Archive for March, 2009

23
Mar
09

Nottingham anarchists protest immigration prison

No Borders, No Nations

No Borders, No Nations

On Saturday, a number of No Borders activists from Nottingham joined about 150 others in marching from Bedford town centre to Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Yarl’s Wood is part of the UK Border Agency’s immigration detention gulag where migrants are held in prison-like conditions, often for years, without ever having been charged with a crime. Yarl’s Wood is particularly controversial because it specialises in the incarceration of families of migrants and women. The demonstration called for an end to indefinite immigration detention, an end to ‘fast-track’ deportations of migrants, an end to medical abuse and detention of victims of rape and torture, an end to the use of violence within the immigration system and a stop to the expansion of Yarl’s Wood and the ‘detention estate’.

Perhaps because we had the biggest banner, the Nottingham contingent found ourselves at the front of the march (often asking locals which way we had to go!) It was a long walk (over 5 miles) to the detention centre and we regretted bringing the big banner at times! Perhaps unsurprisingly, we encountered some hostility in the village of Clapham, the nearest habitation to the detention centre. It is likely that many of the workers at the detention centre live in the area. However, we made a strong and defiant stand against the degrading and dehumanising immigration system that reigns in this country. Outside the gates of Yarl’s Wood we heard moving testimonies from former inmates and, via speaker phone, from people inside. We must continue to show solidarity with those who are criminalised for having crossed borders and continue to take action against the Home Office and companies like Serco, who run Yarl’s Wood.

15
Mar
09

Setting a bad example

In recent months a number of very long sentences have been handed down to people active in the animal rights movement in the UK. The SHAC 7, named after the campaign Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign with which they were involved, were sentenced to between 4 and 11 years in prison after being found guilty of ‘Conspiracy to blackmail’ animal experimenters Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). No evidence was presented to demonstrate that any of the campaigners were involved in illegal direct action against the company. They were prosecuted because SHAC was deemed to have influenced ‘persons unknown’ to carry out direct action against companies linked to HLS. In addition to prison, four of those convicted received indefinite Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) effectively making it a criminal offence for them to ever protest against animal experimenters again. These convictions followed on from the May 2008 sentencing of Sean Kirtley from the Stop Sequani Animal Torture campaign to 4 ½ years in prison for updating the campaign’s website. Kirtley was found to be guilty of ‘Conspiracy to interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research facility’.

Whatever we might think about the controversial tactics employed by some in the animal rights movement, it is clear that the state is making political prisoners of people who have dared to campaign (very successful) against big businesses. By attacking animal testing these campaigners have attacked the entire pharmaceutical industry, one of the most profitable industries in modern Britain. The state, acting on that industry’s behalf, is making sure an example is made of any ‘ringleaders’ it can find in the movement, in a concerted attempt to squash it. By attacking those coordinating legal, above-ground campaigns the state’s aim seems to be to force animal rights protest out of the public arena and cut off public support for it.

This attempt to criminalise an entire protest movement is something that has parallels in other countries as well. In the US the ‘Green scare’, a concerted attempt by the authorities to class direct action against environmentally destructive housing developments and logging as ‘terrorist’, is clocking up more and more massive convictions. Just this month, Marie Mason was sentenced to 21 years in prison for causing $1m damage to a genetic engineering research lab in an action that didn’t hurt anyone. A spokesperson for the US Government said that “this prosecution sends a clear message.”

Isn’t that exactly what these politically motivated crackdowns and repression are all about? By labelling those involved in or supporting direct action that hurts the corporations ‘terrorists’, ‘blackmailers’ and ‘conspirators’ the average person is encouraged to fear and detest them. The aim is to make successful direct action and anyone associated with it illegal and repugnant. The news coverage of the SHAC trial turned into an Orwellian two minute hate against those involved. Attention was focussed on the lurid details of intimidatory direct actions against employees of companies associated with HLS without mentioning that none of those convicted had been linked to these actions. The less salacious facts weren’t allowed to get in the way of populist demonisation and scaremongering.

The media role in this process is important. In November last year, a fear mongering feature about ‘green extremism’ appeared in The Observer, co-authored by Nick Denning, a military intelligence officer. The piece claimed that a “lone maverick” influenced by the ideas of eco-direct action group Earth First! could be about to embark on a terrorist killing spree in order to reduce the world’s population. The article name-checked the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU), a branch of the police whose remit seems to be the repression of politically-motivated direct action campaigns. Evidently worried that their cash would start drying up now that key figures in the animal liberation movement were being sent down for long sentences, the article was seen by many as a bid by NETCU for a new role as instigators of a future UK ‘green scare’.

NETCU are facing stiff competition to be the nation’s number one political policing unit. Special Branch already see terrorism as their baby and the Forward Intelligence Teams have a reputation for being on the frontline of the repression of activists. As if that wasn’t enough, a new Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) is being set up to “manage the covert intelligence function for domestic extremism” and “Develop the business of the confidential intelligence unit to support NCDE [National Covert Domestic Extremist] units and the wider DE [Domestic Extremism] policing objectives.” A number of struggles have been mentioned in the remit for this new unit including anti-aviation campaigns, Palestinian solidarity, wildcat strikers and animal rights. Serious money and resources is being ploughed into the surveillance, isolation and rendering ineffective of those who dare to disrupt the status quo.

We must never forget that the state is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to curtail any threat to its authority or to the profits of big business. As anarchists we should ensure that we challenge and resist this repression and support those on the receiving end of it. Those involved in direct action should always take sensible precautions to avoid detection and capture. We should be aware of the risks and how to minimise them without falling into the trap of being too paranoid to do anything. The aim of repression is to make us give up out of fear. For practical advice on security check out this comprehensive guide: www.activistsecurity.org/booklet-2.6.doc

Prisoner support:

http://www.shac.net/features/prisoners.html

http://www.ecoprisoners.org/

15
Mar
09

Workers! Strike! Now!

by Lazy Worker

Wildcat strikes are the kind of thing workerists have wet dreams about, so it seems strange that when, after several decades of hibernation, the sleeping lion should finally arise in the former of the oil refinery strikes in early 2009, that the British radical scene wasn’t more excited.

Many activists seem to have decided that because a handful of BNP members might have said something vaguely supportive of the strikes (not that the party could mobilise a serious or effective response) then it was necessary for those of us in the Army of Light to condemn them.

Now it is certainly true that there were reactionary elements involved in the walkouts, how could it be otherwise given the low level of political consciousness in this country? But to say that this means we can’t support the strike seems strange. Anybody claiming in 1984 that the miners should be opposed because a lot of them were misogynistic, homophobic and/or racist would have been dismissed out of hand as an apologist for Thatcherism – quite rightly. The same remains true today.

In fact the Miners’ Strike is an instructive example insofar as the interactions between strikers and other groups who decided to throw their lot in with them did much to open the formers eyes to an array of perspectives they might otherwise have dismissed out of hand. Miners’ magazines which had once carried pictures of scantily clad females found this position untenable given the integral role played by Women Against Pit Closures and other women’s groups. Gay groups who supported the strike, initially shunned by miners would later find themselves maneuvered to prominent positions on marches. Sikhs who raised money for strikers helped to address the prejudices of those they supported.

This is not to suggest that the recent wildcats are comparable to the Miners’ Strike (probably the last major battle in the class war in the UK and a defeat from which the working class has yet to recover), but rather an argument for engagement rather than dismissal. The strikes are a spontaneous response to poor working conditions and a perceived grievance. They have not been mediated by the trade union bureaucracy and show that the anti-trade union legislation is not all powerful. While the cause may not be the one we would have chosen the the slogans may not all be to our taste, this could be a first skirmish in a resurgent class struggle. I for one am not prepared to abandon that to the BNP. I hope I’m not alone.

15
Mar
09

Welcome to Autonomous Nottingham

Autonomous Nottingham is a space for anarchists in the Nottingham area to publish their thoughts, feelings and reflections on what is going on around them. We hope that it will be a useful resource for anarchists in the area and something that will facilitate the promotion and discussion of anarchist ideas. Anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists are welcome to get involved. Please email autonomousnott[at]riseup[dot]net to get in touch.