Content Note: Contains racist, misogynistic language and reference to rape from an arms delegate.
Perhaps it should have been unsurprising at an event welcoming arms-dealers… However, we didn’t expect to hear a delegate attending a “Distinguished Executive” event organised by the University of the West of England to shout ‘what if they came over here and raped you’. The event entitled ‘Global Innovation – Boeing and the UK‘. was celebrating 75 years of partnership between the arms dealers and the UK.
Anarchists Detained by Counter-Terrorist Police on Return from Swiss Conference
For the past week, thousands of anarchists from across the world have been converging in St.Imier, Switzerland to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Anarchist international. The gathering took the form of a festival and educational, with music, films and entertainment as well as workshops and discussions.
On returning from the St Imier gathering, two anarchists, one a member of the UK Anarchist Federation, were detained for nearly two hours at Heathrow by SO15 (counter-terrorist) intelligence who initially refused to identify themselves to the detainees. During the detention, the anarchists were told that their normal rights did not apply, and had their names, addresses, email addresses, DNA, photographs and fingerprints taken. The detained anarchists were also forced to sign forms – which may or may not be legal – waiving their rights to silence and a solicitor. Police also conducted a thorough search of personal possessions, photocopied literature and passports and took information from phones and cameras.
During the detention, the police constantly accused the anarchists of lying about involvement in criminal activity and alleged that they would be conducting follow-up police action against one of the detained anarchists. In addition to this, SO15 officers asked a number of inflammatory, irrelevant and offensive questions, including ‘what would you do if someone raped your mother?’ evidently in an attempt to cause emotional upset and illicit angry or violent responses. One member (28) who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals from the police, said “We were treated like criminals. I told them I went to the congress as I am an amateur journalist and I write articles about activism. They saw my note book, camera and Dictaphone but they said I was lying.” One officer said ‘You said you are an anarchist, I’ve seen anarchists on the news, they are violent, throw molotov cocktails and disrupt people’s lives not write articles”.
The counter terrorist officers either didn’t know or chose to ignore that, during the first day of the gathering, the International of Anarchist Federations (Of which the UK Anarchist Federation is a member) had issued a statement rejecting all terrorist tactics as a means of achieving an anarchist society.
In contrast to the actions of the UK security forces, the local press and residents in St.Imier reported very positively on the anarchist gathering.
With this incident, we are seeing a further slide towards political policing and the criminalisation of political ideologies. The two detained anarchists have not had any involvement in any illegal or violent activity, or any activity that would concern the counter-terrorist police. As in the past, when Metropolitan police called on people to give information about local anarchists ( Anarchists should be reported, advises Westminster anti-terror police | UK news | The Guardian ), anarchists suffered harassment for their political viewpoint.
As class-struggle anarchists, we believe that the state does little except serve the interests of the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary people. This is seen clearly when people who hold views critical of the state are treated as criminals and terrorists. We seek to create a classless society, based on freedom, equality and co-operation. We believe in the capacity of ordinary people to run society themselves, without the interference of bosses or politicians. This incident was not in response to any crime and constitutes repression and criminalisation of a political ideology.
Anarchism is a political philosophy that seeks to build an egalitarian society in which mutual aid, co-operation and direct democracy replace capitalism and the state.
The St Imier Congress was a gathering of anarchists from all over the world to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the first international anarchist gathering in the Swiss town of St Imier in 1872.
The Anarchist Federation is a federation of class struggle anarchist-communists in the UK who seek to build an egalitarian society.
(I’m the only person how hasn’t use the Spuc-Off pun, tiz a good one though!)
On Saturday April 28th Demonstrations called by individuals within Bristol Anarchist Federation and Bristol’s Feminist Network countered one organised by the Society for the Protection on Unborn Children (SPUC), a “pro-life” group (we prefer the term “anti-choice”). We chose to counter this demonstration not just because SPUC believe that women should not have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies but because their other major campaign is lobbying against same-sex marriage. They are also against contraception and promote punishment for those involved in abortions involving muslim women. Although they claim to not be religious all their views are backed up with the view that they are doing the right thing by God.
The SPUC vigil was a series of 40 or so happening across the country and many experienced counter demonstrations – Cardiff, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Excellent blog on the Bath one , Our comrades in Lincoln Anarchists blog, Bristol’s Activist Twined City of Brighton, Liverpool plus others.
The SPUC Vigil totalled 20 people and the counter demo 80. So I guess that says something. The AF called counter-demo was massively bolstered by Bristol Feminist Network and other individuals who had also called a demo (around 60 people) many with home-made placards. They chose to set up shop on the other side of the road to show where majority opinion on the pro-choice debate lay. Others chose to mingle with pro-lifers and question them on their morals and support for a misogynistic, homophobic group. Many were not up for debate with us, perhaps because they could not answer our questions. It was clear many did not even know what group they were supporting by being there and accused us of lying about the homophobic bit (it’s on their website under campaigns, go look). I liked this demo because we got to work with a different set of people to normal, so for that reason alone it was successful.
Some pro-lifers however did engage in debate, one even promised not to demonstrate with SPUC again after he found out how homophobic they were, he wasn’t going to be turned on the anti-choice stance though. We received a lot of support from passers-by and drivers and hope that SPUC will think twice before holding another vigil that attempts to take away women’s autonomy of their own bodies.
Second two photos used with agreement of photographer, see her blog on the demo here
And the other point of view? That’s here.
On Saturday dozens of Bristolians joined more than twenty towns around the uk and responded to a call out from local anarchist & left organisations to target companies profiting from the workfare scheme. Whilst many of the ‘usual suspects’ were absent (worn out from four demos on the Friday!), 36 people attended and it was no less loud, fun or effective than the last. Plus it was nice to see some new faces!
As many of you will know a gathering of animal rights activists took place in Bristol at the weekend. Those present faced police harassment and repression throughout the 3 days. This included evidence gatherers filming through the windows, over a dozen officers damaging and stealing (sorry ‘seizing’) a mini bus, half a dozen arrests at a protest, a house being raided, and a meeting at a community centre being surrounded by at least 25 police (including a dog unit and a firearms officer).
Bristol Anarchist Federation wishes to express our solidarity with all the activists involved with, and present at, the animal rights gathering. We also tip our metaphorical hats to you; if you attract that kind of attention from the state you must be doing something right.
This repression can only push those on the receiving end of it closer together, and through this solidarity we can fight even harder against the systems of domination that surround us. So, to those that sought to oppress people at the AR (&workfare) demos in Bristol this weekend THANKS (because mischief brew say it so eloquently).
Around 10pm on Thursday 21st April, people from Stokes Croft and St Pauls in Bristol, reacting to blatant provocation, started attacking riot police gathered from three different forces with glass bottles. What ensued was seven hours of constant clashes; police charges, volleys of glass, brick and concrete, burning barricades and the trashing of a much-loathed Tesco recently forced on a community who for so long battled to stop it opening.
Just before 9pm, police had forcibly removed a small protest from outside the Tesco, which had been there since the store opened a week earlier and set up a cordon closing that stretch of the road. Their stated aim was to enter the squatted ‘Telepathic Heights’, an iconic, graffiti covered building opposite Tesco. They claimed to be acting on intelligence that suggested some occupants where planning to make petrol bombs with which to attack Tesco. Even if this intelligence was accurate, the numbers of police was far disproportionate to the half a dozen occupants of the squat.
The blocking of road by the police and the news that Telepathic Heights was threatened and that the Tesco protest had been forcibly broken up meant it wasn’t long before a substantial crowd had gathered. The crowd became more and more angry as police refused to give justification for their presence, pushing or hitting anyone who got close to their lines. The increased tension of recent months, which has built up as austerity measures begin to kick in and the community of Stokes Croft and St Pauls feel ever more ignored and marginalised, had found a focal point and personification in the belligerence of the police. All it took was for someone to tip over a glass recycling bin.
On Saturday 26th March Bristol Anarchist Federation attended the “March for the Alternative” called by the TUC. We joined the Militant workers bloc on the South London Feeder March. We marched along side South and North London Solidarity Federation, other Anarchist Federation Branches, Lambeth & Lewisham Save our Services, Coalition of Resistance, Latin American Coalition against the cuts and many more groups and individuals. Just this one feeder march had over 5000 demonstrators (Met’s figure). With Anarchist groups on at least three of the feeder marches, the main march, and at least two separate black blocs we believe this was the biggest Anarchist turnout in the UK since the G20.
On Saturday October 23rd Bristol’s Castle park was awash with colour as over 1000 protesters (the organisers say 4000) marched through Bristol city centre to voice their anger at the governments cuts to services and welfare and their attack on the working classes.
Trade unions were represented including PCS, Unison, CWU, GMB and NUT along with a more radical side from The IWW, Anarchist Federation, Class War, Bristol Resistance and the Solidarity Federation along with many other groups and individuals.
Despite the weather the crowd were in good spirits and fine voice the IWW had printed out song sheets and a contingent from Youth Fight for jobs kept the chants coming think and fast.
We hear that the Police had been warning the organisers “Bristol & District Anti-cuts Alliance” that Anarchist were planning to infiltrate the march. What the police did not know is that the organisers were aware anarchists would be attending and on the whole were cool with it, saying it was not their job to say who can attend and what they can do.
There were a large number of cops around for an un-policed march and as soon as we left the park the police attempted to snatch a banner saying “Fuck The Cuts, Smash The State”. Their attempt failed as marchers ploughed in to save their banner and protect their comrades taking the pigs by surprise. Ten minutes later, their egos bruised, the cops had another go at snatching the banner, this time more violently causing some injuries to protesters.
At the Rally point of College Green we relaxed to listen to the speeches but then came the final show down. Some comrades were approached by Police as they went to collect the Anarchist Federation banner, they tried to take their details and video them. One was told to take his mask off under section 60, another was told he had to give his details under section 50 because he was suspected on anti-social behavior (aka holding a banner saying fuck on it – which he never did). The anarchist contingent and other marchers came along to give their support, the cops panicked and sent in mounted police, pushing and shoving ensued and two token arrests were made. Many of the “moderate” protesters split from the rally and joined the melee. Severely outnumbered and with their lines broken the cops were forced back out of the park and past the cathedral. Arguments broke out as other marchers told us to go back to the rally and let the police do their jobs. Afterwards one woman told a friend of mine who had not attended the demo “It was a good rally but the anarchists were there causing trouble”.
After this the demo split up, Around 20 or so people headed up to the police station to show their solidarity with those arrested by singing songs, playing cards, tag and the guitar, eating hobnobs and partaking in a strange Spartacusesque moment, all of which was noted down by the officers sent to mind us and video us. Regarding one of the games we were playing on cop was heard saying to other “it appears to be some sort of modern version of Buckaroo”.
Both were released on police bail after five hours in custody for afray and obstructing police. The local rag reported that cannabis was found on one of the arrestees, this was a complete fabrication on the part of the media.
As the cuts take hold demos like this will become more common and more angry. The violent attacks from the Police also show what we can expect as things turn increasingly nasty.
Apart from a few individuals (on both sides of the political divide) on the whole the day’s events proved that Socialists, Trade unionists and Anarchists can get along and work together.
So in Brum we got kettled for two hours and in Bristol we saw off Police incursions and forced em out of the park, we reckon that’s one point each!
Quite late I know, never mind.
On Sunday October 3rd Bristol Anarchist Federation and comrades headed up on the “Right to work” coach along with some Class War, SWP and union activists to attend the demo against the Coalition cuts at the Conservative party conference.
Our coach arrived at the drop off point but on the other side of the road to the other coaches. Rather than just letting us off our “Steward” informed us we hadn’t followed the map properly so we drove off in an attempt to get there as the directions stated. We promptly got even more lost at which point we persuaded the driver to stop so we could walk there.
When we arrived we did as the toffs out website suggested (http://www.nocpc.info) and looked out for the red and black flags. It didn’t take us long to notice that the only red and black flags there were ours and we soon begun acting as a magnet for the anarchos and militant workers spread around the meeting point totalling about 40-50 people including comrades from Sheffield AFed and other individuals and affinity groups.
As the bloc gathered and warmed up with heckles of the Swupies rally speeches one of us heard that the RTW steward were collaborating with the police and planned to prevent us leaving with the main march. (Later we heard one SWP steward threatened to get some of the bloc arrested – http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/10/464168.html?c=on#c256884).
After a quick discussion we decided to split into small groups until we were moving. This may have helped us get out and on the move but it took a good 15-20 minutes to form up and be joined by more class war and IWW members who had been “laying low” in a local pub.
The cops played their cards pretty well most of the time, light touch policing most of the way, much of the bloc seemed pretty surprised upon reaching the possible access points to find 12 foot high solid metal gates blocking the way.
Despite all the talk of the long list of targets to hit (“screw you pizza express”) on the Toffs Out website the small black block (about a hundred in the largest group) flanked by members of “Revolution” were kept to Birmingham’s back streets along with the main march, the cops keeping an eye out for any opportunity to kettle us.
After a strange BlackBloc/Police photo op at the final steel wall near the Tories convention centre we were on the home straight and moving away from the ICC. On a side street next to a cinema there were a large number of dog handlers and police vans which attracted the attention of the anarchists splitting the march in two.
At this point West Midlands police pulled of a relatively impressive set piece. A line of cops had been blocking a slip road next to the cinema so the march would move along a road to the right. When the bloc moved towards the cinema the police line on the slip road moved to the right side with more coming from behind. Some managed to sidestep the forming lines but the rest were left without warning and with little support to run up the slip road to try and avoid the kettle.
A few reviews of this potion of the day come from proud activists who avoided the kettle and say we brought it on ourselves. In reality, we were taken by surprise (and got a little lost). If half the group hadn’t scarpered and mixed in with the main march there would have easily been enough people to break the kettle which in its early stages only consisted of about 30 cops and we all could have got out.
The section of the march behind us stopped and some chanted “solidarity” before fucking off so as not to miss the start of the closing rally. Others though, and Kudos to them stayed for a long time and only moved once we had been moved out of sight and they had been forced down the road. Some attempted to get back to us but were prevented by the ever building police presence.
People resigned themselves to being in the kettle too easily with a couple of opportunities to get out had we worked as a unit. After a while the cops shuffled us up the ramp and over the roundabout where we were greeted with a sea of florescent jackets and police vans. As you can see from the pictures there were well over 60 cops surrounding us now along with eight vans, motor bikes and five or six dog handlers. We has been held long enough for the police to get a section 60 in place and one at a time we were let our of the primary kettle to be searched and out photos taken only to find ourselves in a larger secondary kettle made up of around 40 police where we were kept until everyone had been processed. So in total west Mids police had sent around 120 cops, 5 dogs, 8 vans plus bikes and cars to hold 30 – 40 activists who were moving AWAY from their target for just over two hours. The only thing it did was give us an excuse not to put up with yet another RTW/SWP rally. Thanks Bastards!