Happy birthday, dear M44710: support Jay Chase!

Jay birthday

In May 2012, as part of the general post-occupy crackdown on anarchists and radicals, undercover coppers infiltrated protests against NATO in Chicago and manipulated three people into making molotov cocktails. The NATO 3 received hefty prison sentences, and Jay Chase is still inside today. He’s had a rough time of it recently, having been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and Huntingdon’s disease, and while he’d earned some time off his sentence for good behaviour, he’s now lost a year of that time again as a result of the fuss he’s had to make to try and get medical treatment. Jay’s support crew are calling for people to help him out:

Demand Jay Chase get medical care NOW

Call/fax/write and politely make the request that Jared Chase M44710 receive medical treatment for a broken nose sustained in December as well as treatment for Huntington’s Disease and Hepatitis C.

Michael Melvin, Acting Warden
Phone: (815) 842-2816  or  Fax: (815) 842-3420
Pontiac Correctional Center, POB 99, Pontiac, IL 61764

Help Jay get his good time reinstated NOW

Jay lost one full year of good time while being held in solitary confinement at Pontiac Correctional.

Please call, email or write the Illinois Department of Corrections and ask that they reinstate Jared’s good time so he can get out earlier than expected. Jared lost his good time by getting ‘tickets’ at Pontiac, a result of his constant demands for health care and treatment for his Huntington’s Disease and Hepatitis C.

http://www.illinois.gov/idoc/contactus/Pages/default.aspx
(217) 558-2200 x 2008

Illinois Department of Corrections
1301 Concordia Court
P.O. Box 19277, Springfield, IL 62794-9277

Illinois Department of Corrections
James R. Thompson Center|
100 West Randolph, Chicago, IL 60601

3) Send Jay a birthday card by June 12th
Jay’s birthday is June 12th and it has been a very tough year for him.  Between being in a solitary cell all of the last year, getting indicted for assault on a guard, having his sentence extended by one year and losing a full year of good time, Jay sure can use some birthday cheer!

In the weeks to come, let’s flood Jay with birthday love. Please send Jay a card, a letter, some photos or even a book (though we understand he has tons at the moment).

Write:
Jared Chase M44710
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, Illinois 61764
Send books via amazon:
Send 99 cents postcards via flixshop https://www.flikshop.com/

Lets show the jailers how much support Jay has from our community and remind him we have his back through this sentence and beyond!

If you can please share the Birthday Blitz for Jay event on facebook and invite people: https://www.facebook.com/events/619609968192236/

As a note for people in the UK, standard postage times to the US from here are meant to be about 5-7 working days, plus getting through the scrutiny of prison staff might add on a few extra days, so if you want Jay to get your card by his birthday it’s probably wise to try and post it before the end of the month.

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“From shambles to farce”: CPS jokers get “a slap in the face”

Back in April, eight people who had blocked the road to prevent people getting into the DSEI arms fair, and defended their actions by saying they were attempting to prevent weapons sold at DSEI from being used in war, torture and genocide, were acquitted of all charges. The Crown Prosecution Service weren’t keen on this result, so they appealed the verdict to try and drag the eight defendants through court again. That appeal has just been refused, in what a defence lawyer called “a slap in the face” for the CPS.

The defendants celebrating their victory

Of course, any victory that rests on the goodwill of a judge is a shaky victory indeed. The reflections published by the Free to Fight collective after the Heathrow 13 verdict are worth revisiting here. In general, it’s always worth bearing in mind that any truly effective struggle for real change will have to use a huge variety of methods and tactics, including some that even the most sympathetic judges will inevitably disapprove of. But still, having said all that, sometimes you have to take your wins where you can find them, and any day the Clown Prosecution Service are frustrated in their efforts to ruin good people’s lives is a pretty decent day in my book.

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Mid-May round-up: notes on housing, Syria, the courts and more…

A quick round-up of news across a few various different fronts:

Hackney renters taking the fight to letting agents

In housing news, the Hackney renters’ group DIGS has been taking the fight to letting agents who refuse to lease to tenants on housing benefit. So far, their “YesDSS” campaign has led to three letting agents changing their policies, and a number of others shutting down for the day to avoid being targeted. It seems like they have a good, effective model in place, and one that could be quite easily replicated by other people outside Hackney. Meanwhile, the student rent strike that started at UCL and Goldsmiths continues to spread, with action also being taken at Courtauld Institute and Roehampton University – in this article, an organiser claims that there’s over 1000 students now withholding rent. If they can successfully bring the idea of the rent strike back into people’s imaginations, it could be a hugely powerful tool to use elsewhere.

Looking at housing struggles overseas, it would be good if people could send messages of solidarity to Lukasz Bukowski, a Polish comrade who’s currently serving a three-month prison sentence for his part in an eviction blockade in Poznan (he speaks English):

 

Łukasz Bukowski s. Zbigniewa
Areszt Śledczy w Poznaniu
ul. Młyńska 1
61-729 Poznań, Poland

Staying with the topic of prison solidarity for a moment, June 11th is the international day of solidarity with longterm anarchist prisoners, and further ahead ABC Moscow are calling for the first ten days of July to be observed as international days of solidarity with Russian anarchist and antifascist prisoners.

And closer to home, Shafiq Mohammed, who’s being dragged through the courts after being arrested at an anti-racist demonstration last year, could use some support. Aiden Aslin, the alleged YPG volunteer who’s facing state hassle for allegedly fighting against ISIS, is also continuing his slow journey through the court system, with the latest news being that he still hasn’t been charged with anything, but has been rebailed to appear in court on July 20th.

Staying with the topic of Rojava and Syria, a few new pieces have appeared that might be useful for those of us who struggle to keep up with the complexities of the situation there: the Hamilton Institute have a really good piece reflecting on two different speaking tours, Plan C have an interview with a YPJ commander, Crimethinc have a fairly theoretical piece on democracy and communes informed by the experience of Rojava, Budour Hassan writes about how the Syrian revolution transformed her, and Leila Al-Shami offers an overview of the situation from an anti-state perspective. If you fancy chipping a few quid in, the Feed the Revolution fundraiser aims to help develop Rojava’s agriculture.

Strikers block a delivery lorry at Pennine Foods

Back in the UK, the junior doctors’ dispute is currently suspended while they discuss the latest contract offer, but you can read an article from Red Pepper here reflecting on the Picket the Profiteers actions that tried to escalate and spread the strike. The militant grassroots United Voices of the World union is gearing up for a cleaners’ strike in the heart of the city of London, and workers at Pennine Foods, a company that makes M&S ready meals, have been out on strike in Sheffield.

And to finish off with a few miscellaneous notes: students are preparing to take direct action against the government’s higher education white paper by refusing to take part in the surveys that provide the statistics education policy relies on, libcom has an interesting new interview with West London’s Angry Workers of the World crew, and the next upcoming antifascist callout dates are Dover at the end of May, Bristol, Brighton and Glasgow in the first weekend of June, and Nottingham the weekend after that. Finally, the revolt in France continues to rumble on – there’s way too much going on for me to be able to do it justice, but you can keep up with events at the France page on the dialectical delinquents site.

An oil refinery blockade

Posted in Housing, Protests, Repression, Strikes, Students, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The only protection we have is solidarity from the outside”: news from courts and prisons in Sweden, the UK and the US

Here in the UK, last month saw eight people who took action against the DSEi arms fair beat the charges after the court sided with their argument that they were trying to stop illegal weapons sales, as their “belief that weapons were being sold unlawfully at DSEI was supported by … detailed expert evidence.” The Crown Prosecution Service refused to accept this result, and are now trying to appeal, so the eight could yet find themselves dragged back to court. A joint statement from the eight defendants said: “We absolutely stand by our actions at the DSEI arms fair in seeking to prevent corporate and state support for torture and the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians.

“Our actions have continued to show where the interests of money and power truly lie. The state has invested a prolific amount of time and public money seeking to prosecute us.”

A more immediate court date is coming up for Aiden Aslin, the alleged YPG volunteer who’s facing charges for allegedly helping fight with the Kurdish resistance against ISIS. After the incompetents at the CPS delayed his first court date, he’s now due back for a court hearing on the 17th of May, and Nottingham Kurdish solidarity campaigners will be standing in solidarity with him outside the court from 1pm on the day. While discussion between different perspectives continues about how we should understand and analyse the situation in Rojava and beyond – there’s a recent article by the Hamilton Institute that’s very useful for anyone trying to keep up with the situation – we should all hopefully be able to agree to oppose state repression against anyone who’s allegedly fighting against ISIS, so please get yourself to Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on the 17th if you can, or help spread the word if you can’t make it there yourself.

Over in Sweden, repression against the antifascist movement has been continuing: AFA Stockholm have made a public appeal for people to help them cover the €35,000 they need to pay in fines, damages and trial costs, and Brighton Anarchist Black Cross have run an interview with the first of 13 antifascists to be released from prison.

Milwaukee wobblies in solidarity with the prison strikes

Meanwhile, there’s been some big things going down in US prisons. Inmates in Alabama’s Holman prison staged a ten-day work stoppage starting on May Day that was only ended after scabs were brought in, and which may have influenced Alabama’s legislature to vote down a huge prison expansion proposal. Meanwhile, the Texas prison strikes have been winding down, but the IWW prisoners’ union continues to grow, and prisoners report that “Since this strike action started the prison administration has been much more responsive, and we have had a much easier time getting our grievances addressed.” For more information about what’s been going down in US prisons, see this indepth interview with a member of the IWW’s Incarcerated Worker Organizing Committee, Unity & Struggle have produced an overview of prisoner struggles in the US from 2008-2016, and a number of Nebraska prison rebels have agreed to have their contact details made public to try and build contact with those on the outside.

In individual news, it’s great that anti-fascist comrade (and brother of the hacker Jeremy), Jason Hammond has now been freed. It’s less great that Janye Waller has been jailed for involvement in the Bay Area uprising that followed the Ferguson verdict – you can support him by donating here, and keep an eye on his support tumblr or facebook to find out how to write to him once he’s got a permanent address.

The prison revolt in the US is only going to continue to grow, so we should all be thinking about ways to support and spread this struggle. Prison sentences are one of the ultimate threats the state uses against any movement that seems to be becoming too effective, so we should all be thinking about what we can do to undermine that threat.

Posted in Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On SATs, strategy and the social strike

On August 9th, 2014, police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. While police killings of young black people may be almost routine in the US, what followed was very far from routine, as angry protests and riots erupted across Ferguson and sparked similar revolts across the country. That November, a further wave of uprisings broke out after a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson.

On May 3rd, 2016, thousands of parents of primary school-aged children in the UK encouraged their children to skip classes for the day, with many taking them on picnics or involving them in fun outdoor learning activities instead, in protest at increasing testing and rigid, prescriptive teaching methods being imposed upon younger and younger children.

At first, it can be hard to imagine what, beyond the most vague, abstract themes, could possibly link these two moments. But an unexpected answer has been supplied by a recent feature in Viewpoint Magazine.

School students shut down Oakland Unified School District “community engagement” meeting.

Viewpoint’s “movement inquiry” feature aims a similar set of questions at various different groups involved in a particular struggle. The first one, on housing movements, was excellent and is highly recommended reading for anyone involved in housing struggles in London or beyond; the second, on black liberation in higher education, is only really worth bothering with if you’re interested in Student Activists doing Student Activist stuff, which I can’t say I’m that fascinated by myself; and the most recent one, on strategy after Ferguson, is pretty much essential for radicals interested in the ongoing struggles against white supremacy and police brutality in the US. It’s long, but it’s great, so you’d be really missing out if you just skipped to the end… but if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, the most relevant bit, from the perspective of the emerging resistance to SATs in the UK, is from the closing interview with Advance the Struggle, a communist collective based around the Bay Area, where they discuss how high school students walked out of school against police killings in December 2014, and how the organisers of that walkout stayed active in other struggles at their schools, first against privatisation and then against standardised testing:

This organizing continued in various forms throughout the rest of the spring semester.  But what is interesting for the sake of the story of the organizers of the December 15th walkout is that later that spring some of the core organizers participated in another series of independent political actions.  During the initial roll out of the new standardized test in California – the Smarter Balanced Assessment, referred to as the SBAC – students at one of the key schools to orchestrate the walkout initiated a boycott of the standardized test.  This crew of students independently spread an opt-out form among themselves and their parents in order to get nearly the entire 11th grade class from their school to stand against the imposition of this new, computerized standardized assessment.  While they did not produce literature that was circulated publicly, they did do what almost no other group of young people in Oakland did.  In speaking to them about the motivations for their action, they told us that they were empowered by the various protests they had not only participated in attending but had planned themselves, and that they took this empowerment and applied it toward organizing against what seemed to them to be a waste of their educational time.  School district officials came down on the school in question, threatening loss of funding for the entire district if there were not enough test taken.  However, the students stood strong and opened up conversations with their teachers and parents about why they refused to take the test.”

This alone would be interesting enough, but they follow it up with a broader strategic reflection that’s worth reading for anyone who’s interested in thinking about what disruptive action can look like in the current conditions, and particularly for anyone interested in the idea of the social strike, as championed by Plan C and discussed by others like the Angry Workers of the World, With Sober Senses, and this very blog:

“Where to, now?

The political agency that expressed itself through the actions of students and educators in Oakland was unprecedented in recent times.  What made this even more interesting was the fact that all of the activity was initiated and sustained through the independent organization of rank and file students and educators.  The existing nonprofit and school district machinery dedicated toward co-opting student and educator energy was pushed aside through the December 15th walkout, the anti-privatization activity, and the standardized test boycott.  All of the groundwork was carried out by militants that had implanted themselves in a social institution – in this case, the OUSD, the largest employer in Oakland – and created networks through consistent organizing that established a basis for seizing upon the political opening in November and December of 2014.

While all of this represents the particular experience of specific sectors of the working class – students and teachers – in a specific city at a particular time, it provides us with a basis to suggest a few things for consideration.  

We agree with our friends who point out that there is power in atomized proletarians coming together to disrupt the flow of capital at specific nodes in supply chains – ports, highways, etc – that is, that there is an importance in proletarian activity not being solely rooted in workplaces, but rather at specific chokepoints in the supply chain of commodities.  This has proved to be a powerful tactic in various struggles, particularly here in Oakland, and it has a basis in the material reality of the capitalist economy and working class life.  

However, despite the proliferation of casualized labor conditions, small shops and large scale unemployment among the US proletariat, there is still a basis for focusing on the centralizing power of certain social institutions.  We propose that we consider institutions such as schools, hospitals and public transportation as social chokepoints, institutional spaces where a diverse range of proletarians come together on a daily basis.  Militants should strongly consider the importance of organizing within these spaces.  This type of organizing has the potential to reach sectors of the proletariat which might not otherwise participate in the street protests and blockades that are coordinated outside of any particular workplace or institutional space.  Organizing where people are at – and where people will continue to be at for the foreseeable future, in the not-so-easily outsourceable centers of labor and social reproduction – can provide the basis to organize a proletarian insurgency that can fight multiple fronts, and provide a contribution toward developing a more organized and experienced assault on capitalism from within its own institutions.”

I don’t recommend reading and thinking about the AtS piece because I necessarily agree with everything they say – for instance, I totally agree with “organizing where people are at”, but then where I’m at isn’t a school, a hospital or a public transport network, and that’s true for a lot of other people I know – but because I think the only way to come up with sensible answers to these questions is through discussion, and the perspective they suggest should definitely be one part of that discussion. And also just because it’s a reminder that the unexpected is always possible. Who would have expected that a revolt against police killings would generate a boycott movement rejecting standardised testing? And what unexpected consequences could yet come from the rejection of SATs here in the UK?

Posted in Protests, Racism, Students, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Solidarity with claimants against the courts and the jobcentre – Norwich, Thursday 12th May

A call from Norwich Claimants’ Union:

“A claimant has a court hearing this Thursday 12th May at Norwich Magistrates Court. They are accused of assaulting the security staff at the Norwich Jobcentre. Yet another case of a claimant under a lot of pressure. They hadn’t eaten for 48hrs and had no heating or lighting, in the middle of winter.

A protest is being organised to coincide with the hearing. So please join us outside the Norwich Magistrates Court this Thursday 12th May 9-10am”

No-one should have to face the jobcentre or the courts alone, so please get down to join them if you can.

Solidarity at the jobcentre

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Help take Philip Green to the cleaners

Anyone interested in unions and workers’ organisations may already be familiar with the United Voices of the World, a small grassroots union that’s had some impressive successes organising cleaners in London in recent years. They’re currently in the middle of their most ambitious campaign yet, having started organising at the national clothing chain Topshop and seen two cleaners suspended for union activity, and have called a national day of action for this Saturday. The main action will be at the Oxford Street flagship store, but they’re claiming there’ll also be things happening in “Liverpool, Dundee, Edinburgh, Loughborough, Norwich, Sheffield, Gloucester, Plymouth, Glasgow, Norfolk, Cambridge, and possibly Newcastle and Birmingham”, so keep an eye out if you live in any of those places – Class War seem to be taking on an active role in organising events across the country. UVW’s imaginative and energetic campaigns have already helped build organisation among cleaners and won concessions from a few different employers, and successfully organising at Topshop would be a real victory towards driving working conditions up across the high street and beyond, helping to build organisation in some of the many workplaces where the old TUC unions have no presence at all. An injury to one is an injury to all, and a victory for the Topshop Two will be a victory for all of us.

Reinstate the Topshop 2!

Posted in Protests, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment