Wednesday, 5 October 2011

STUC March 1 October: What Did We Learn?

Saturday's ‘People First’ march organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress once again saw the bullies of Strathclyde police harass, intimidate and detain protestors. This is nothing new. The real lessons and significance of the day’s events lay in the people’s response to this political policing. 

From the start our No Cuts, Full Stop! contingent, organised by supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) and the Glasgow Defence Campaign, called for the defence of democratic rights and was subject to surveillance. Our open megaphone event in Glasgow Green was used to publicise the upcoming trials and sentencing of our supporters, highlight the complicity of the Labour Party in implementing the cuts and show the need for anti-imperialist politics in any movement opposing austerity in Britain. Officers were assigned to stare at us.  After the arrival of a heavily policed student feeder march the main event began.

Stalked by officers – one, PC Prentice, who was involved in the framed conviction of an FRFI and GDC supporter in April – on either side and with lively youth from the Coalition of Resistance (COR) behind us we set off. With chants calling for an end to political policing and Glasgow’s Labour City Council we passed the City Chambers and George Square. Regrettably the COR failed to take up either of the chants and confined their rhetoric to purely anti ConDem government slogans. Despite an incursion by officers into the march at this point no skirmishes broke out and the march remained peaceful.

The further the march moved up St. Vincent street the tighter the police closed ranks on protestors. People were warned for speaking out against political policing and COR supporters were taken to the side of the march and told to keep their contingent under control. It became clear that officers were intent on provoking a response from protestors in order to arrest people and thus shut down any criticism of their repressive role after they manhandled a 14 year old girl for “not moving in”.

Aware of the underlying aim of the police our contingent resisted provocation but defended our right to free speech and carried on our chants against the cuts and political policing. The "antagonistic chant" – ‘Strathclyde Police Hands Off Protest!’ - was a thorn in the officers sides and so led by Inspector Alan Bowater  - Badge no. G 20 - of Aikenhead Road Police Station they decided to take the law into their own hands and detain one of our supporters outside Cranstonhill Police Station, 945, Argyle St. This was not the first time our comrade Dominic O’Hara has been targeted on anti-cuts protests and neither is it the first time we have crossed paths with Inspector Bowater. On Saturday 13 August 2011 Bowater and his cronies from Cathcart police station attempted to shut down an FRFI anti cuts stall in Govanhill. He demanded details of an organiser despite having no legal basis for doing so (see harassment log). Under threat of arrest a selected FRFI steward gave his details but made no further compromises ensuring that the stall went ahead.

In similar fashion Bowater questioned and demanded details off Dominic without naming an offence he had committed. Note he was overheard telling his officers not to arrest the FRFI steward who had successfully stood up to him on the 13 August in Govanhill  - he wanted easier prey. His revenge on the GDC was cut short however as the marchers decided it was their turn to close ranks on the cops! The bullies now felt what a kettle was like from the inside! They did not like it and were forced by the determination of the marchers to free the innocent comrade and back down in a humiliating retreat. People power 2 – Bowater and Strathclyde police - 0!

As we anticipated would happen officers once again led by Bowater trailed behind our contingent and attempted to encircle us in Kelvingrove Park at the end of the march. In fear of being picked off and arrested, as happened to Dominic on 29 January 2011 after leaving a protest with a small group, we raised the alarm and made the rest of the marchers aware of what was going on, including human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and STUC Assistant Secretary, Dave Moxham, (Moxham gave us no support and dangerously advised people to leave Kelvingrove park individually! Such characters do not face political policing at present and so cannot be relied upon for advice on how to confront it or even for support against it).

Once again in the spirit of solidarity individual supporters of COR and a few others helped to form a group of witnesses to leave the area with FRFI and GDC supporters who experienced no further problems. COR supporters were also questioned in the park at the end after the march but the GDC does not have the details of what was said. If anyone knows please send details to and we can publicise.

Although the victory was ours on Saturday we must not be complacent. Despite various humiliations and botched operations (Free Hetherington eviction 22 March, Strathclyde University arrests 2 June…) the cops appear to be getting bolder in clamping down on dissent. Therefore we must learn the political and practical lessons from Saturday for future protests. (1) Maximum unity, solidarity and communication is required between progressive people and groups in the event that police attempt to isolate and arrest someone/people before, during or after a protest or march (2) Do not be provoked into action justifying your arrest but firmly and calmly defend your right to free speech and demand the support of others in this fight (3) Take the badge numbers, names and stations of offending officers you wish to report to the GDC or lawyers. See GDC legal briefing for further details of dealing with cops.

As was stated at an FRFI meeting on 1st September 2009 titled ‘economic recession and police repression’;

The right to organise political protest is being rapidly eroded. Marches are banned as they were in Scotland during the Irish hunger strike in the 1980s. Left-wing newspaper sellers are harassed and arrested. Street meetings are attacked. Marches, especially those involving black youth, are attacked by the police. The courts are used to remand 'troublesome' people for months on end, to deny legal aid to those attacked by police, to pass punitive sentences against those daring to oppose police repression. As yet this repression is concentrated against the small forces of opposition. But as soon as these forces grow then so too will this openly political policing.’

Lets get organised for the battles ahead!

Court protests against political policing!
Trial of FRFI supporters Dominic O'Hara and Joey Simons
Friday 7 and Monday 31 October, from 9.30am
Outside Glasgow District Court,
St. Andrews Street, Glasgow (just off Saltmarket)

Sentencing of FRFI supporter Dominic O'Hara will take place on Thursday 13 October, 2pm, at the same court. This is for a framed up charge and conviction of police assault relating to the 9 December 2011student protest in Glasgow City Centre. Supporters will be gathered outside the court from 1.40pm.

1 comment:

  1. Weel done to everyone who stood together against political policing on Saturday 1 Oct. I was present with the No Cuts- Full Stop! contingent and was cheered by the- overwhelmingly but not exclusively- young women and men who stood up for their rights. As the above report states, this was the real significance of the moment there.

    Had this response not happened, the Glasgow Defence Campaign would have being doing just what we have been doing for the past year: drawing attention to the arrest, calling for witnesses and support and re- issuing the warnings about Strathclyde police and political policing.

    This time however, the slogans came off the history books and banners- the need for solidarity and collective defence presented itself and the people rose to the task. As the comrade said when released- “A victory for one is a victory for all!”

    Our wee but important victory is not spoiled by the drips we encountered on the march and who have since passed comments online.

    Firstly, as Fidel Castro said to the Communist parties of Latin America in the 1960's to challenge their compromise and respectability: “Anyone can call themselves an eagle- even if they don't have a feather on their back!” Shame on the banners of the Communist party of Scotland that floated boldly past the protests at the arrest. Hurrying on to dry themselves out at the burning red fire of radicalism that is Tony Benn? Tell that to the Namibian people who had to suffer from the uranium mining contract with Rio Tinto Zinc signed by him as a Labour minister in the 1970's.

    And to the other kind of drips that make this kind of lame contribution which sounds so radical but is an excuse for doing nothing actually:

    'Victory? Victory will only be won when the rich start getting serious about sharing some of their obscene wealth. 1% of the UK population own 20% of the total wealth. Fight the greedy, not the police.'

    Just how are we to get to the point of taking on the ruling class- defended by the cops- if we don't train ourselves up in organisation and build unity and solidarity to challenge their much greater resources, chief of which is their capacity for violence. Can you reach and point this out on the plan from your armchair? Think! Lighten up and get involved. It'll do you good!

    Michael MacGregor