Friday, 22 March 2013

Militant rally for Glasgow ATOS 2 held at Sheriff Court – drop the charges now!

A section of today's court protest. We refuse to be criminalised. 

Today, Friday 22 March, the armoured exterior of Glasgow Sheriff Court witnessed scenes not seen in a long time, as campaigners united in defence of two members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! arrested on a peaceful protest against ATOS exactly one month ago for the crime of speaking on a megaphone. 

Footage from the protest can be viewed here:

Upwards of forty activists and supporters braved the driving wind and snow to hold a militant rally on the steps of the court demanding Strathclyde police and the Crown Office end their campaign of harassment, surveillance and violence against progressive political activity on the streets of Glasgow. Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign mobilised for the protest, with ‘ATOS Kills’ and ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ placards held high, chants of ‘No harassment, no arrests – drop the charges now!’ ringing out and leaflets distributed to those entering the court. The protest was joined by regular supporters of the campaign – the 32 County Sovereignty Movement – and one member of the SWP and one of the ISG.

Officers from Strathclyde police’s specialised Support Unit – a particularly unpleasant bunch of public-order trained thugs – were humiliated in their attempts to intimidate the protest both inside and outside the court, and were provided with a lesson in law from the chief steward as they tried to ban demonstrators from taking photographs of the court building. 

A message was read out on behalf of the two arrested comrades and speeches made in front of lines of police on the steps of the court. Paul Mallon, a member of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, thanked supporters for attending and stated clearly that “in exercising their muscle, Strathclyde police are out to bully people. Well they have a problem, because they find themselves on the wrong side of history – that is protecting the wealthy against the weak and the vulnerable.” Another member of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! arrested in 2010 and 2011, stated: ‘For three years we have faced 18 court charges, court appearances and court protests and now we stand here today, three years on, not weakened but stronger. The only ones who are weak today are Strathclyde police.”

Supporters packed Sheriff Court number two in a show of strength to hear the restrictive bail conditions placed upon Dominic O’Hara and Daniel McGarrell banning them from attending demonstrations in the city centre lifted, and new trail dates set for 19 June. Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign gives their full solidarity and congratulations to the two comrades, and welcomes their continued presence in the campaign in the face of repression. 

Today’s protest, following on from yesterday’s city centre demonstration, was another important step in building the unity and militancy necessary to defend the right to protest against austerity and the war being waged on the working class. As we stated after Saturday’s violent attack on the Green Brigade, the GDC will continue to forge this unity with all the means at its disposal. As Dominic told supporters:

‘for almost three years I have been criminalised for organising with others against the cuts and racism. Today’s court picket was one of the first times that I saw a real unity of people opposing political policing and political charges. What a great sight! This unity will have to be maintained and grow in size covering all progressive groups and individuals in Glasgow. Then the police and courts will have to think twice before attacking the right to free speech and protest. We go into this trial with no illusions in the ‘justice and peace’ of this system or its courts. We are facing political charges for speaking out against the policies of the ruling class targeting sick and disabled people.’

Danny added: 

'It was great to see as many people turn out today at the Glasgow Sheriff Court in support of the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 and their right to protest and free speech, especially considering the awful weather. Since being arrested at the Glasgow Against ATOS picket on the last Friday in February, on charges that I will be contesting in court I have been visited at my family home and harassed on the phone by members of the Strathclyde police force (officer DC Barry Weir) making sinister comments in relation to my personal and political life then saying that he has done his homework and that it would be in both our interests if we meet up and speak. The offer to meet up was declined by myself and  instead I informed my legal representative of the strange and sinister phone conversation. 

These attempts to intimidate and criminalize will be met with resistance, as has been shown today outside and inside the Glasgow sheriff court, well done to everyone involved.

We will not be silent, We will not be beat!
Onward to victory!'

End the war on welfare!
Defend the right to protest!

PRO - Miriam Kelly, Glasgow Defence Campaign, 22 March 2013

Join the next picket of ATOS on Friday 29 March @ 12.30pm on Cadogan Street

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Successful Free Speech rally held - all out for Glasgow Sheriff Court tomorrow!

Glasgow Against ATOS, along with the Glasgow Defence Campaign, this afternoon held another successful rally in defence of free speech on the eve of the first court appearances of the Glasgow Against ATOS 2. The protest came amidst a week of police harassment, violence and surveillance in Glasgow, and another attack on the working class in yesterday’s budget. For over one and half hours, with a newly purchased megaphone, the rally – attended by around 40 people - heard of the importance of a united defence by all progressive forces in defence of our class and democratic rights. An individual with the bruises still apparent following Saturday's police attack on the Green Brigade was also present in a show of defiance and solidarity: this is the working class spirit of resistance of the new movement which is being built. The message was clear - Police Hands off Protest!

Strathclyde police deployed both uniformed and undercover officers – along with a ‘mobile police station’- in an open attempt to intimidate our supporters and passers-by. Their presence served to ignite fury among ordinary people of Glasgow previously unaware of the police attacks on demonstrators who rightly questioned why such a deployment of force was necessary. In the face of this indignation, the police presence retreated from the streets. When one reactionary local businessman - who is known to the GDC - whinged to the police over the use of the megaphone, the police this time chose to take a hands off approach. The balance of forces on Gordon Street today was for free speech and against criminalisation.

There was once again a notable absence of the self-styled left in Glasgow. ‘Coalition this’, ‘Unite that’ uniformly maintained their conscious boycott of events organised in defence of criminalised members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!. The International Socialist Group, who are behind the ‘Coalition of Resistance’, and the Socialist Workers Party, who have their own ‘Unite the Resistance’, have no excuses for this contemptible sectarianism which has no part to play in the new emerging movement. This boycott comes in the face of the fact that open invites have been sent out via social media detailing the protest. Indeed one Glasgow Against ATOS speaker spoke from the platform of the founding conference of ‘Unite the Resistance’ in Glasgow on 9 March, and called on people to support our comrades. Her point was reinforced from the floor by a speaker from the Glasgow Defence Campaign who stated that the most important victory of the anti-cuts movement will be its first one - the right to free speech and against criminalisation; this fight is the most critical facing the new movement. 

The absence of these political tendencies and the presence of growing supporters of Glasgow Against ATOS among the working class serves as a clear demarcation between the forces of the past and the forces of the future. Those who choose to philosophise from the side-lines, whatever titles they give themselves, will play no progressive role within the movement. We do not judge these organisations by their words but by their deeds.

We look forward now to tomorrow’s protest outside Glasgow Sheriff Court between 11am and 12pm. We once again call up on our supporters to stand up in defence of those being criminalised for speaking out for the defenceless. We are going to win!

Defend the right to protest!
Defend those arrested!
End criminalisation!

Friday 22 March, meet 11am
Court protest: Drop the charges against the Glasgow ATOS 2!
Sheriff Court, Calton Place. Protest at trial of two arrested members of FRFI.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

GDC condemns Strathclyde police violence against Green Brigade and Celtic fans – no to criminalisation!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign condemns outright the paramilitary-style operation launched by Strathclyde police today against the Green Brigade and other Celtic supporters marching against criminalisation and police harassment in the Gallowgate, Glasgow. The operation was under the overall control of Deputy Chief Constable Ruairidh Nicolson, a graduate of the Leadership in Counter Terrorism Programme with Ireland’s National Police Force.
Pic by @krys1888
Police kettle a smaller section of today's peaceful protest, this picture was taken before more officers arrived on the scene. 

As hundreds of police officers, dozens of vans, horses, dog branch, support units and a helicopter were mobilised, members of the public would be forgiven for thinking that the police were indeed mobilising against a terrorist threat. Instead, this is the response of Strathclyde police and Scotland’s political establishment to any threat of resistance, especially working class resistance, developing to the status quo.

Pic: Jas Cam
Police go on the attack as protesters attempt to retreat.
We witnessed several people being assaulted by the police.
Glasgow Defence Campaign supporters were present today to witness what was without doubt a peaceful march consciously attacked by the police. The episodes of police violence seen – the batoning of football fans across the head, young people handcuffed and stood upon by police, a father with a wheelchair-bound son being prevented from exiting the crush, demonstrators arrested and smashed up against police cars, riot vans driving dangerously into crowds, the imposition of section 60 orders and kettling – were not the result of police spiralling out of control. Orders had clearly been issued from police command for officers to be let off the leash.

It is worth noting the contrasting responses of the authorities to demonstrations by forces in-line with their own reactionary interests. While hundreds of police officers were mobilised against football fans this afternoon, earlier today they facilitated a sectarian Orange Order parade marching down the middle of Maryhill Road. In January, over a hundred officers were mobilised to actively facilitate a provocative demonstration by the racist Scottish Defence League in Pollokshields.

Except for their scale and violence, today’s events were not an exception but a continuation of a trend of abuse of state power to clamp down on legitimate and peaceful political activity. After three years of austerity and vicious class warfare, there is a conscious campaign to isolate and criminalise any progressive forces which may begin to organise effectively in opposition. It is less a jackhammer, more a surgical knife which is being wielded. As long as you remain passive or ineffective, your democratic rights will be safe. As soon as people starting listening, very quickly the ‘right’ to freedom of speech or assembly is replaced with police harassment and criminalisation.

On Thursday 7 March, the Glasgow Defence Campaign and Glasgow Against ATOS came together to protest and publicly condemn the arrest of two members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! on a recent anti-ATOS protest for the ‘crime’ of speaking on a megaphone. Earlier today, plainclothes CID visited the house of one FRFI member in an open attempt at intimidation (more to follow on this). As the GDC has documented extensively on this blog, members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and other left-wing activists – especially the Green Brigade and Celtic fans – who have raised their head above the parapet have been subject to such a campaign of harassment and arrest for the past three years. Today’s actions have moved this campaign into a new phase.

The GDC offers its full support and solidarity to the fans organising against criminalisation. The police must be held accountable, both individual officers and collectively: photos, video footage, police complaints, the naming and shaming of violent officers, public condemnation of the inspectors and DCC leading the assault. Send reports of police violence to to be publicised.

Based on our experience of the past three years, the best defence – the only defence – possible against such attacks is an open, public, political response to what is a political attack. Defence campaigns and support for those arrested is key – court protests, pickets of police stations, solidarity at all levels. Unity with all other progressive forces in Glasgow facing the same threat is crucial. Such a campaign can, and must, win. It is a battle for fundamental democratic rights which must be at the heart of all future struggles.

We invite the Green Brigade, Fans Against Criminalisation and others to join with the Glasgow Defence Campaign and Glasgow Against ATOS on the protests planned for Thursday 21 March and Friday 22 March, and send a clear, unified message to Strathclyde police and the political authorities that we will not be harassed, intimidated or beaten off the streets of Glasgow. As the forces of repression unite, so must we.

Defend the right to protest!
Defend those arrested!
End criminalisation!

Thursday 21 March, 12.30 – 2pm
End police attacks on protests! Drop the charges against the Glasgow ATOS 2!
Outside RBS on Gordon Street, Glasgow city centre
All welcome. Organised by GDC and Glasgow Against ATOS.

Friday 22 March, meet 11am
Court protest: Drop the charges against the Glasgow ATOS 2!
Sheriff Court, Calton Place. Protest at trial of two arrested members of FRFI.

Miriam Kelly. PRO Glasgow Defence Campaign, 18:00, 16 March 2013 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Free speech rally in Glasgow – Drop the charges against the Glasgow ATOS 2!

A section of the Glasgow protest, 7 March 2013

On 7 March, in a show of defiance in defence of the right to protest around 50 people attended a free speech rally organised by the Glasgow Against ATOS Campaign and supported by the Glasgow Defence Campaign. The numbers demonstrated that the attempts by Strathclyde Police to divide the campaign and isolate and criminalise supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! had miserably failed.

The rally was called in response to the violent arrests, at the same location, on 22 February of two supporters of Glasgow Against ATOS, for using a megaphone to address crowds on the issue of the state attacks on disabled peoples welfare rights. The two supporters were prevented from attending due to unlawful bail conditions which prohibits their attendance at any demonstration within Glasgow city centre; instead messages of solidarity were read out on their behalf. Family members joined with other supporters in declaring the need to increase the pressure to have the charges dropped and an end of police harassment.

A speaker for the Glasgow Defence Campaign emphasised the importance of the defence of the two comrades, stating the first battle which must be fought and won is the right to speak and be heard. Addressing the crowd, he stated the fight against the criminalisation of protest must be won if a movement against the cuts is to be built.

While many supporters of the Glasgow Against ATOS and the Glasgow Defence Campaign attended, sadly there was a notable absence from the organised left. Those who refuse to take up the fight in defence of democratic rights will play no progressive role in the struggle against the cuts. We encourage everyone to join us at the following protests.

Defend The Right To Protest!  Support the Glasgow Against Atos 2 on the eve of their court appearance! 
Thursday 21 March, 4.30-6pm
Outside The Royal Bank of Scotland
Gordon Street
Glasgow city centre

Court Protest - Support the Glasgow Against Atos 2! Drop the charges! 
Friday 22 March, 11am-12noon
Outside the front of Glasgow Sheriff Court
All supporters are invited to join Danny and Dominic in the court as well. They are down to appear at 12noon.

Next Glasgow Against ATOS Rolling Picket – Oppose the War on Welfare!
Friday 29 March, assemble 12.30pm
Atos Offices,
Cadogan St
City Centre
Stewart Street at it again, officers failed to intimidate people as they gathered before the rally, a van full of police were also in attendance throughout the two hour rally.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Strathclyde police attempt to divide anti-ATOS campaign: all out for tomorrow's protest!

The use of divide and rule by those in power is as old as class exploitation itself. Over the last 30 years, the British police and political establishment has worked to perfect its ability to destroy effective political opposition to an unequal society. One of the key tools used to undermine opposition movements is to promote so-called 'moderate' elements while at the same time trying to 'discover and neutralise the genuine subversive element.' Strathclyde police officers are clearly studying their textbooks. Unfortunately for them, so are we.

In the wake of the police operation against the peaceful Glasgow Against ATOS protest on 22 February, which resulted in the targeted arrest of two members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, Strathclyde police are attempting to sow divisions and disrupt the growing campaign against ATOS in Glasgow. Their aim is to isolate and criminalise those individuals and political organisations deemed to be a 'threat', while seeking to divert the campaign into harmless, ineffective channels. These attempts must be opposed and defeated.

Police move to arrest FRFI support on ATOS demo
Today, Wednesday 6 February, a peaceful occupation of the offices of ATOS took place in Glasgow city centre. The successful action resulted in no arrests or charges. Two Strathclyde police officers appeared on the scene after 20 minutes. They took it upon themselves to warn the activists off attending tomorrow's demonstration demanding the charges are dropped against the Glasgow ATOS 2. They pointed to 'confrontational elements' and rogue forces, which common-sense folk would be best avoiding association with. The officers suggested that outside forces were threatening to hijack the growing movement against ATOS in the city.

Luckily for us, as is often the case, the viciousness of the police is undermined by their incompetence.

Who were the threatening dark forces being warned against? Presumably supporters of FRFI Glasgow. And who were the common-sense folk they were trying to scare? Supporters of Citizens United Against Public Sector Cuts, the Black Triangle and others who have been working with FRFI for months to build the Glasgow Against ATOS campaign and have helped organise tomorrow's protest!

The occupiers of course gave short shrift to the police's attempts at manipulation and division. However, it is an example of how the police will attempt to disrupt any movement which is starting to be effective. Both Glasgow Against ATOS and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and others are united in their commitment to peaceful, legitimate protest. This is a fundamental democratic right which we will fight for. The only 'confrontational' element is Strathclyde police, which has saw fit to violently harass and arrest a peaceful protest.

We call on all those committed to fighting the cuts and defending democratic rights to take to the streets tomorrow and send a clear signal that we will not be divided, diverted and intimidated.

All out for Thursday 7 March! Drop the charges against the Glasgow Against ATOS 2!

Join the protest!

Drop the charges against the Glasgow ATOS 2! Arrested for speaking the truth!
Thursday 7 February, 12.30 - 2pm
Outside Royal Bank of Scotland, Gordon Street
All welcome