire in 2002, following an uprising ignited by the ill-treatment of a sick woman by guards. Detainees and staff were left locked all night in the burning building! Fires, riots and hunger-strikes in protest at appalling treatment and conditions are such a common occurrence in the 11 detention centres operating in the UK that it would be impossible to document them all.
Many subsequent protests have highlighted racism and violence from guards, obstruction of asylum claims, attempts to isolate people from outside support and targeting of so-called ringleaders.

( Please wear something pink and /or black if you can! )

Info at http://london.noborders.org.uk / Email: noborderslondon@riseup.net

Travel Directions from London

Pre-booked Coach

Limited spaces will be available on a coach to Bedford Town Centre.
Assemble at 9.15am on Argyle St, directly opposite St Pancras Station,
£5 donation, free transport bookable for people without means. To book a space on the coach,
email noborderslondon@riseup.net / call 07535 319119 as soon as possible!

Trains to Bedford

A discounted group ticket for 4 people (£9 return) is available on
First Capital Connect trains from the lower level of St Pancras.
Meet at 9.15am on Argyle Street (as above) to share a group ticket
with others. In Bedford, follow the map above to meet at the Town Centre.

1004 (First Capital Connect) – arrives 1104
(1034 (First Capital Connect) – arrives 1136)

If you’re too late for this train, tickets on faster East Midlands
trains to Bedford are available at £18 return.
Train times are below:

1030 – arrives 1104 (1100 – arrives 1137)

Directions to Yarl’s Wood if you miss the march
No. 51 bus leaves from Bedford Bus Station to Clapham village
every 5, 15 and 45 mins past each hour, but Yarl’s Wood is
about 30 mins walk from there. A taxi from Bedford train station to
Yarl’s Wood costs about £8 and takes 10 mins. Yarl’s Wood’s address is: Twinwoods Road, Clapham, Bedfordshire, MK41 6HL.

Wave of university occupations

Communist Students reports widespread university occupations in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Get the latest news here.