UK Newswire Archive
Friday's Critical Mass in Manchester was short but sweet. Around fifty cyclists set of from the library at 6:30 with bells and smiles. They then cycled round the city for an hour and but soon ended up joining the street party in Hulme.
30-04-2011 08:25US President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday April 29 imposing sanctions on members of the Assad family for brutality against civilian protesters after learning that pro-Iranian officers and intelligence chiefs within the ruling family and top military command were conspiring to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
The sanctions order also named the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) for aiding the Syrian crackdown.
30-04-2011 08:06As the brave Syrian people are mown down in their hundreds by Assad's pan-Arab fascist regime, aided by Hezb'allah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (Al Quds division), here are all my latest cartoons in their support.
30-04-2011 06:51Gustav Landauer and Early German Anarchism
Booktalk by Gabriel Kuhn
7pm 4th May 2011
The Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton
Brighton’s collectively run libertarian social centre
'Facebook advertised unofficial party in the park - Royal Wedding day to celebrate the wedding or nor this being Glasgow. Lots of people, sunny day, lots of alcohol. Organisers freak out when 5000 turn up. Sound system switched off late afternoon, lots of cops. Something happens, cops go in. Police helicopter circles above. Cops get bottled.
A “Global Day of Action for the Liberation of the Zapatista Political Prisoner” is calling for freedom for Zapatista villager Patricio Domíngez Vázquez. Patricio has been imprisoned on false charges by the authorities in Chiapas, Mexico.
The Royal Wedding provided an opportunity for police triumphalism as squats were raided and people were arrested, only to be 'de-arrested' once the press had been informed that the Met had the situation 'under control'. But other than the Government of the Dead's carnivalesque street theatre, no major demonstrations were due to take place. In the run up to 2012, how do we pre-empt the pre-emptive strikes?
Two years ago this month, two squats in London were raided by the police Territorial Support Group following protests against the meeting of the G20 group of nations during which one man was killed and hundreds of other were kettled, arrested and generally harrassed by officers acting under powers granted them by the Terrorism Act, among others. It has now been confirmed that at least one group were illegally detained and are entitled to sue the police for compensation. In that case, the raids were justified on the basis of a search for people who had been involved in 'criminal damage' during the previous day's activities.
The recent raids on Ratstar and Offmarket social centres (as well as squats and social centres in other cities) on the day prior to the Royal Wedding and the farcical arrest of a couple of pensioners off to celebrate the event with a bit of subversive street theatre were billed as 'pre-emptive'. Chris and Camilla were arrested for apparently 'conspiring to cause a public nuisance'. What is likely to emerge in the coming days and months is that the raids were unjustified, the evidence non existent and the treatment of activists disproportionate to any supposed 'crime' thus giving a considerable number of people the opportunity to supplement their income by sueing the Met for wrongful arrest. In other words, the police mount a massively successful PR operation, the right wing press can report 'the absence of any major protest by anarchists was put down to the Yard's intelligence and 'pre-emptive' strikes on potential troublemakers' (Daily Express) and 'close attention to the movements of anarchist groups' (Daily Mail) and the unwilling participants are quietly paid off.
Of course, the truth is that the absence of any major protest by anarchists was simply that. Aside from the Republican Tea Party in Red Lion Square which was well publicised in advance, a Facebook page set up by a group calling themselves (inexplicably) 'Reclaim the Royal Wedding'' (really? Do we want to?) and the Government of the Dead's thwarted mock execution, there was less interest in the event than in planning for Mayday; a day of solidarity with workers' movements around the world and a day when we remember the Haymarket martyrs and other victims of police violence.
As yesterday woefully demonstrated, there are more people happy to come out on to the streets to 'celebrate' a royal wedding than to protest against their own oppression by a system that privileges inherited wealth and protects it by violence. But, if this wasn't the case, then capitalism would already have fallen and the whole country would be celebrating Mayday instead of holding street parties to show their enthusiasm for the continuation of a social hierarchy maintained by the hegemony of familial allegiance.
Attacking the Royals is a bit like attacking Legoland. Both provide opportunities for spectacular consumption while reinforcing conservative values associated with the preservation of the family. Plus, the royals have the added value of providing a focus for the kind of sentimentality whipped up by the cult of celebrity and sustained by the myth of romance. For the working people of the UK, cowed by debt, unemployment and insecurity, protests against tax avoiders and education cuts make a certain amount of sense. Threats of violence against the spectacle that they themselves work so hard to maintain with the constant performance of ritualised consumption are likely to provoke only outrage. For many people the preservation of public services and the right to free education are directly related to the desire to buy their way to the kinds of lifestyles that the Royals represent. The scapegoating of 'anarchists' and 'terrorists' provides legitimate targets for anger and promotes enthusiasm for police tactics which are, fundamentally, illegal.
In the run up to next year's Olympathon and Royal Diamond Jubilee, we are likely to, yet again, be convenient scapegoats for the police PR machine, whatever we are or are not planning to do. We need a concerted and intelligent strategy to not only outwit them but to formulate tactics for effective civil disobedience.
Thousands of royal wedding spectators unfairly thwarted from getting view of balcony kiss
The BBC1 Six O'Clock News today commented that in a novel take on "kettling" (sic), shortly before the royal couple and family appeared on the balcony (at 1.25pm), royal wedding procession spectators around Trafalgar Square were allowed to proceed down The Mall while spectators on The Mall itself remained confined behind police barriers and couldn't move forward.
I was among the spectators on The Mall, on the north side, east of Clarence House, and was among the crowd waiting close to the police barrier by the Clarence House gates (i.e. as close as I could get to the Palace after the procession had ended). Then, after the cleansing vans had been round to sweep up horse manure, other spectators were seen streaming down the centre of The Mall while at the same time, we remained confined for several minutes before limited exit points were made in the police barrier.
I was able to get to the Victoria Memorial and just far enough round it to observe the whole balcony appearance. But I only did so by the skin of my teeth, by being tall enough firstly to see over heads to spot when to move in different directions from the crowd around me at key moments, and secondly to see over the heads of other people despite ending up on a step lower than the crowd just in front of me by the Victoria Memorial. En route, I saw a crowds of spectators who remained penned in on the sides of the Mall sections closest to the Palace who would not have got a view of the balcony appearance.
This meant that thousands who had arrived early and/or planned ahead specially so that they could get a view of the balcony appearance and royal kiss, were denied the opportunity in favour of spectators who'd been positioned much further away along the route. It would have meant that those who had been waiting closest to the palace would have missed out on views of Will and Harry's lap to the Abbey (from Clarence House) completely in vain.
The police will probably spout out something about the need to prevent crushes. However, in all the thick of crowd movement, which became quite frantic as the last viewing ground for the balcony disappeared, I never experienced or saw any kind of crush.
An extensive paper on the case of the Nottingham Two has been published by University of Nottingham academic, Rod Thornton. Pieced together from heavily redacted Freedom of Information requests, Rizwaan Sabir’s Data Protection Access requests and even meetings with Special Branch officers, it paints a damning picture of the University’s management. Entitled Radicalisation at universities or radicalisation by universities? it describes ‘How a student’s use of a library book became a “major Islamist plot”’.
Previous features: Anger Over "Terror Arrests" at Nottingham University | Nottingham Uni Detainee Innocent But Still Facing Deportation | Hundreds Join Demo for Academic Freedom and Against Deportation | Campaign Victories As Hich And Amdani Are Released On Bail
Summary by Jeremy Bates
Rod Thornton, a University of Nottingham lecturer who became embroiled in the struggle for justice for Rizwaan Sabir and Hicham Yezza, has published his extensive account of the case of the Nottingham Two. Pieced together from heavily redacted Freedom of Information requests, Rizwaan's Data Protection Access requests and even meetings with Special Branch officers, it paints a damning picture of the University of Nottingham's management. For those who don't have the time to read the entire paper, this is an attempt to summarise what I thought were some of the most interesting sections.
Thornton is a lecturer in the School of Politics with interests in terrorism and counter-insurgency. He could be described as being the University's expert on terrorism, although his judgement was never sought by the management in assessing the legitimacy of the documents in Yezza's possession that led to the terror arrests. It is a pity because this expert knowledge could have saved a lot of suffering for the two innocent men who were wrongfully arrested and could have avoided the management embarking on an apparent crusade to see them convicted. Thornton was Postgraduate Tutor in the department and so had responsibility for the well-being of students like Rizwaan, something he seems to have done admirably whilst senior managers colluded to get rid of him.
For readers who aren't familiar with the case, I should briefly explain the series of events that led to two innocent men being arrested and questioned by police for 6 days (not to mention triggering harassment of them by police and security agencies that continues to this day). Documents were discovered by a colleague on Yezza's computer that alarmed that colleague. They included two journal articles and a document known as the Al Qaeda Training Manual (more on that later). The University authorities were alerted and it seems that the Registrar himself made the decision to involve the police. Yezza's office was sealed off whilst police made extensive searches. Sabir and Yezza were both arrested after trying to find out what was going on at Yezza's office. It emerged that Sabir, whilst researching material for his PhD on radical Islam, had emailed Yezza the documents to print on his work computer. Neither were charged in relation to the incident.
The crux of Thornton's argument is that, rather than make a thorough risk assessment to determine whether to call in anti-terrorist police, the University's Registrar and Security pre-judged Yezza and Sabir. Because they were young Muslim men, they were automatically assumed to be involved in terrorism and the possibility of their innocence was never entertained. It is not hard to find racist assumptions in the released emails and documents that Thornton has uncovered. (Take for example the assumption of Gary Stevens, Head of Security, that using the word 'brother' in an email was 'Jihadist-speak'!) The men were presumed guilty by the university, something revealed in the fact that management had drawn up a suspension notice for Sabir, signed by the Vice-Chancellor, on the day after the arrests.
There is a very interesting discussion of the Al Qaeda Training Manual contained in Thornton's paper that makes it perfectly clear that, had any expert on the document been consulted by the University authorities, a lot of misunderstanding could have been avoided. To start with it has nothing to do with Al Qaeda and is most likely the work of a radical offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Much of it seems to date from the 1950s with some additions in the 1980s. Interestingly, it's real name is Military Studies in the Jihad against the Tyrants (referring to the Presidents of Egypt) and was renamed by the US Department of Justice in order to 'sex it up' and increase the likelihood that its possession would lead to convictions! Thornton describes it as an 'insurgent/guerilla/freedom-fighter manual' with contents that 'are not actually aimed at activists who want to spread fear or "terror" – i.e. "terrorists".' Indeed, the version which Yezza was in possession of was not the full version, although Thornton helpfully points out that the full version is freely available from the University's library! It is clear from Thornton's investigations that no one from the University' senior management ever bothered to read the document in question, although they did not let that stop them from making false statements about it and judgements about those in possession of it.
After Sabir and Yezza were released, the University had to go on the defensive and protect its image which had, understandably, been damaged by its rash and destructive actions. Via a number of public statements, the senior management sought to assert its own version of events. As Thornton reveals, much of this was outright lying. The events were reconstructed to portray the University as a supportive and responsible institution and dispel the reality that senior managers had attempted to wash their hands of Sabir and Yezza as soon as possible. Indeed, the decision of the Registrar was now reimagined as a 'collective decision':
'The University had to make a risk assessment - no panic, no hysteria, just a straightforward risk assessment...Our concerns were conveyed to the police as the appropriate body to investigate (no judgement was made by us)' - Campbell, Freedom Still Reigns
Of course there had been no risk assessment, no collective decision and plenty of rash judgements.
The senior management closed ranks to protect one of their own. Once very public lies have been told they have to keep being told to maintain the fictions that they give rise to. Thornton goes into considerable depth exposing the lies that were disseminated to students and staff via the University's portal. In the meantime, staff who were critical of the management's handling of the affair were persecuted and subjected to disciplinary action, whilst those who actively colluded with management, such as Drs Macdonald Daly and Sean Matthews, were rewarded with access to what should have been confidential personal information about Sabir.
The lengths that the University went to to kick Sabir out once he had completed his Masters were extreme. Once he had got the message and realised that his interests would be best served studying elsewhere, disgusting emails were sent by his Head of Department, expressing delight at the 'good news'.
One of the most interesting revelations for myself, as a former student activist at the University, was that the university had drawn up a list of 'Events on Campus' during 2008 that, according to Thornton, included 'protests, film showings, seminars, stalls, "cultural days", meetings or presentations that related to "Muslim issues": Gaza, Palestine, talks by ex-Guantanamo prisoners, etc.' This looks like racial/religious profiling and is further evidence that the University's security were operating with islamophobic prejudice, something not helped by the fact that all of the security department are white. Thornton describes the situation at the University as one where 'any activity that is seen as pro-Muslim automatically comes to be seen by management as anti-Semitic.' A Security Report, prepared by the University, linked a silent march held in protest against attacks on academic freedom with claims that anti-Semitism was on the increase at the University.
Perhaps the most worrying sequence of events described in this paper, however, is that which led to the Home Office describing the events in Nottingham as a 'major Islamist Plot'. Vice-Chancellor of the University at the time, Colin Campbell, wrote to Universities Minister, Bill Rammell, erroneously referring to the document in Yezza's possession as an Al Qaeda Training Manual as opposed to the Al Qaeda Training Manual. Given that one is the 'sexed up' title of a relatively outdated document, unrelated to terrorism, and the other would be something useful to training an Al Qaeda recruit, this error is quite inexcusable. Campbell also lied by saying that the manual 'WAS NOT the version you can purchase from Amazon' (it was). This led to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) repeating these errors/lies and others including the 'fact' that Sabir was arrested for trying to interfere with the police removal of Yezza's computer (pure fiction). Soon, the story was not one of a terrible mistake which led to two innocent people being wrongfully arrested, but what the Home Office described as a 'major Islamist plot'. Like many other events that have been described as such, it was nothing of the sort.
Thanks to Rod Thornton's sense of justice and refusal to give in, the Kafkaesque twists of the Nottingham Two's story are now in the public domain. The full paper is well worth reading for those interested in corruption and racism in public bodies. It serves as a perfect illustration of the damage that the 'war on terror' has unleashed in our society.
29-04-2011 20:55Republic Street Party.
Red Lion Square
29 April 2011
29-04-2011 19:21Apparently in Glasgow a non political, unofficial street party of the kind encouraged by Cameron himself, has been attacked by police.
29-04-2011 18:27Last night saw a second night of rioting in Bristol. Protesters claim the police charged into a peaceful protest. The tension is far from over: Today Stokes Croft felt like it was in a different country with the chopper overhead and lines of full riot-equipped police in a stand-off with squatters and a gathering crowd of people at the blocked sections of Stokes Croft, Nine Tree Hill and Ashley Road. So while this area of Bristol feels like an occupied zone, the rest of the UK turns it gaze to the Royal Wedding.
Last night saw a second night of rioting in Bristol. The police claim that they were attacked, yet protesters claim the police charged into a peaceful protest. The tension is far from over: Today Stokes Croft felt like it was in a different country with the chopper overhead and lines of full riot-equipped police in a stand-off with squatters and a gathering crowd of people at the blocked sections of Stokes Croft, Nine Tree Hill and Ashley Road. So while this area of Bristol feels like an occupied zone, the rest of the UK turns it gaze to the Royal Wedding. UPDATE: OFFICIAL ARRESTS FROM THE LAST 24HRS NOW NUMBER 30
Local writes: "They're evicting telepathic heights. The street is closed to traffic, the chopper is out and there are about 10 riot vans and a paddy wagon on the street with only the Stokes Croft Jakeys and occasional passer by watching. Three lads have barricaded themselves onto the roof and there's a bit of a standoff.. They're evicting telepathic heights. The street is closed to traffic, the chopper is out and there are about 10 riot vans and a paddy wagon on the street with only the Stokes Croft Jakeys and occasional passer by watching. Three lads have barricaded themselves onto the roof and there's a bit of a standoff.."
Stokes Croft warms up again! thurs pm/fri am | Guardian on Stokes Croft | Photos of Police Eviction of Telepathic Heights | See our Twitter Feed (for pick of tweets from last night... Links from last night: Riots Revisited (tumblr.com) | Ian Bone on last night's riots (wordpress.com) | Video of Police on Cheltenham Road (youtube.com) | Image: Sit in on Stokes Croft | From twitpic.com: Image: Police line from last night |
29-04-2011 17:40Welcome to this Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.imemc.org, for April 23rdto 29th 2011