Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The fight against police repression across the world

Some fraternal supporters of the Glasgow Defence Campaign are currently participating in the World Festival of Youth and Students in Quito, Ecuador, as part of a delegation from the Revolutionary Communist Group. They have been forging links with other progressive groups internationally who are taking up the fight against police repression - interviews with members of US groups Fight Imperialism Stand Together and the Justice for Jesus Huerta campaign can be see here, detailing the horrific levels of racist police violence and murder faced by communities in the United States. We post here a video of a GDC supporter being interviewed at the festival.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Crown case collapses but fight not over: defending the right to act against ATOS

The Glasgow Defence Campaign welcomes yesterday’s victory for two activists arrested in February on an anti-ATOS protest in Glasgow for using a megaphone, as the Crown case all but collapsed. Supporters gathered on the steps of the Sheriff Court to demand ‘No harassment, no arrest! Defend the right to protest!’ and an end to the brutal attacks on the rights of sick and disabled people through companies like ATOS.

The Procurator Fiscal conceded that the original arrests of Dominic O’Hara and Daniel McGarrell – both supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! – were unlawful and charges of resisting arrest, police obstruction and attempts to liberate a prisoner from custody were all dropped before the trial. However, in a quite incredible decision, the Crown Office has decided to continue pursuing Dominic through the courts for use of a megaphone under Section 54 of the Civic Government of Scotland Act (1982), setting the next trial date for 6 January 2014.

Dominic told the GDC: ‘The key question here is freedom of speech for everyone who is trying to organise against the cuts and welfare reform. It’s a fight we can’t lose.’ Daniel added: ‘That the Crown didn’t abandon the case today shows that this is clearly political. The dropping of the charges against myself shows the importance of fighting political charges with a political defence. Imagine if I’d plead guilty? I’d like to thank the GDC and those supporters who have stood with us throughout the last seven months.’

To be clear: on 22 February 2013, dozens of Strathclyde police officers on foot, bikes, cars and vans were mobilised to intentionally disrupt a peaceful protest against ATOS in Glasgow city centre. Police proceeded to violently arrest two activists for using a megaphone under Section 54 of the Civic Government of Scotland Act, which the officers must have known carries no power of arrest. The activists were therefore unlawfully arrested and incarcerated in the cells of Stewart Street police office for several hours before being charged with resisting arrest and police obstruction. Three weeks later, Daniel McGarrell was contacted by what was subsequently confirmed by solicitors to be an undercover police officer who issued him with threats and attempted to recruit him as an informer. The Crown Office has admitted that the original arrests were indeed unlawful but will now spend at least one year in the courts attempting to pursue an activist for exercising free speech in the course of a peaceful protest.

The Coalition government, with the support of the Labour opposition, is undertaking an unprecedented attack on the living standards of a whole generation, dismantling the welfare state and criminalising the poor, the young and the unemployed on a massive scale. The most vicious aspect of this historic process has been the degrading and deadly attacks on the rights and dignity of sick and disabled people, thousands of whom have died after going through the notorious Work Capability Assessments run by ATOS. The case of the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 shows that all those who seek to organise effective opposition to these policies, whether legal, peaceful or otherwise, will need to actively fight for their right to do so. The battle to defend freedom of speech is one and the same as the fight against ATOS, unemployment and inequality.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign asks that all progressive individuals and organisations join with us in demanding that the remaining charge against the Glasgow Against ATOS 2 be dropped immediately, and that freedom of speech is respected. We will be pursuing compensation from Police Scotland and demanding answers directly from Chief Constable Stephen House and the office of the Procurator Fiscal. Send messages of support to glasgowdefence@gmail.com and stand with us on the streets. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Miriam Kelly, GDC PRO, 2 October 2013

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Glasgow Against ATOS 2 on trial

The ‘Glasgow Against Atos 2’ will stand trial in Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 1 October on charges of using a megaphone illegally and then attempting to prevent and resist police arrest. Both Dominic O’Hara and Danny McGarrell were arrested on 22 February 2013 during a ‘Glasgow Against Atos’ campaign protest on Gordon Street in the city centre. Crowds gathered to watch and condemn the police violence, which was used to disrupt the peaceful and democratic spirit of the protest, as the two were handcuffed and led away. The shocking scenes in the heart of the city centre were a measure of the confidence of the Glasgow police to blatantly attack the right of free speech. Throughout the protest they had stalked, harassed and attempted to provoke demonstrators using the megaphone to oppose the welfare warfare being waged on the sick and disabled.

GDC spokesperson Miriam Kelly stated after the arrests: ‘today we saw another example of Strathclyde Police (now Police Scotland) taking the law into their own hands. While Atos and their employers the Department for Work and Pensions are free to destroy the lives of the people most in need of care and support, it is the people who bravely stand against this who are beaten down and criminalised. We say if the police are truly interested in fighting crime they have arrested the wrong people. It is Atos and the politicians who constructed the work capability assessment that should be standing trial.’

The Glasgow Defence Campaign has been active opposing political policing and supporting its victims for over three years. Throughout this time it has been supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI), one of the founding members of the campaign, who have faced a consistent pattern of police harassment, arrests and charges. That both Dominic and Danny were members of this organisation at the time of their arrest cannot be over looked. Evidence from our police harassment log, which includes undercover police officers unsuccessfully attempting to recruit Danny as a police informant, shows that the police will stop at no lengths to prevent and destroy opposition to the cuts. We must all stand together for the sake of everyone’s rights!

Join us on the picket to say ‘no harassment, no arrests, defend the right to protest!’.
Picket For Free Speech! Drop the charges now!
Tuesday 1 October, 9.15am
Glasgow Sheriff Court
1 Carlton Place

See original report from arrest

Report from previous court protest

We recommend Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis new book Undercover: The true Story of Britain’s Police. Copies of the book are available from the GDC priced £13 with free postage and can be obtained by donation via our paypal button. Otherwise call 07734348065 or email glasgowdefence@gmail.com

See report of the launch of the book in Glasgow

Friday, 23 August 2013

Don’t panic! Organise!

19 August 2013

Glasgow Defence Campaign host successful book launch of Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police

A well attended meeting in the centre of Glasgow saw Rob Evans - Guardian journalist and co-author of the new book Undercover: The true Story of Britain’s Police speak alongside criminal defence advocate Claire Mitchell and representatives from the Glasgow Defence Campaign and the N14 Defence Campaign in Newcastle. 

Rob Evans spoke in detail of the activities of secret police units such as the original Special Demonstration Squad formed in 1968 up to today's National Domestic Extremism Unit; how they have monitored and infiltrated ‘subversives’ using fake identification, to the extent of stealing the names and identities of dead children; and just how deep these undercover operations have gone. 

Claire Mitchell outlined the rights we have through the European Convention on Human Rights and the domestic Human Rights Act, suggesting that these rights are facing an increased political challenge which must be resisted. Claire stated that everyone has a duty to familiarise themselves with these rights and to exercise them is the best means of protecting them.

Niall O’Donnell, a member of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! based in Newcastle, stated that all those who engage in effective political campaigning in this country in opposition to the state will quickly become subject to criminalisation. Speaking on behalf of the N14 justice campaign, Niall outlined how he and 13 others were targeted and arrested for their role in opposing neo fascism with the complicity of members of the local Labour party and charged with ‘conspiracy to cause public disorder’. Through the successful campaigning work of the N14 all those arrested have been informed that no charges will be brought against them. But as Niall said: ‘we want answers. Someone has deliberately stirred things up. This is unacceptable behaviour and we will continue to fight against it.'

Joey Simons spoke on behalf of the Glasgow Defence Campaign detailing how the campaign was started and the varying levels of state harassment faced by the campaign, stating:

‘For the past three years, we have successfully organised – through free speech rallies, dozens of court pickets and demonstrations, through recording, monitoring and logging police harassment, through organising public meetings, literature and bust cards, through defying police attempts to ban our literature and our presence on the streets. Over half a million people have seen Dominic on Youtube providing Strathclyde police officers with a lesson in law on the streets of Glasgow. From the 18 or so various charges our members have faced over the past three years, we have plead not guilty to every one, and lost in only two cases. The presence of the Glasgow Defence Campaign has meant that the police must think twice before harassing protest and the Crown Office to think what really constitutes 'in the public interest.' We have shown that intimidation and criminalisation, far from driving people off the streets, only strengthens their determination. We ask people to get involved, to attend the court picket on 1 October and to become involved in the discussion. Those in power are learning quick, but we are learning quicker!'

The meeting heard many contributions from the floor, one woman asking the audience how many had been on the receiving end of police harassment and violence – over two thirds of the meeting raised their hands. Another important contribution noted that the revelations in the book confirm that far from being some rogue undercover unit, the entire process has been authorised by Whitehall and the Home Office itself.

Chair of the meeting Paul McKenna ended the meeting by stating that the Glasgow Defence Campaign is reorganising and appealed for support from those present and beyond: ‘there is an urgent need to organise as wide a public defence as possible for two of our supporters facing criminalisation for their part in the struggle against ATOS’, stating that the response to the state attacks on the new movement will be a disciplined and organised one. He called on the meeting to remember the principles of the GDC – Don’t panic -  organise!

Next GDC picket

9- 10am Glasgow Sheriff Court Tuesday 1 October

Copies of the book - Undercover are available from the GDC priced £13 with free postage and can be obtained by donation via our paypal button. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Public meeting: The True History of Britain's Secret Police

Glasgow Defence Campaign presents…

Undercover: The true history of Britain’s secret police with co-author and award winning journalist Rob Evans

Monday, 19 August 2013 19:30
Centre for Contemporary Arts,  Glasgow 350 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD 

Lives betrayed and destroyed. The identities of dead children stolen. Women and families violated. For over forty years, the British state has operated a clandestine war on ‘subversives’ and ‘radicals’ – environmental activists, anti-racist groups, innocent families such as those of the murdered Stephen Lawrence. Beneath the official pronouncements of British democracy, a dark network of secret police and spies continues to operate.

The Glasgow Defence Campaign presents award-winning investigative journalist Rob Evans, co-author of Undercover: The true history of Britain ’s secret police, and leading advocate and human rights specialist Claire Mitchell, to discuss the extent and impact of undercover policing in Britain today.

As political activists in Glasgow face arrest, harassment, charges and threats from undercover officers as the struggle against austerity begins to take shape, we ask why is the state at war with its citizens and how can we begin to fight back?

Award-winning journalist and author, Rob Evans
Leading human rights and criminal defence advocate, Claire Mitchell
Glasgow Defence Campaign representative

Free entry; donations towards room hire welcome. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Glasgow Against Atos 2 On Trial

Glasgow Defence Campaign supporters gathered at the Sheriff Court on 25 July to oppose political charges brought against the Glasgow Against Atos 2. The trial was adjourned until 1 October allowing time for the defence solicitors to organise witnesses.

The two campaigners standing trial Dominic O'Hara and Daniel McGarrell were arrested on a Glasgow Against Atos campaign picket on Friday 22 February this year. As we pointed out at the time it was no coincidence that the two people arrested were also supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! which has been targeted for over three years by Strathclyde police for consistently opposing the cuts and political policing.

Indicators that Strathclyde police were out to arrest campaigners that day were confirmed when officers outlawed the use of a loudspeaker half way through the picket due to apparent ‘noise complaints’. Those familiar with Glasgow City Centre will know that the corner of Gordon and Buchanan Street is one of the noisiest and busiest parts of town with street performers and people heading to and from the central train station.

The complaints, if they were genuine, were nothing to do with noise but everything to do with the kind of noise being made. A loudspeaker open for anyone wishing to condemn the hardship and misery sick and disabled people are being put through by the Department for work and pensions and Atos was an ‘undesirable’ noise on Britain’s second richest shopping street  - the so called ‘style mile’ - and so it was outlawed. Police officers, paid and controlled by the people waging war on basic rights to welfare, moved in to silence the protest. The first campaigner now faces framed charges of using a loudspeaker when told not to by officers and police assault. The second campaigner has a fixed up charge of trying to free a person in custody.

A Glasgow Against Atos 2 defence campaign has been set up to demand the charges are dropped, support the two at court and to pay off the potential cost of fines. If the Glasgow Against Atos campaign is to continue its successful street actions and grow, it will face further criminalisation with arrests and court appearances, so it must defend its right to protest now. First and foremost this will be done by politically and financially supporting its campaigners from the day of their arrest to the end of their trial if it goes that far.

Solidarity with the Glasgow Against Atos 2
Drop the political charges!
Defend Free Speech!

GAA2 Defence Campaign

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Defend the Glasgow Against ATOS 2! Defend Citizen Smart!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign issues its solidarity and support to Citizen Smart - the political songwriter and singer - who was arrested outside the Scottish Tory party conference in Stirling on Friday 7 June. His crime? Daring to 'sing-out' against the Tories wreaking war on working class communities across the country. The arrest of Citizen Smart follows the arrest of two members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! on a peaceful Glasgow Against ATOS demonstration at the end of February. Their crime? Speaking out on a megaphone in Glasgow city centre.

These attempts to criminalise free speech - to ban those without access to TV, radio or advertising from even taking their message out to the people directly - must be opposed and defeated with the utmost urgency. 

On Wednesday 19 June, the Glasgow Defence Campaign is calling for a protest outside Glasgow Sheriff Court in solidarity with the Glasgow Against ATOS 2, demanding all charges against them are dropped, alongside all other framed up charges against activists - such as Citizen Smart - arrested for standing on the side of justice, and against the austerity being forced on us while the police act as the private army of the rich.

Defend the Glasgow Against ATOS 2! Defend free speech!
Court picket - Wednesday 19 June @ 9am
Glasgow Sheriff Court, 1 Calton Place


Citizen Smart: Statement on My Arrest In Stirling

Less than 5 minutes after this was filmed, around 12.45 on Friday 7th June, I was arrested, charged and banged up in a prison cell in Stirling Police HQ for near on 5 hours. Released 5.30 pm,  Scottish Tory Conference having ended at 5.00pm. But my guitar, amplifier, microphone, microphone stand, and even my Scottish flags were retained by the police as "evidence". Evidence of what? That they exist and work?, But of course won't be working on Saturday ,8th June when we demonstrate against the Bedroom Tax in Stirling where I was due - and still will -   play at the pre-march rally in King's Park. 

I will be making an official formal complaint to the Police Complaints Commission and raising this matter with my MSP and The European Court of Human Rights if necessary. 

At the stage of this filming the song "Go Home English Tories" was not finished. it only had a chorus and one verse - and my smart phone which was being used for the filming it ran out of battery, hence the abrupt end. Only the chorus is filmed.

The song was still "work in progress", 

But I finished it in the police cell - two more verses one referring to the arrest itself. Here are the completed lyrics

Go on home English Tories go on Home
Have no got a home of your own?
For three hundred years
We've fought you without fear
And we'll fight you for three hundred more

If you stay English Tories, if you stay
you will never, never, ever get your way
you've only one Scottish MP
And you'll have none when we are free
So go on home English Tories, go on home

Now according to the Stirling boys in blue
It's a crime to even sing what's surely true?
That Cameron and chums
Are as English as they come
They're from Eton, Harrow, Oxford, Cambridge too

If it were only Scottish Tories here today
They could meet, and they could drink, and they could play
And we'd just laugh at them as fools
Cause they'd never, ever rule
We'd lie back as they died off and fade away

So go on home English Tories, go on home
Have no got a home of your own?
For three hundred years
We've fought you without fear
And we'll fight you for three hundred more

As to the precise point at which I was arrested, this too was filmed, but on someone else i-phone - the iphone of the Chair of the Stirling Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign as it happens. The idea was to film it and post it as a video invite to encourage people to come to Stirling to the main demonstration on Saturday 

That phone was confiscated by the police and "retained as evidence" . Consequently no video invite ever went out.

Well that "evidence" had best not disappear Stirling Police. Because it is indeed evidence. Evidence against you. And it is also someone's personal property. So give it back now please.  

And why is it that the prospect of Tories being offended by me singing songs is more important than the prospect of people directly impoverished by the bedroom tax being offended by the Tories meeting in their city? 

And, I watched the Tories going in and out real closely, know a few of them personally. And few if any were offended, Some even came out to watch. I think they found the experience of being sung at rather than shouted at a slightly less uncomfortable one. Some even genuinely smiled, admired our innovation! I guess some even liked the Bob Dylan and Bob Marley songs I threw into the mix.

But the head heid yins in Stirling Police appear to have had a humor and cultural by-pass. Who are they accountable to? 

And where were the Scottish Police Force's arrests when 5,000 Orangemen marched around Perth two Saturday ago and when 10,000 marched round Glasgow last Saturday? Why were their instruments not confiscated? And where were the Scottish Police force's arrests when the SDL and EDL gathered in Edinburgh last week to directly intimidate Scotland's Muslim Community? Or is it just top Tories in conference that are not allowed to be offended? 

Or police chiefs embarrassed for their inept policing of Scottish Tory Party Conference? Because we, the protesters, were allowed to get much to close to the Tory conference entrance, Not because we forced our way in, but because the police sat back and let us almost stand on the front door. I never ever seen this allowed at a party conference or similar event. And the Prime Minster was in town! 

But then the singing started. It was all fine if different. But then, without any warning at all, and a having sung this exact same song at least four times over a period of over 2 hours without any rebuke, quiet word or anything, I was within seconds bundled into a police van, taken to Police HQ. There i was searched, robbed of all my possessions, my shoes, my trouser belt, fingerprinted , photographed and put in an isolation cell until the Tory Conference finished for the day. I was even told there was a very real prospect of me being detailed until the Stirling Courts next met on the afternoon of Monday 10th June. That would have been a near on 4 day detention. For singing a song, the song you see above and in the exact context you see above.

And prior to my release i was warned, specifically warned by the arresting officer that if I sang the song again in Stirling today I would immediately arrested again, 

Well I am singing it. Please do arrest me. The promotional value for my bedroom tax single itunes fund raiser would be immense. And the funds raised from this would be added to further when I donate the payout from my double wrongful arrest compensation money to the Anti-Bedroom Tax campaign

Indeed I reckon it will not just be me the Police in Stirling will need to arrest today. Unless they just do their job. Keep out the politics.

Stephen House - get a grip. And Kenny McAskill - wake up! This is happening on your watch.  

I am 53 and this is the first time In my life I have been arrested for anything. And I have now been charged and am awaiting a decision from the Procurator Fiscal. 

But I ain't waiting like some patsy, relived, grateful I ain't being prosecuted.

Citizens have rights and I intend to exercise them. If takes another arrest to do so , so be it, But I am demonstrating In Stirling - my home city - as planned. I am singing as planned.

And I am singing what I want to sing , and what the people at the rally want to hear, want to join in with. Not what some inept plod in Stirling tells us we can sing.

And I reckon near 90% of the the Scottish Tories in Stirling for their annual conference will back that right. Our right, their right.

Because we don't live in a police state. Not yet anyway.

Alan ( Citizen)  Smart , 7.10 am Saturday 8th June, 2013 

Link to Further Statement on my arrest, Sunday 9th June

Defend the Newcastle 14! Defend anti-fascism - no to political policing!

The Glasgow Defence Campaign reproduces below a statement from the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign - established to defend 14 anti-fascists and anti-racists arrested before an English Defence League demonstration in Newcastle on 25 May. We urge all our supporters to sign the petition for their defence here  and visit the blog http://defencecampaign.wordpress.com/

Those arrested were essentially handed over to the police by agents within the respectable 'Newcastle Unites' coalition of assorted Labour councillors, SWP members and trade union bureaucrats. It is absolutely essential that such activity is exposed and challenged - as it endangers the entire movement against fascism and plays directly into state attempts to divide and destroy any effective opposition. Many of those arrested in Newcastle were members of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! who have been similarly targeted in Glasgow. 

The GDC expresses its full support for the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign and unreservedly condemns the actions both of the police and Newcastle Unites.

Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign Launched – Full statement

At approximately 12:40 on Saturday 25 May 2013, 14 anti-fascists were arrested outside the Haymarket metro station in Newcastle as they were about to join the Newcastle Unites march against the English Defence League (EDL). The youngest of those arrested was just 15. There is substantial evidence that members of Newcastle Unites played a part in the arrests. All those arrested had their homes raided while they were in custody, and police have seized mobile phones, computers, cameras, notebooks and political literature. The protesters were released without charge 10 hours later, in the middle of the night at a police station on the outskirts of Newcastle. They have been bailed until 7 August 2013.
The Newcastle 14 (N14) Defence Campaign has been set up with three aims:
  • to defend the 14 anti-fascists who were arrested on 25 May 2013;
  • to defend anti-fascist activity from further state repression;
  • to defend democracy and freedom of speech within the left.
Below we set out the background to the campaign.
What were those arrested doing to warrant this treatment by police?
Those arrested include supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) and independent anti-fascists. Anti-fascists had been at the Haymarket since 10:30  on 25 May, petitioning, speaking on the megaphone, distributing political literature and encouraging people to join the Newcastle Unites march against the EDL. There was a heavy police presence; FRFI had designated a police liaison for their contingent, who made it clear to the police from an early stage that the intention was to speak to the public and then join the Newcastle Unites march. Initially the police appeared to have no problem with this, but at around 12:00 police approached FRFI supporters, saying that the Newcastle Unites organisers had informed them FRFI were not welcome on the march. The police stated that they wanted to negotiate with the Newcastle Unites organisers for FRFI to participate, which was accepted by FRFI. The police said they were consulting with their superior officers who were in touch with Newcastle Unites, and they would get back to the police liaison. At 12:40, the police surrounded the protesters without warning, and arrested all but two of those present, accusing them of ‘conspiracy to commit violent disorder’. The intention of the protesters on 25 May was simply to join the march and make a political contribution to it. Meanwhile EDL supporters who threw fireworks, bottles and cans at anti-fascists the same day were not arrested. This is political policing.
Who are Newcastle Unites and what part did they play in the arrests?
Newcastle Unites is a coalition of Labour Party councillors, Trade Union officials and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It has met in secret, and has excluded many other local anti-fascists.
The build-up to the march
When three FRFI supporters attempted to join a Newcastle Unites organising meeting on 7 May they were physically barred from entering the meeting room and were ejected from the building. During this incident SWP District Organiser Yunus Bakhsh and Newcastle TUC Secretary James Simpkin used sexist and threatening language toward a female comrade. After throwing her out of the building Simpkin told the comrade ‘Go away little girl, or I’ll call the police’ and then blew an airhorn in her ear. A SP member who stood up to Bakhsh was threatened with also being excluded if she did not back down. FRFI supporters issued a public report of what had happened and called for a public apology from Newcastle Unites, while continuing to express support for the march against the EDL. Rather than apologise or even respond politically, Newcastle Unites attempted to divert discussion by suggesting that FRFI had put people at risk by mentioning that the 7 May meeting had taken place at the Centre Against Unemployment. Yet Unite Against Fascism (UAF) North East has listed the Centre as their address on public leaflets, bulletins and their website since at least 2009, and other anti-racist meetings have been advertised there: it was already a public anti-fascist venue.
On 15 May FRFI received a message from Newcastle Unites stating that the organisation would not be welcome on the march, and if they attempted to attend ‘we shall take all necessary steps to ensure that you play no part of these activities.’ This was followed by a Facebook post from Labour Councillor Dipu Ahad, the figurehead for Newcastle Unites, threatening those he considered to be ‘disruptive’: ‘I assure you that you will be thrown out of the demo and the public meeting by our stewards who will be many. You will also be reported to the police for causing disorder!’ Nobody amongst the Newcastle Unites organising group has publicly criticised this threat. People who posted messages protesting against these threats had their messages deleted and many were banned from the page. Committed anti-fascists who attempted to join a publicly advertised meeting of Newcastle Unites on 23 May were met at the door by police who had a list of names and turned people away. If Newcastle Unites organisers provided these names to the police this is direct collusion with the state against other anti-fascists, using the police to back up the kind of exclusions carried out at other meetings by Newcastle Unites itself.
On the day
On the day of the arrests several individuals associated with Newcastle Unites were seen speaking to police in the area around Haymarket. These included Neil Denton, who is employed by the council’s ARCH agency for monitoring hate crime. He was seen speaking to senior police officers while pointing at the protesters shortly before the police first stated that Newcastle Unites had told them FRFI were not welcome. During the arrests two members of the SWP were present observing. One of them, Nick Clark, approached the group once the arrests began and was heard telling a police officer not to arrest two women because they were ‘not part of that group [FRFI]‘. The officer listened to him, letting him and the two women leave, whilst police arrested the remaining 14. During questioning, police presented those who had been arrested with a summary of the accusations against them, which included a statement in writing that Newcastle Unites organisers had told the police that FRFI were not welcome on the march. On the Newcastle Unites march itself, two anti-fascists who spoke about the arrests on a megaphone were challenged by police. The officers asked them if they were members of FRFI and threatened ‘if you are, then we’ll arrest you’. There is no doubt that FRFI were politically targeted. Other militant anti-fascists were targeted by stewards, some of whom seemed more concerned with shoving anti-fascists around than guarding side streets against fascists.
Silencing criticism and debate
The consistent thread running through these events is the efforts of the SWP and others to protect Labour politicians from criticism, whether it is over their record on war, racism or the cuts.
The initial reason given for excluding FRFI from Newcastle Unites was that together with anarchists, the Socialist Party and others they had heckled Labour MP Grahame Morris at May Day 2012. Morris had voted for the bombing of Libya, which contributed to the deaths of 60,000 Libyans and the devastation of the country’s infrastructure. Heckling is a perfectly democratic part of the socialist and labour movement tradition. The incident was not considered serious enough to prevent FRFI from having a stall at May Day 2013, yet was used opportunistically to justify their exclusion from Newcastle Unites.
When Councillor Ahad was approached regarding the verbal and physical abuse of FRFI supporters at the meeting on 7 May, he said he would only argue for their inclusion in Newcastle Unites if they agreed to be silent on the issue of state racism: presumably to mention immigration prisons, deportations or the use of terror laws to criminalise communities would embarrass the Labour Party.
Whilst FRFI are willing to work with Labour Party members against the EDL, they are not prepared to stay silent about the violence that Labour councillors have inflicted through the cuts or the last Labour government’s role in stirring up racism against Muslims to justify their wars abroad. This could have been the subject of debate within the anti-fascist movement, but instead all critical voices were excluded in order to impose a false ‘unity’.
Defend anti-fascism, Defend democracy
This is not the first time the police have been used to defend Labour councillors from criticism. When Don McDonald verbally challenged council leader Nick Forbes at the big anti-cuts march on 16 February, over the council’s £100 million cuts to services and jobs, Forbes sent police to Don’s house in the middle of the night to arrest him on spurious grounds of threatening behaviour. A defence campaign was launched and the case was dropped.
We do not yet know all the details of the collusion between Newcastle Unites organisers and the police, or which individuals were involved to what extent, but the evidence cited above warrants a serious investigation. Those people whose collaboration with the police led to the arrests need to be identified and held to account. The Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign will be calling for a people’s enquiry, which should be fully transparent and accountable to the whole of the local left, to establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt.
Anti-fascism in the North East is in a desperately weak position. Estimates of the sizes of the two marches on 25 May suggest that the fascists outnumbered the anti-fascists approximately two to one. Discussions are urgently needed about the strategy and tactics that can help us to rebuild and effectively challenge the fascists. The discussions that are needed are being held back by the approach to anti-fascism that is represented by Newcastle Unites, which exaggerates its own strength and deals with any criticism or difference of opinion with exclusions and violence. Identifying and eliminating collusion with the police against other activists is the precondition for building a healthy and effective movement on Tyneside. Everybody who cares about the future of the local left needs to be involved.
No to political policing, Defend the Newcastle 14
14 people have been arrested, held in police custody for up to ten hours, interrogated about their political activities and had their homes invaded and their privacy violated. Currently all of the defendants have been bailed until 7 August and have not been charged, but the arrests were carried out on the basis of allegations of ‘conspiracy to commit violent disorder’, a very serious charge. This is political policing on a scale unheard of in Newcastle in the recent period. The 14 people arrested need solidarity and support, as they deal with the impact of the arrests on their study and employment. The police still have people’s phones and computers. The defence campaign and the defendants would like to thank all those who have shown support so far, notably those who waited for hours at the police station until the last of the 14 were released and then gave them lifts back into the city.
The Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign will be fighting the threat of charges publicly and politically, alongside the legal defence that has already begun. The campaign is collecting witness statements and video and photographs of the events surrounding the arrests, and will challenge the whitewashing of the arrests in the capitalist press. The campaign will also be out on the streets raising awareness and organising public meetings in the coming weeks, as part of the grassroots work that is needed to rebuild an anti-fascist movement in Newcastle. We invite you to join us.
Funds are urgently needed to support the defence campaign, cheques should be made payable to ‘May 25 Fund’.
Contact the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign at: defence.campaign@gmail.com.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

12 anti racists arrested in Newcastle:TUC, Labour party and SWP act in collusion with police

The Glasgow Defence Campaign condemns this afternoon’s police attack on Newcastle Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters for their role in opposing the racist English Defence League. We understand 12 anti racists have been arrested and are currently being detained in Etal Lane police station in Newcastle – 7 were arrested on the protest this afternoon with a further 5 detained following a house raid. We call on supporters to call the station to demand their release on - 0345 604 3043.

The arrests come on a day where up to 2,000 supporters of the EDL marched in Newcastle. Secretary for the Glasgow Defence Campaign, Paul McKenna stated, ‘We condemn today’s police action, the details of the arrests and actual charges remain sketchy at this stage, but we are concerned to hear reports that elements from the so called ‘Newcastle Unites’ coalition including leading members of Newcastle TUC, Newcastle Labour Party and the Socialist Workers Party worked in collusion with the police to enact what we believe to be targeted arrests of supporters of FRFI.’

In the weeks and days building towards the counter demonstration supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in Newcastle who have a sound record in opposing all forms of racism faced open hostility including violence and threats of arrest from those within the coalition of the left who sought to monopolise and control any resistance. The background to today’s events are explained below in an article published on the website of the Revolutionary Communist Group on 19 May:

Newcastle Unites: Labour threats escalate

FRFI supporters in Newcastle have been attempting for weeks to participate in the mobilisation against the EDL on 25 May, but have been met with violent and sectarian hostility from the organisers of Newcastle Unites. The figurehead of Newcastle Unites, Labour councillor Dipu Ahad, has now threatened to set the police on FRFI and other anti-fascists.
On 15 May Unite Against Fascism (UAF) North East sent a message inviting FRFI North East to support the demonstration. We replied confirming that we would attend and support the demonstration, and would encourage others to do so. Within an hour of accepting the invitation, Newcastle Unites emailed us:
Dear FRFI,
UAF has forwarded us your recent email in which you say you will be attending Newcastle Unites demonstration against the EDL on the 25th May.  It is really quite astounding that after your recent actions in exposing our meeting venue and placing our members at risk (an act for which you have shown no contrition) you consider that we would allow you on this demonstration.  The organising group of Newcastle Unites discussed your behaviour at last night's meeting and agreed unanimously not to allow you to attend either the demonstration or the public meeting.  If you choose to ignore our decision and do turn up you will not be welcome and we shall take all necessary steps to ensure that you play no part of these activities.
While Councillor Ahad has made it clear he wants no violent confrontation against the EDL, he is quite happy to mobilise his SWP and trade union goons to violently confront genuine anti-fascists. He stood by watching whilst SWP thug Yunus Bakhsh and trade union bureaucrat James Simpkin physically attacked a female comrade and made sexist comments when she tried to attend a Newcastle Unites organising meeting on 7 May (www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/labourtrade-unions/3012-sw100513). But to avoid addressing this Newcastle Unitesis making spurious allegations that FRFI has put others at risk (we responded here:www.revolutionarycommunist.org/index.php/labourtrade-unions/3013-rn0150513). And we repeat: Councillor Ahad has inflicted real violence against the working class ofNewcastle by voting for £100 million cuts.
Now in a Facebook posting Ahad has warned FRFI and other committed anti-fascists that should they attempt to join the anti-EDL rally, ‘I assure you that you will be thrown out of the demo and the public meeting by our stewards who will be many. You will also be reported to the police for causing disorder!’Commenting on a counter-protest to the EDL in March, Ahad wrote ‘The Police did a fantastic job...I’m also concerned with about some of our Asian youths who get excited and also want to cause trouble for the sake of it and have no respect for the police!’. What he is admitting is that Asian youth will not listen to him – and why should they given his support for the cuts and his membership of the racist and imperialist Labour Party? They know what he is: a ruthless henchman of the ruling class. But he is isolated, and that is why he needs the likes of Bakhsh and Simpkinto defend him, and if they are not enough, the police.
Regardless of the sectarian and violent behaviour of these individuals, FRFI urges everyone to stand against the EDL on 25 May. As we have always argued the EDL can only be opposed effectively as part of a wider struggle against racism, which is inseparable from the fight against imperialism. No amount of threats from Newcastle Unites or anybody else will convince us to abandon this struggle.

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