Highlights from Occupy London protest issues demands to democratise City of London | UK news | guardian.co.uk
- An end to business and corporate block-votes in all council elections, which can be used to outvote local residents.
- Abolition of existing “secrecy practices” within the City, and total and transparent reform of its institutions to end corporate tax evasion.
- The decommissioning of the City of London police with officers being brought under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan police force.
- Abolition of the offices of Lord Mayor of London, the Sheriffs and the Aldermen.
- And a truth and reconciliation commission to examine corruption within the City and its institutions.
I agree with them, but fear they’ll be outmanoeuvred by an increasingly belligerent Church of England, aided as it is by the right wing press and other apologists. Giles Fraser is gone, edged out by a Church completely indifferent to its scriptural objectives. The organisation which repeatedly bleats about losing its influence and how it faces ‘persecution’ by no longer being able to discriminate against whomever it pleases, is going to show just what lengths it’s prepared to go to to protect its privilege. Inequality? Who cares. Corruption in the City which is its home? Not a problem, because they do very well out of not challenging the neoliberal status quo.
We are at a crossroads. Our economies were broken in 2008 by a reckless banking elite, who have never been brought to account. Our neoliberal governments capitalised on the economic crash to force through the standard model of what Naomi Klein labels ‘disaster capitalism’, forcing through (with the right wing media’s help) economic and social changes which would have made Thatcher or Reagan blanche. We have a situation where the poor are being made to pay the price for the abuses of the rich, who are being allowed to pay themselves outrageous bonuses with our tax money. The Occupy movement is taking a stand against this calamity, and are under regular attack by the police in whichever Western country demonstrations begin. Everyone needs to watch this video and to learn how vital it is that we hold our leaders to account. ‘Yes we can’ said Barack Obama that very year – now beholden to the very interests he said he would hold to account (and then didn’t), the US President, British PM and others need to be shown how true that tagline is (and has to be).
Oops I swore. Boris wouldn’t like that:
Action will be taken so that police can arrest members of the public for swearing at them, Boris Johnson has promised.
The London mayor attacked police guidance advising officers not to try to arrest those who verbally attacked them on the basis that police should have thicker skins.
“I reckon we need to get back to where we were before some judge given law of 1988 and be clear that if people swear at the police, they must understand they will be arrested,” Mr Johnson said.
“If people feel that there are no comebacks and no boundaries for the small stuff, I’m afraid they will go on to commit more crimes.”
What a complete load of shit. He and the police can…FUCK OFF. Such poor, timid things. There are so many things wrong with London, and all this Tory moron can do is collude with the new Commissioner Hogan-Howe to protect his own interests. It’s pathetic; it’s even more pathetic though that he’s likely to be returned to office next year.
What bullshit to say that more serious crimes are perpetrated by people who swear at the police. What about reforming the fucking police, Boris?! You know, the organisation which in the last month decided it could attack the freedom of the press itself? And people wonder why I resent Tories…
New Labour is perfectly alive and well, whatever else they’d like you to think. Ed Miliband may preach the opposite, but his party is more authoritarian than ever. From Cory Doctorow:
The UK Labour party’s conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.
Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the tradition “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.
I don’t honestly know how people feel they can vote for this party anymore. The state does not have all the answers to everything, and a lack of obedience to the state wasn’t the problem at the heart of the #hackgate scandal; the NUJ code of conduct is already a perfectly appropriate means of holding professional journalism to account. Let me remind you News International is a union busting organisation, entirely disinterested in ‘leftie’ good practice, and they were entirely supported in this by Tories and New Labour alike. Lewis’ moronic proposal comes across as an attempt to avoid his party’s share of the blame and recast all journalists as the enemy. In or out of office, he mustn’t be allowed to succeed.
It was never going to be long before the Tories noticed NuLabour were trying to outflank them on law & order from the right and decided to do something about it. The ConDems have decided to ‘anonymise’ DNA samples the authorities hold of people who have been arrested but never convicted of a crime:
One of its key features of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, we were assured by Nick Clegg in January, would be an end to the “indefinite storage of innocent people’s DNA”.
That seemed to be an unambiguous promise, and a welcome one. Unfortunately, as The Daily Telegraph reveals today, the Government has decided not to keep this promise, bringing the number of policy U-turns to at least 14.
Instead of clearly and simply wiping out the DNA of more than one million people who have been arrested but not convicted, the authorities will retain the samples, but in an “anonymised” state.
This means that the names and other identifying features will be removed from the police database but kept elsewhere, enabling agencies with the right expertise to join the pieces of data together again and identify the DNA.
In the clumsy but revealing phrase of James Brokenshire, a Home Office minister, the genetic information will “be considered to have been deleted”.
Considered by whom? Certainly not by civil liberties groups, which have accused the Government of betraying an explicit commitment in the Coalition Agreement and ignoring a judgment of the Court of Human Rights.
Back we trot to the database state, which would always reform under different guises, with different agendas in play. The motive here seems to be straightforward party political – splitting Ed Miliband from his authoritarian underlings, whilst snubbing the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to please the right wing of the Tories. We deserve better politics than this, but there seem to be very few politicians in the British parliament who have any interest whatsoever with the rule of law. You’d think with the influence of Murdoch waning that you’d have one or two MPs shrieking with outrage at the injustice of it, no longer that worried about a NOTW campaign against them, but no – the cowardice lives on.
A quite brilliant but horrific experiment, as part of the London Street Photography Festival. This is what happens when you give small people a small amount of power, but it ties in to the increasing privatisation or perceived privatisation of public space.
They are bad though. An interesting analysis of recent Metropolitan Police behaviour by Jody McIntyre:
As I stated during my interview on BBC News last night, I believe that the police are acting as the biggest, armed, government-sponsored gang. Interestingly, rather than informing myself or my solicitor in advance, as would be normal procedure, the findings of the investigation were released straight to the media, late on a Friday afternoon. It is becoming increasingly clear that the police are intent on whitewashing what is a clear case of police brutality. They have now admitted to striking me with a baton, and there is video evidence, which has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people online, of a police officer tipping me out of my wheelchair and dragging me across the road. If this had been any other member of the public, he would be on trial for assault, but because it was a police officer, unaccountability is once again the order of the day.
The normal MO of the Met is to commit an act of brutality, lie horrifically about it, spin relentlessly about it with disinformation and then get off scot free because coroners hate to challenge them about as much as the IPCC. He can’t surely be surprised that an investigation into their treatment of him at the student protests exonerated them fully, when they look like they’re going to get away (as he points out) with prosecuting Alfie Meadows who they themselves beat.
Simon Harwood is going to be prosecuted but only because a) the Met were caught so badly on the back foot by cast iron evidence of his guilt b) its dissemination across Twitter and the wider web, c) a campaign by professional and citizen journalists was unwilling to let the force get away with it. Key though was the Met’s need for a scapegoat. Harwood’s brutality was standard operating procedure by the TSG, and they’ll get away with their excesses at the student protests because the media narrative was so overwhelmingly anti-student. Noone has yet been prosecuted for Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said of his force’s policing operations in advance of the Royal Wedding:
He fiercely defends having made pre-emptive arrests of suspected troublemakers before the wedding. “Things were put in place to try to prevent trouble on the day and arrests were made. But you also saw British cops at their best.”
He was particularly proud of the way his men engaged with the public and got them on side so that when difficult crowd manoeuvres had to be performed, they were compliant. As he passed one knot of spectators they were chanting: “We love Gary”, Sir Paul recalls. “Who’s Gary?” he asked. The policeman replied sheepishly: “It’s me, guv.”
So the question is, given what his thugs actually did, was he actually defending it or were these genuinely rogue operations, not sanctioned by him? It brings up an eerie recollection of the inquest into Jean Charles de Menezes’ death – noone told the cops who incompetently followed him, or those who ultimately murdered him to do so, but a certain environment was set up and sanctioned by the top which allowed it to happen. Is this what allowed the pre-wedding abuses to take place so freely? Let me remind you what they actually were:
There was this appalling ‘snatch and grab’ of people peacefully singing in Soho Square (via Liberal Conspiracy):
And what of the mind boggling arrest of Charlie Veitch for pre-crime (this video will shock you):
I’ve blogged about ‘Love Police’ Charlie before. To see him arrested for ‘conspiring to’ (read: thinking privately to himself about) potentially upset a royal supporter or two makes much of the police’s antics under New Labour look tame. Is this British policing at its best? The outcome here:
Charlie was collected by the Metropolitan Police from Parkside and taken to an undisclosed police station in London for 8 hours. Efforts by his lawyer, family, and partner to locate him were made in vain – he had effectively been ‘disappeared’ into the police system. Charlie was denied his right to a phone call from London, again continuing the obstruction of his access to his lawyer, family, partner and supporters. He requested that the police telephone his partner to inform her of his whereabouts, which was promised but not performed. With his family in the dark as to his whereabouts, concern was considerably growing.
Charlie was eventually released on bail 23 hours and 45 minutes after his arrest at approximately 1600h on Friday 29th April from Edmonton Police Station, London – just within the 24 hour limit that a person can be lawfully arrested and detained without charge.
Entirely political policing, which, as Veitch himself noted in the video is what we’d expect of China, of Bahrain, of Syria even. Since when did we start arresting people at home because they might do something politically (and peacefully) which we disagree with? You might ask that of Chris Knight:
Knight similarly hadn’t done anything, but the Met decided that he should be pre-emptively arrested essentially for conspiring to use his freedom of speech. A mock execution of an effigy of Prince Andrew away from the wedding procession might have caused offence, but since when was that an arrestable offence, especially considering it hadn’t happened yet? Is that British policing at its best? I’ve blogged about Knight too – suspended from his job in advance of the G20 protests merely for publicly stating what he thought the consequences might be on the day of the Met’s inflammatory rhetoric. British policing also swooped on his planned event in Soho Square (seen in this video):
And what about these arrests at Charing Cross? Of course there were many other outrageous acts of blatantly political policing (links available via the Liberal Conspiracy site earlier in this article).
Sir Paul may express his pride in this British policing, but he notably doesn’t mention TSG thug Simon Harwood, nor of his colleagues who enabled him to attack Ian Tomlinson and who then shielded him from accountability. I would argue the opposite to the Commissioner – his force, more than ever, is a tool to enforce the status quo through violence and political repression. That can’t reasonably be any cause for anyone to feel pride.
The film shows senior police officers assuring members of UK Uncut who had peacefully occupied Fortnum & Mason that they would not be confused with the rioters outside, and would be allowed to go home if they left the store. They did so, and were penned, handcuffed, thrown into vans, dumped in police cells and, in some cases, left there for 24 hours.
Isn’t all that supposed to have stopped? Haven’t we entered a new era of freedom in which the government, as it has long promised, now defends“the hard-won liberties that we in Britain hold so dear”? No.
In May 2010, after becoming deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg pledged that the government would “repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom” and “remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest.” The Queen’s speech firmed up the commitment by promising “the restoration of rights to non-violent protest”. So how did this grand vision become the limp rag of a bill now before parliament?
Because a) Clegg is more interested in power than principle and b) Clegg presumed he had about as much influence as Tony Blair had over George W Bush. But there’s far more in play than just those issues. Clegg also wants to prove (apparently at any cost) that coalition politics can work in the UK, but he’s labouring under a massive misapprehension – coalitions are supposed to be based on red lines and principles, not a supine desperation for approval by the dominant party. The betrayal of UK Uncut and attack on the students in Trafalgar Square are reminiscent of the worst authoritarian excesses under New Labour, and Cameron, Clegg and Home Secretary Theresa May appear entirely comfortable with them, then again this isn’t surprising. They’ve always known their ‘savage’ cuts would cause severe social unrest – apparently free-market ‘Orange Bookers’ find that a price worth paying. If it’s a choice between liberty and the unfettered free market, we know what’s most important for Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Monbiot goes on to say:
I don’t believe Clegg’s claim, which seems to have gulled the usually sceptical Observer journalist Henry Porter, that this act is the beginning, not the end, of the coalition’s reforms; and that, in Porter’s words, “there may even be a great repeal act down the road that would look at some of the laws not addressed in this bill”. Perhaps he is unaware that the original title of the current legislation was the freedom (great repeal) bill.
This legislation shows every sign of having been stopped and searched, fingerprinted and stripped of any content that might have rebalanced the relationship between people and power.
He’s right. Clegg’s early boasts mimic Obama’s promise to close down Guantanamo Bay – they promise change to get power, which when pushed turns out to be the objective they care about most. Neither Britain nor America has the slightest chance of change we can believe in – it’s no wonder young people are fighting back.
What’s new, I hear you cry? Well in the past they’ve normally been adept at covering up their excesses. Not so after the #march26 March for the Alternative protest when they mass arrested dozens of entirely peaceful UK Uncut protesters. Watch:
Appalling. And read Adam Ramsay’s account of his arrest:
When we were inside Fortnum & Mason, the police made it clear to us: if we left, we would not be arrested. At 6pm or so, we left, together. The police kettled us outside the shop. I was towards the back, and so could not see exactly what was going on, though I could see in front of me people who had left about an hour earlier, having been let out by the police.
It then became clear that they were, one after another, leading people away to be arrested. So, we shared notes on what this was likely to involve, and sang songs to keep people cheery.
Eventually, it was my turn. I was placed in handcuffs, asked on camera for some basic details, then led down a side street by my arresting officers – one of whom later turned out to be a part time officer, full time German language student. I was told why I had been arrested (suspicion of trespass and criminal damage) and was asked a few basic questions & told we were in for a long night as they struggled to find enough places in stations to fit us all.
You have to ask yourself why the Metropolitan Police would lie like that – what’s in it for them? Then again they are an institution with a long history of deceit: blaming the crowd for Ian Tomlinson’s death at the G20 (they themselves caused it), blaming Jean Charles de Menezes for his own murder (they carried it out), to name just two recent high profile instances. Did a superior officer see a chance to get back at them for humbling them so often in recent instances of direct action? Was there political pressure to find easy scapegoats for the disorder which did occur (yet not at Fortnum & Mason)? Or (watching later scenes in the video) was there a darker motivation? Was this a blatant case of the police being used yet again as the violent means of enforcing the status quo? Did they simply change their minds to prosecute UK Uncut members for daring to challenge the political order?
Given the anger that this mass arrest caused, there’s no doubt it won’t end here and nor should it.
On Saturday I attended the highly successful #march26 March for the Alternative, and I was almost outside Fortnum & Mason when the TSG riot police blocked Piccadilly off entirely. I knew that protesters from UK Uncut had occupied the store but it was still a shock to see the sheer volume of police removing what I ‘d understood to be a sitdown protest with considerable prejudice. One of them has shared her experience, and it makes a great deal more sense now:
UK Uncut conducted itself with this peaceful etiquette throughout the three-hour occupation of Fortnum & Mason, a shop they said they had chosen because a related company allegedly avoided £40m in taxes.
Despite being detained in the store, Joan Higgins, 61, from Liverpool, described the protester’s theatrical show as “the perfect accompaniment to my tea and scones”. The exit was slightly less polite.
Police officers inside the building thanked protesters for their cooperation and promised that they could leave together without interrogation. Outside, however, riot police pushed those who exited into a small area where they were unlinked by force, photographed, arrested and led away. The protesters, who spent the night in police stations around London, believed they had been duped. Or communication between police inside and the force outside the shop had completely broken down. The riot police told me that protesters were being arrested for “aggravated trespassing” and that the customers unable to leave the shop were “scared half-to-death”. A spokeswoman for Fortnum & Mason said: “The damage is minimal. We have cleared up after the disruption and are now helping our neighbours on Piccadilly do the same. The store is open for business as usual.”
My partner and I were walking right behind the building on Jermyn Street to bypass the trouble, when a bank of TSG started marching down the street in our general direction. Clearly an order had been given by someone to secure the entire area with as much menace as possible, without any interest in differentiating between Black Bloc anarchists (who were causing significant trouble, and had done throughout the day) and anyone else. Laurie Penny said of the situation at Fortnum & Mason:
What differentiates the rioters in Picadilly and Oxford Circus from the rally attendees in Hyde Park is not the fact that the latter are “real” protestors and the former merely “anarchists” (still an unthinking synonym for “hooligans” in the language of the press). The difference is that many unions and affiliated citizens still hold out hope that if they behave civilly, this government will do likewise.
The younger generation in particular, who reached puberty just in time to see a huge, peaceful march in 2003 change absolutely nothing, can’t be expected to have any such confidence. We can hardly blame a cohort that has been roundly sold out, priced out, ignored, and now shoved onto the dole as the Chancellor announces yet another tax break for bankers, for such skepticism. If they do not believe the government cares one jot about what young or working-class people really think, it may be because any evidence of such concern is sorely lacking.
She has a point. The increase in radical behaviour on the streets can easily be tracked back (in large measure) to New Labour’s betrayal over Iraq. The power of the signal which Blair sent out in his refusal to acknowledge the will of over 2 million people who protested entirely peacefully can’t be understated, and Penny is right when she notes that a significant number of young people have understood it; peaceful protest changes nothing. Having said that, I haven’t heard a single account of the protest at Fortnum & Mason to suggest it was marred by violence (when other local premises had been attacked), and she continues:
A large number of young people in Britain have become radicalised in a hurry, and not all of their energies are properly directed, explaining in part the confusion on the streets yesterday. Among their number, however, are many principled, determined and peaceful groups working to affect change and build resistance in any way they can.
One of these groups is UK Uncut. I return to Fortnum’s in time to see dozens of key members of the group herded in front of the store and let out one by one, to be photographed, handcuffed and arrested. With the handful of real, random agitators easy to identify as they tear through the streets of Mayfair, the met has chosen instead to concentrate its energies on UK Uncut – the most successful, high-profile and democratic anti-cuts group in Britain.
UK Uncut has embarrassed both the government and the police with its gentle, inclusive, imaginative direct action days over the past six months. As its members are manhandled onto police coaches, waiting patiently to be taken to jail whilst career troublemakers run free and unarrested in the streets outside, one has to ask oneself why.
Of course the mainstream media and usual suspects will now lump UK Uncut alongside Black Bloc and others who were responsible for violence before and after this event. But Laurie Penny’s analysis of the power relations in play couldn’t be more poignant – however much those who disapprove of protest may bleat their anger about people being unable to shop at a branch or two of Boots for a spell, UK Uncut provides an invaluable means of peacefully highlighting the fraud behind the government’s ideological attack on the public sector. The ConDems’ savage cuts were not voted for, they aren’t necessary, and you do indeed have to question why the police expended so much energy against them, when the ringleaders of the violence were blatantly clear even to uninformed passers-by. I applaud anyone, young or old, who is prepared to stand up for the society they want, in the face of shock doctrine economics, and the social disaster which inevitably comes with it.
It shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The Metropolitan Police after all is the force which lied about and tried to cover up its murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, and which lied about and tried to cover up its responsibility for Ian Tomlinson’s death. Now they’re attacking thoroughly peaceful tax protesters with CS spray:
Hundreds of people staged peaceful sit-ins at high street stores around the country as part of the latest UK Uncut day of action, designed to highlight companies it says are avoiding millions of pounds in tax.
In London protesters had successfully closed down Boots in Oxford Street – one of the companies campaigners accuse of tax avoidance – when police tried to arrest a woman for pushing a leaflet through the store’s doors. Other demonstrators tried to stop the arrest and at least one police officer used CS spray, which hospitalised three people.
Jed Weightman, one of those who went to hospital, said protesters had joined hands to try and prevent the arrest.
“One police officer sprayed towards us and because I was tall I got a lot of it in my face,” he said. “My eyes were streaming and I couldn’t see anything.”
Let me make this clear: attacked with CS spray for pushing a leaflet through a door. How on earth can the police not insist that they’re not the violent enforcers of the state, when the evidence is so clear that they are? No doubt they’re following the ACPO line (remember ACPO is a for-profit, 100% unaccountable organisation), believing their violence is justified because of the inevitability of violence in anti-cuts protests. Pity for them they have no evidence for that.
The cop in charge of the for-profit Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has defended recent Met policing of protests in London:
Orde admitted that use of text messages, Twitter and Facebook to organise campaigns in record speed had created “a whole new dimension to public order”.
The Metropolitan police faced questions over its handling of violent student protests last December, but Orde defended the use of “hyper-kettling” – corralling activists into an area then decreasing the space – despite admitting that it could “interfere with the rights of citizens”.
“I can understand the need for it,” he admitted. “[It is done] for the greater good, and that’s the really complex part of policing.”
Orde admitted he feared protests could become more violent as public anger grew over government cuts. He claims that the use of horses to charge protesters was, when “proportionate”, a “very useful, effective tactic”.
It was certain an effective tactic at the last student tuition fees protest outside Parliament. An event which had by all accounts started more or less entirely peacefully became increasingly violent as a direct result of en entirely unnecessary horse charge. The real question is ‘the greater good’ for whom? Certainly not students, teenagers, young people from underprivileged backgrounds or protesters. It’s a strange position to take for someone who has voiced fears in the past about the police being seen as the violent agents of the status quo, and his position on kettling is downright alarming.
Orde, the head of Acpo, a limited company run by police chiefs, criticised the lack of willingness of new protest groups that have sprung up around the internet to engage with police before protests. He said if they continued to refuse to co-operate, then police tactics would have to become more extreme.
“It is not good enough to throw our hands up in the air and say ‘Oh, we can’t negotiate because there is no one to negotiate with,’” he told Prospect magazine in an interview published today. “There are lots of people we can talk to, but they need to stand up and lead their people too. If they don’t, we must be clear that the people who wish to demonstrate won’t engage, communicate or share what they intend to do with us, and so our policing tactics will have to be different … slightly more extreme.”
So what he’s saying is that if students refuse to engage with police who lie about their own tactics and intentions, then they’ll be…beaten pre-emptively around the head for no reason? The more things change…