The Metropolitan Police’s request for information on anarchists seems to be getting a fair bit of media attention. SolFed and Freedom Press have both managed to skillfully get some free publicity out of it, proving that it’s possible to engage with the media productively without just playing up to stereotypes. Of course, the real story about this is that, quite plainly, it isn’t actually news at all. As someone who’s been kettled, arrested, stopped and searched, cautioned and so on at the hands of the police, I didn’t really need to read a newspaper to find out the police didn’t like me very much. From the notorious Forward Intelligence Team and the National Extremism Tactical Co-Ordination Unit to the placement of Mark Kennedy/Stone, Lynn Watson, Marc Jacobs and numerous other undercover officers in activist groups as part of “Operation Pegasus”, it’s been very clear for a long time that the police take an active interest in monitoring political dissent, so the only thing that’s new about this story is the volunteer, do-it-yourself element – perhaps a sign that even Special Branch is being affected by the “big society” ethos?
When faced with a similar non-news story about state harassment of anarchists, Durrutti had a sensible response, which still remains relevant today:
They persecute us. Yes, of course they do. We’re a threat to the system they represent. If we don’t want them to harass us, then we should just submit to their laws, integrate ourselves into their system and bureaucratize ourselves to the marrow. Then we can be perfect traitors to the working class, like the Socialists and everyone else who lives at the workers’ expense. They won’t bother us if we do that.
The police’s interest in dissidents isn’t just restricted to information-gathering. Protesters in the UK have faced a variety of harsh punishments recently: as well as the famous Charlie Gilmour and the unfortunate Ed Woolard, there’s also Francis Fernie, given a year for throwing some sticks, Omar Ibrahim, still on bail awaiting trial, the six people jailed for antifascist activity, and Alfie Meadows, the student who was nearly killed by police and is now facing serious charges. On the bright side, charges against many of those arrested on March 26th have now been dropped.
Anti-fascists and anti-cuts activists aren’t the only ones facing repression: Tox, an incredibly prolific tagger, now faces 27 months in jail. This might seem like a question of personal taste more than anything else: I think that colourful, well-decorated walls look more interesting than plain ones, and am always grateful to taggers for livening up the view whenever I have to make long train journeys; you might disagree. But, no matter what your taste, anyone who thinks real, living human beings are more important than objects should object to the idea of imprisoning someone for more than two years for the ‘crime’ of putting some paint on some walls.
Equally, while some of LulzSec’s hacking exploits have been childish and even anti-social, others, such as their ‘Chinga La Migra’ attack on the Arizona police, have been genuinely inspiring, and the repression they’re currently facing is a sign that they’re perceived as a problem for the state, as well as corporations such as News International. They’re now being smeared as potentially having links with Islamic extremism, which is still the establishment’s favourite boogeyman. The alleged LulzSec members facing the courts deserve our full support.
This kind of repression certainly isn’t just something that happens in the UK. In the US, Aaron Swartz is facing up to 35 years in jail for downloading too many academic articles, anarchists in Seattle have been attacked by the police (see http://pugetsoundanarchists.org/ and http://libcom.org/forums/news/solidarity-seattle-anarchists-26072011 for more on this), and Kenneth Harding and Kelly Thomas were both recently killed by police officers in California in two separate incidents. Kelly Thomas’ case sounds particularly brutal. Hunger strikes by inmates in California’s prison system only ended last week, with the winning of some partial concessions. The broader struggle continues. Elsewhere, a new state offensive against anarcho-syndicalists is beginning in Serbia, and 12 people involved in the South African shackdweller’s movement Abahlali baseMjondolo have been acquitted of a variety of serious charges, a result that they’re describing as “a victory for all the poor of South Africa.”
Finally, a few things that don’t really fit with the repression theme at all, but seem worth mentioning in brief: Mark Steel and political scrapbook tear apart recent attacks on claimants, Deterritorial Support Group and k-punk offer general analysis of the current situation, while Freedom warn against getting too enthusiastic about the levelling potential of the internet, and BBC journalists are striking over redundancies. Over on the right, the BNP are gripped by infighting, and Jon Gaynor offers a guide to new developments in right-wing ideology.
Steve Hanson and the Commune offer reflections on the public sector strikes at the end of June. Speaking of the Commune, they’ve switched to bringing out a free publication, and are looking for people to help distribute it more widely – if anyone reading this isn’t currently helping to produce or distribute stuff of their own, I’d advise them to consider taking a few copies of the Commune, since it’s one of the best publications coming out of the libertarian movement at the moment.
To end on a sad note, a full obituary for the inspirational anarchist Bob Miller has now been published, while the funeral of another Northern anarchist, Salford class warrior Ken Keating, also took place recently. Now it’s up to us to build the world they wanted to see.