Notts IMC | 01.01.2010 13:21 | Analysis
The year opened with a brutal assault by the Israeli government on the Gaza Strip, drawing condemnation from around the world. There were protests in cities up and down the UK, including in Nottingham where a rally in the Old Market Square and a march from the Forest Recreation Ground to city centre were held within a few weeks of each other, both attracting several hundred protesters.
One of the more surprising responses to the assault was the re-emergence of student-led university occupations which reached Nottingham in late January. Although the sit-in in B62 Law and Social Sciences Building at the University of Nottingham received considerable support, it was violently evicted by university authorities, a very different response to many other universities where negotiations saw occupiers win at least some of their demands.
Palesine solidarity campaigning continued throughout the year. The BBC's biased coverage of the Gaza assault and refusal to support the Disaster Emergency Committee appeal for the region led to protests across the country, including in Nottingham, where protesters braved the snow to deliver a letter of protest to the Corporation. In November, a visit by the Israeli ambassador to the University of Nottingham, led to vocal protests.
Related features: Nottingham Gaza solidarity occupation violently evicted | Nottingham university occupied in solidarity with Gaza | Gaza: Weekend of Protest Across the Midlands | Nottingham Responds to Gaza Massacre
In April, Nottingham was rocked by the mass arrest of 114 people in a school in Sneinton. Police claimed the 114 were conspiring to disrupt the operations of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. The coal-powered power station is one of the largest CO2 emitters in the UK and has been the target of climate actions before and since the arrests. A school and community centre were broken into and damaged by police during the arrests and a number of homes were raided. Over the following months the vast majority of cases have been dropped but some individuals are still facing charges.
Ratcliffe was the target of the very high profile 'Climate Swoop' protest in October. Over a thousand climate activists associated with the Climate Camp descended on the power station from all sides using Twitter and text messaging to coordinate their actions. Fences were breached in several places and over 50 activists were arrested during the action.
April saw the start of the Coal Caravan, from Shipley in Derbyshire. Shipley is the site of an opencast coal mine and has been targeted by anti-coal activists who squatted farm buildings on the land in 2008. The caravan continued to a number of sites threatened by the industries of coal extraction and power generation in Yorkshire and the North East. The campaigners talked to local people, organised bicycle powered films and events, held public discussions and displays, and linked with groups from different areas to help strengthen isolated campaigns.
2009 was a big year for the fascist British National Party (BNP) who won their first two seats in the European Parliament in June. However, they failed to make a breakthrough in the East Midlands region, in spite of treating supporters to a fish and chip dinner with "light and sound effects plus cinema-graphics" in the Nag's Head in Sutton in Ashfield.
In August the party's Red, White and Blue festival was held for a third year in a row on Alan Warner's land in Codnor, Derbyshire. An estimated 1500 anti-fascists protested the event which attracted a much smaller number of fascists. A number of actions against Warner in the run up to the festival led him to state that he'd had enough and was hoping to give up hosting the festival.
2009 also saw the emergence of the English Defence League (EDL), a motley bunch of hardcore fascists, football hooligans and heavy drinkers, who toured the country trying to stir up violence. They came to Nottingham in December where they held a heavily policed rally by the castle. Anti-fascists and local youths mobilised to confront EDL members who avoided their kettle and roamed around town.
The year has been a busy one for animal rights activists in Nottingham. Local campaign group, Nottingham Animal Rights, started off the year protesting the 'Great' British Circus, one of the few remaining circuses which make exploitative use of animals in their shows. They have also led a strong campaign against shops selling fur in Nottingham, such as Cruise and Flannels.
At the end of September, animal rights activists from across the country demonstrated against Highgate Rabbit Farm in Lincolnshire, a major supplier of rabbits to the vivisection industry. Highgate Farm was the target of a highly successful Animal Liberation Front (ALF) raid in 2008 during which over 100 animals were liberated. The national demo followed the establishment of a protest camp outside the farm in August.Related features: Operation Liberation Demo at Highgate Rabbit Farm | Nottingham Animal Rights get active
This year, there has been no shortage of nonsense emanating from our so-called leaders. Nottingham City Council continue to exhibit a distasteful cocktail of incompetence and authoritarianism, perhaps most clearly encapsulated by Graham Chapman who announced job cuts live on the radio, before the workers affected had been informed. Inevitably, this fuelled anger among council workers. The unions organised two demos in the Market Square - the second attended by actor Samantha Morton who herself spent time in care homes in the city - and a billboard campaign, although there seems to have been little appetite for strike action in the current economic climate.
The council attempted to cover up the full extent of the mess it was in, paying a Barrister £5,000 for a legal opinion about why they did not have to release a critical report (which they had commissioned) into the working environment within the authority. Inevitably, this was leaked and Indymedia was able to play a part in disseminating the document.
The council also began efforts to expand CCTV into Forest Fields in 2009. A campaign in opposition to this, led by local residents was relatively successful, seemingly much to the council's surprise. Although ultimately defeated, the campaign did demonstrate the possibilities of grassroots campaigns against surveillance and the Big Brother state.
Over the river, elections in June saw the Labour Party ousted as the ruling group for the first time in 28 years and ushered in a new Tory regime. Kay Cutts wasted no time in falling out with the city council over the tram and the world cup bid, but also decided to desecrate the Spanish Civil War memorial and launched attacks on workers, cutting terms, conditions and jobs. Staff aremobilising to resist these cuts with strikes likely in the new year.
Nottinghamshire Police did not have a good year. They attracted national media attention when a video was released onto the internet showing officers from the force assaulting a member of the public in Nottingham City Centre. In the video the four officers can be seen shooting the man with a Taser stun gun and punching him repeatedly. The release of this video comes at a time when Nottinghamshire Police are already having to answer questions about their decision to arrest without charge 114 people who were allegedly intending to disrupt Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. The action which involved officers from four forces is estimated to have cost more than £70,000, despite no crime having been committed. Meanwhile, questions have also been raised about Reece Staples, 19, who died in police custody at Oxclose Lane station on 7th June. Further bad press would follow with the death of two police dogs, left in a car on one of the hottest days of the year and the arrest for shoplifting of a Chief Inspector from the force.
Related features: Notts Police Face Scrutiny | Secret City Council Report Now Public | Campaign against CCTV in Forest Fields continues to grow | Nottingham City Council workers protest job cuts | Council house evictions rise 42% in Nottingham | Watching the watchers in Nottingham
With the parlous state of the British and global economies, it shouldn't be surprising that 2009 has witnessed something of an upturn in industrial action, particular action outside the confines of the union bureaucracy. A number of prominent strikes have resonated locally.
On January 28, workers at Lindsey oil refinery run by Total in Killingholme, Lincolnshire wildcated. Workers across the county, including at Staythorpe in Newark, walked out in support. This was a particularly controversial action as it arose in reponse to foreign workers. The government and media have been keen to present this as a nationalist or even "racist" dispute and the ever-opportunistic BNP made efforts to capitalise on the struggle. Nevertheless, the politics of the strike were complicated and at Langage Power Station near Plymouth, Polish workers joined strikers. The initial wildcat action was broadly successful, with Total coming to an agreement with striking workers. A subsequent attempt to fire a number of those involved in wildcat action, saw further solidarity actions, including at Nottingham's Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.
Elsewhere, a national strike by the postal workers of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) attracted considerable media attention. It came hot on the heels of an attempt by the government to sell-off the Royal Mail. The CWU had mounted a national campaign against those plans, including a visit to Nottingham for Mayday, but were more or less forced into strike action, by wildcat action by workers in London. At the time of writing, union leaders' decision to halt the action in the run-up to Christmas mean that this dispute remains unresolved.
Local anti-militarists were busy in 2009. The Shut Down Heckler & Koch campaign continued to picket the arms company's premises in Lenton, and expanded their activities by starting regular awareness raising in town. This was a move to combat the silence of local media on the issue encouraged by H&K and the local police. In November, a 25ft model of an H&K gun was marched to the H&K site and symbolically dumped. In March, a group from Nottingham joined anti-militarists in Germany to protest H&K's 60th anniversary.
More recently, the Shut Down H&K campaigners visited the Trent Vineyard church, which is located on the same industrial estate as H&K's premises, to leaflet the congregation. In spite of considerable interest from some churchgoers, church leaders were reluctant to engage with the campaign out of anxiety about their tenancy at Easter Park.
Derby is the home of Rolls Royce's Raynesway factory, were components for Trident nuclear submarines are made. Anti-militarists squatted some land near the factory and set up a peace camp there over the summer. The squatters protested against the manufacture of military hardware and demanded that the factory be converted to produce non-military projects.Related features: Shut Down H&K Goes to Church | Notts remembers the dead | Peace camp established at Raynesway, Derby | Campaigning against Heckler & Koch Weapons in Germany and the UK | Campaign Against Nottingham Arms Manufacturer Enters New Phase
In late May, a collective called Squat Lobster occupied the J.B. Spray factory in Radford. The building has been squatted a number of times previously but only temporarily. This time though the squatters have been unchallenged in their occupation of the building which has been host to radical discussions and the Beyond Borders weekend.Related features: Squatters Retake Nottingham's JB Spray Factory
There were many other events of note throughout 2009. Far more than can be satisfactorily covered here and not all reported on Indymedia. The traditional annual events took place as normal with a successful Mayday, Carnival and Mela. For the first time in years, the Green Festival wasn't deluged by rain. One welcome change to the usual itinerary was that Pride was not simply confined to the Arboretum and incorporated a march from the Forest Recreation Ground, down Mansfield Road. This year, also saw the first Polish Festival at the Forest Recreation Ground, an event which will presumably become a regular fixture on the city's calendar.