Posts Tagged ‘Repression

21
Apr
09

Supporting prisoners

In the spirit of mutual aid and solidarity, Autonomous Nottingham wish to take a role in supporting prisoners and the struggle against prison. We have started a new prisoner support page in order to keep our readers informed about people in prison and ways to support them. We have started with the case of Hicham Yezza, the writer and activist imprisoned as the result of a string of events that followed a senseless terror raid last summer. The state-created climate of fear and suspicion regarding arabs and muslims has undoubtedly played a large part in his current predicament.

Hicham Yezza

Hicham Yezza

Hicham Yezza was wrongfully arrested under anti-terror legislation at the University of Nottingham in May 2008. Quick and simple checks by the university authorities or police would have established his innocence and could have avoided this course of events.

Following its policy of trying to deport foreign terror suspects, the Home Office immediately detained Hicham (who is an Algerian national) following his release and attempted a ‘fast-track’ deportation. A massive campaign of support got Hich out on bail but the Home Office continued its persecution of the writer and peace activist.

In March of this year, Hicham was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for the immigration offence of ’securing avoidance of enforcement action via deceptive means’. He has always maintained his innocence and is preparing an appeal, but for now he remains behind bars. Please consider writing to Hicham at the address below. You can send books, magazines and CDs as long as you include the sender’s name and address on the envelope:

Hicham Yezza, XP9266, HMP Canterbury, 46 Longport, Canterbury, Kent United Kingdom, CT1 1PJ.

14
Apr
09

Mass arrests for thought crime

A mass police raid in the early hours of yesterday morning resulted in the arrests of 114 individuals in the grounds of a Sneinton school. Those arrested have been released on bail following questioning related to “suspicion of conspiracy to commit trespass and aggravated criminal damage”. The police are saying that those arrested were “planning a period of prolonged disruption to the safe running of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station”. The Nottingham Evening Post, in it’s usual measured and objective style, is saying that there was a “plot to attack a power station”.

Thought crime

Thought crime

Whilst this kind of raid is unprecedented in size, it is nothing new in the world of direct action. There is even a precedent in environmental direct action in the region, with police arresting eight people for “conspiracy to cause a public nuisance” in relation to anti-M1 widening protests in 2007. After a year on bail, the 8 had the charges against them thrown out of court.

As is now usual for those accused of environmental direct action, several raids were made on the homes of those arrested and the Sumac Centre was raided. When raids were being made in the aftermath of a blockade of E.On’s offices last year, they used keys from the accuseds’ personal possessions and attempts to observe the police’s actions were met with refusal and intimidation. The police often use these raids to confiscate important personal belongings such as computers until the investigation is over – a punishment for the arrested irrespective of whether they are ever actually convicted.

The use of conspiracy charges is also a tactic increasingly employed by the police. This blog has already covered the SHAC trial, where animal rights activists were convicted of “Conspiracy to blackmail”. Earlier this year, those accused of large scale damage at Brighton arms company EDO had their charges changed from the ridiculous allegation of burglary to “conspiracy to cause criminal damage”, and there are numerous other cases where anti-war direct actions have led to conspiracy charges being brought. For the police, conspiracy charges are an excellent way of arresting first and then finding the evidence to selectively charge. When they can’t find anything through raids on homes, questioning and intimidation they still gain from having gathered a load of information on protesters, taken their personal details, fingerprints and DNA, and intimidated and harassed those individuals. Whilst defendants have the many months until their trial to worry about proving their innocence, often under ridiculous bail conditions, it is harder for them to get involved in campaigning.

Of course, the police are using the media to try to get convictions already, making claims that they have found “specialist equipment” that would lead them to suspect that those arrested were planning direct action against Ratcliffe. Given the nature of “specialist equipment” that was seized outside last year’s Camp for Climate Action in Kingsnorth (board games, crayons, bike tools) it would not be surprising if this turned out to be very flimsy evidence indeed, but the phrase “specialist equipment” has now been planted in the public imagination. E.On, as we might expect, are also trying to demonise the arrested. A spokesperson said of the alleged ‘plot’ “While we understand that everyone has a right to protest peacefully and lawfully, this was clearly neither of those things.” Whilst it is not clear that anyone was actually planning any direct action from what ‘evidence’ has been released so far, this is a little presumptuous. Even if there was an intended action against Ratcliffe, the only comparable incident, the 2007 direct action against the station, was not lawful but was peaceful. Activists walked onto the site and chained themselves to equipment. Indeed, the climate change movement has been characterised by non-violent direct action – chiefly blockades, office occupations and protests. But don’t worry about the evidence – E.On want to inject the spectre of violence to the precedings.

This mass pre-emptive arrest is a very worrying precedent indeed. Whilst it is still too early to say much about what was and wasn’t going on, the fact of the matter is that the police were able to find out about it and are using it as carte blanche to raid and interrogate. Whether they get any successful convictions or not is almost irrelevant. It sounds like a lot of activists are going to be taken out of action for the duration (which looks likely to be long) and the seeds of suspicion and recrimination will be sown. It is absolutely essential that everyone involved in direct action takes security culture seriously so that incidents like this cannot happen. Everyone needs to know why security is important, i.e. so that you don’t incriminate yourself and all your mates, and be sensible regarding how information is distributed.

In the meantime, we will need to keep a look out for the fallout of these arrests and support anyone who is charged. The cops have certainly not beaten climate change movement but we do need to rethink how we organise and act.

02
Apr
09

Trying to make sense of the G20 protests

There have been ominous signs of it coming for some time but it seemed protesters were still unprepared for the level of police violence that was unleashed in London yesterday. The infamous kettling tactics of the British police have claimed their first life and there are numerous reports of head wounds, crushing and unprovoked attack. Today the convergence centre and Ramparts have been raided by riot cops and there are reports of further arrests. When we attack capital the defenders of capital will hit back, viciously.

On the positive side, thousands of anti-capitalists made it onto the streets to disrupt the smiling facade of capital’s leadership conference with graffiti, uncontrollability and a good old fashioned bank trashing. A branch of RBS was well and truly gutted. Protesters also managed to swoop onto Bishopsgate and set up a temporary climate camp, although, true to form, the boys in blue violently evicted it later in the day.

Anarchists from Nottingham were there and we hope that they are in one piece and make use of this space to tell their stories. We will need to make sure we show solidarity with those injured and arrested who may be facing serious charges. There may well be further arrests days and even months down the line. It is essential that support is given to those who have risked their lives and freedom to fight capital.

This statement from Glasgow anarchists says it all. The fight continues…

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/