Once again, I don’t really have anything particularly new or interesting to say, so here’s a collection of stories that’ve caught my eye over the last week or so.
The main theme tying a lot of this stuff together is the fact that, weeks after the riots ended, the police and the legal system are still on a very vicious offensive. It’s often been noted that counter-revolutions are usually much bloodier than revolutions: the riots were certainly a long way from any kind of revolution, but the same principle seems to apply here – for a few days, the police were on the receiving end of the kind of violence and intimidation they’re used to dishing out, and so now they’re out to ruin the lives of anyone they can get their hands on. This is most obvious in the insane sentences being handed out to anyone even vaguely connected to the riots – the 16 months given to Anderson Fernandes for picking up a cone and two scoops of ice cream, taking one lick and then giving it away, the 16 months given to Callum Marley for crawling into a pawnbroker, finding it empty and then leaving without taking anything, and the decision to take away the anonymity of a 16-year-old boy for posting pro-riot comments on facebook, meaning that saying things on the internet is seen as being serious enough to totally ignore normal legal procedure. We really need a proper support campaign for these people, who’re suddenly being thrown into a terrifying and dehumanising environment. But this wave of repression isn’t just being played out in the courtroom: recent days have also seen 40 people picked up in raids ahead of the Notting Hill carnival, a worrying sign that we seem to be heading towards a system of pre-emptive arrests, and a raid on the editor of a Bristol radical paper, on grounds that would be hilarious if the situation wasn’t so serious: officers were searching for “rocks (may by having glass samples upon)”, apparently in the belief that rioters not only stockpile rocks in their home ready to throw at things, but also take their rocks home with them after using them to smash windows with. More seriously still, we’ve also seen three deaths in eight days – the IPCC are refusing to investigate the death of Philip Hulmes in Bolton, a post-mortem into the death of Dale Burns was apparently “inconclusive”, and, in what may be the most shocking case of all, 25-year-old Jacob Michael rang the police after being threatened, only to be beaten to death by 11 cops when they arrived. Fuck all cops and fuck the system they uphold. To round off this selection of legal and police news, here’s the latest thoughts of anarchist prisoner Thomas Blak, which make for inspiring reading.
With all this going on, you’d think there’d be no way anyone in their right mind, and certainly no-one who regarded themselves as being in any way progressive, would be in favour of giving these bastards more power to clamp down on civil liberties. But amazingly, some idiots are supporting exactly that – the pro-establishment anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate are celebrating the police’s decision to ban an EDL march, despite the fact that said ban covers all marches in five boroughs of London for an entire month, and so will not just cover the EDL protest and any counter-demo, but may also cover East End Gay Pride. The ban, which also attracted support from several union leaders and Unite Against Fascism, is effectively suspending the normal democratic rights of a huge number of London’s citizens, but these “anti-fascists” seem to think that Britain moving closer to a totalitarian dictatorship is something to celebrate. Phil Dickens and the Great Unrest both have good articles on the situation. A case could also be made that anarchists and the left focusing so much attention on a march by a relatively insignificant group, a few days before Parliament is due to pass a bill totally gutting the NHS, speaks to a wider problem of misplaced priorities and an orientation towards exciting confrontations rather than long, hard campaigns, but that’s a whole different argument, and one I don’t really have time to go into here.
The police aren’t the only part of the state that ruins people’s lives, of course. 44-year-old Richard Sanderson became another casualty of the ongoing war against the poor recently, after he killed himself because he couldn’t face the thought of his family being made homeless by cuts in housing benefit.
And the state is only half the enemy (in fact, if you have an analysis that sees things like patriarchy, homophobia and white supremacy as separate systems that’re entangled with capitalism but can’t be reduced to it, it’s not even half the picture). As if what’s happening in the courts wasn’t enough, Argos have provided another reminder of why you need good privacy settings on your facebook account, sacking a man with cancer who’d worked for them for 13 years for making some general comments about his day at work. Of course, nothing he could say on his status could harm the company’s image anywhere near as much as spreading this story around will, and hopefully we’ll see an organised solidarity campaign soon.
The murderous scumbags of Atos Origin are also none too keen on online three speech – they’ve harassed at least three websites offline for featuring content critical of them, and apparently they really don’t like images like this:
Please share them around, and submit your own designs to the great ATOS rebranding competition. On the IRL front, there’s a national day of action against ATOS on September 30th.
And, to end on a positive note, there is always resistance: over 100 electricians mounted a mass picket of a Balfour Beatty site in London on Wednesday in response to attacks on pay and conditions across the building sector, train drivers took strike action on the same day, and the second strike was called off after talks were resumed, workers’ rights campaigner John Foley is occupying the roof of John Lennon airport in Liverpool in protest against Ryanair’s exploitation of cabin crew, and this weekend will also see a long weekend of solidarity with Dale Farm, a site occupied by travellers which is facing eviction. In the face of the kind of police brutality and state repression we’re seeing at the moment, fighting back may seem like a scary choice to make, but sitting back and letting these bastards carry on fucking our planet is a far scarier one.