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In India Protests are: Persistent, Peaceful and Pervasive as farmers fight to rescue their rural livelihoods from Corporate greed. In Hongkong Protesters risk Lengthy Lockups as they ingeniously evade capture with fluid gatherings in an effort to resist a Chinese Government crackdown on democracy. In Myanmar Protests are: Life Threatening as they try to overturn military dictatorship. In France Protests are routinely: Vocal, Vigorous and Violent. While I would never advocate such violence as I believe it negates any cause and permits authorities a justification for excessive use of force, we must reclaim our right to safely protest despite Covid restrictions. We cannot accept the eradication of our right to protest in the UK where Protest is now: Prohibited, Patroled, Prosecuted and ultimately Profiteering as, like all things Tory, it disproportionately plunders from the poorest and most desperate in society. A Nurse was just fined £10,000 for organizing a protest against the 1% pay insult and now the Police have blocked a vigil.
In the Morning Star Article entitled “We must all stand for women’s right to Reclaim These Streets,” they describe what I would call the thin end of the wedge in the Tory Sovereign Dictatorship’s prohibition on protest. They picture the outpouring of, “Flowers left by members of the public near to an area of woodland in Ashford in Kent where human remains were discovered which have been confirmed by Scotland yard as missing woman Sarah Everard.” We must condemn the fact that “Women from London to Edinburgh are being told to stay at home rather than attend Reclaim These Streets vigils in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard. Though the advice is justified with reference to public health restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it smacks of cynical use of these powers to prevent public protest.” If toxic Home Secretary Priti Patel can wield her power over the police to shut down a vigil of grieving women then her battle to extinguish public dissent is won as few other protests are more deserving.
Reporting that “Scottish Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman asks that we light a candle or engage in social media in Everard’s memory, and says she will mark her own private vigil to remember the huge numbers of women who continue to lose their lives to male violence. There is a place for such observances.” But the Morning Star insists “they do not ‘reclaim these streets.” Our public spaces aren’t ‘reclaimed’ by prohibiting a public demonstration of grief! The Star note that “The thoughts of the country are on the appalling abduction and murder of a young woman, but alongside distress and compassion for Everard and her loved ones there is palpable anger. Women have already raised their voices, on social media and elsewhere, on living with the ever-present threat of male violence. On personal experiences of stalking, harassment, assault, on the oppressive and continuous need to exercise vigilance and practise avoidance strategies in a sometimes futile bid to stay safe while going about their daily lives.”
We are in danger of allowing this alt-right Tory cabal the power to strip women of other hard-won rights. The Morning Star point out that “Women should not have to live with this, let alone risk their lives because of it. Establishment and liberal narratives depict women’s oppression as a historical phenomenon, largely resolved by universal suffrage and equalities legislation. Where inequality is statistically undeniable (as with the gender pay gap), it is usually seen as a residual problem diminishing with time (though the gender pay gap is growing), or one that can be addressed by identifying and correcting for unconscious biases to ensure more women make it into the boardroom or the Cabinet. This picture fails to address the shocking scale of sexual harassment of women and girls and statistics indicating rising violence. A rise in domestic violence has been linked to the lockdowns over the past year, though the rise in ‘intimate partner homicides’ is, of course, a rise in men killing their partners, not women killing theirs.”
There is a marginalizing of women’s suffering, with fewer and fewer rape convictions, this violence against women is trivialized by minimizing the consequences. The Morning Star highlight “Lenient sentences such as the five years given to Anthony Williams last month for the deliberate killing of his wife Ruth in ‘an act of great violence’ condone a worldview in which men can ‘just snap’ and lash out with sustained, lethal violence, without afterwards being held fully responsible. But even before lockdown, schools were reporting sharp rises in child-on-child sexual assault, a trend almost certainly linked to universal access to online pornography. Women are right to ‘reclaim these streets’ to assert their right to be safe in public places, and to deliver this message publicly and collectively. They are right to deliver a wake-up call on the scale of the problem, the purpose of the ‘every woman you know…’ posts which have gone viral on social media in recent days, recounting universal experiences of dangerous male behaviour.”
The Morning Star note that “Like the killing of George Floyd last May, the killing of Sarah Everard, also, it seems, by a policeman, is simultaneously a human tragedy and a common event. The oppressed, as then, are standing up. Authorities cannot be allowed to hide behind Covid safety measures to prohibit this. Demonstrations should be socially distanced and masked, but as Reclaim These Streets organiser Anna Birley points out, the planned Clapham demonstration arranged for these precautions.” These Tory dictates are highly selective regarding safety. They say “A government which fails to heed scientific advice on school returns, that is still allowing employers to require staff to travel to non-essential work and failing to provide regular testing for those who have to go to work, is not afraid that political demonstrations will spread infection. As with its crackdown on the nurses’ pay protest whose organiser, a mental health nurse, was fined £10,000 in Manchester last week, it is afraid of defiance, resistance and revolt.”
In a previous post I wrote about the powerful impression reading Margaret Atwood’s book ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ had on me noting how a situation could be manipulated to facilitate misogynistic oppression. Referring to the plot I wrote “The really sick thing is that a national emergency created the perfect timing for a ruthless authoritarian coup to strip women of their rights and that component remains a distinct possibility right now due to the Covid Pandemic. We have already seen far-right Governments within Europe legislate to remove women’s rights. The single most powerful political weapon is to strip away the rights of half the entire population of a country and embolden the other half to express their grievances with failed Government policies by persecuting strong outspoken women; it is the ultimate divide and conquer tactic and shockingly, it is going global! Now that we have a Tory Sovereign Dictatorship in the UK, how long will it take them to weaponize Covid even further to emulate other despotic regimes?”
In the Left Foot Forward Article entitled “Jo Maugham QC: This dangerous new Conservative bill threatens the right to protest,” Jolyon Maugham, who is the Director of Good Law Project said “This week the government announced its intention to legislate the right to protest out of meaningful existence. Other than at a General Election, an event occurring at five-yearly intervals that hands unconstrained power to a Party that wins a majority, a citizen has but one way of registering dissent at what is done in their name: the right to protest. Yesterday the government announced its intention to legislate that right out of meaningful existence. The legislative proposal comes in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. It grapples with everything from road traffic offences to confected culture war issues like the protection of war memorials. But it also contains provisions that should concern each and every one of us.”
QC Maugham points out that “High-profile protests around Brexit, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the climate crisis have been thorns in the government’s side over the last couple of years. By and large, these protests have been peaceful and have acted as effective ways for people to express their dissatisfaction with the government.” But, he says “The Home Secretary, in particular, doesn’t seem to like dissenting voices, nor does she want to engage with the root causes of these protests, preferring instead to brand protesters ‘so-called eco-crusaders turned criminals’ and to accuse them of ‘hooliganism and thuggery’. The government’s proposed solution? To clamp down hard on the right to protest. The Bill as it stands would give sweeping new powers to the police to restrict peaceful protests, including by giving them the powers to set conditions on the duration of protests, set maximum noise levels, and put restrictions on where protests can take place.” This is a blatant attempt to silencing dissent!
QC Maugham notes that “As it seems to us, the very purpose of the right to protest is to enable people to register their profound unhappiness or strength of feeling in a way which compels the State to respond. To legislate so that right cannot have any impact is to legislate it out of meaningful existence. The disproportionate measures proposed in the Bill also risk undermining the freedom of assembly and association protected under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. But these aren’t our only concerns with the Bill. It also appears to attack the way of life of some of the most marginalised groups in our country, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities, by criminalising trespass (which is ordinarily a civil issue).” This community has proven an easy first target for Fascist regimes in the past and we should not forget how many Roma were also exterminated in German concentration camps: “First they came for…” Look where that vile episode of European history ended!
In itself a truly disgusting comment since no form of racism is ‘respectable,’ Sir Trevor Phillips was quoted as calling “Racism against the GRT communities the ‘last ‘respectable’ form of racism’ when he was chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality back in 2004. But as the shocking example of Pontins recently showed us, not a lot has changed since. The government’s decision to villainise these communities by giving the police greater powers of enforcement is only likely to exacerbate the widening inequality experienced by them.” We must stop this enhanced level of ‘divide and conquer othering.’ QC Maugham warns “It should worry us all that the government has chosen to attack our rights and those of marginalised communities.’ We want to fully understand the human rights implications of this Bill, and have instructed an experienced QC and junior barrister from Matrix Chambers to provide us with written advice on this.” You are encouraged to support the Good Law Project’s work.
In the Morning Star Article entitled “Police given ‘green light’ to expand surveillance of protesters, campaigners warn,’ they note the expanding authoritarian restrictions. We should recognize such serious moves as classic signs of the increasing powers of this Tory Dictatorship. They say that “Police have given the ‘green light’ to expand surveillance powers against political and social movements, campaigners warned today. Forces could be encouraged to use undercover officers, as well as live facial recognition technology, to monitor protesters as part of plans published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS). The report, which was ordered by Home Secretary Priti Patel last year, comes straight after the announcement of new legislation to crack down on protest.’ Police monitoring group Netpol warned that the HMICFRS report ‘offers the justification for an expansion of surveillance’ on the same campaigners targeted by the new Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill.”
The Morning Star note that “The report outlines the ‘need to develop’ covert intelligence gathering methods, saying this is ‘particularly relevant if the police are to improve their focus on aggravated activists.’ It confirms that the term ‘domestic extremist’ has been replaced by ‘aggravated activist,’ which could apply to anyone who has a ‘negative impact upon community tensions’ or causes ‘an adverse economic impact to businesses.’ Netpol’s campaigns co-ordinator Kevin Blowe said: ‘Historically every campaign, from the suffragist movement to trade unions and equality campaigners, have involved actions that at the time were considered to be criminal or unlawful behaviour, but which led to the freedoms and rights we now cherish’. The HMICFRS has given the green light to target their modern-day equivalents.”
The Morning Star report that “Extinction Rebellion’s Alanna Byrne said: ‘Priti Patel can try and make the UK a protest-free zone, but it’s clear that the government is not going to do the right thing without protesters holding them to account. We don’t plan on stopping any time soon.’ HM Inspector of Constabulary spokesman Matt Parr said that police ‘too often’ fail to find the a balance between protecting the rights to protest and preventing disruption.” The latest Policing Bill will limit protests after the Covid crisis has passed, increased surveillance and the massive extension of powers authorized in the Spycops Bill will institutionalize nationwide Corporate oppression and securely maintain the authoritarian rule of the Tory Sovereign Dictatorship for decades into the future.
In the Skwawkbox Article entitled “Labour plans to abstain on Tory bill to make ‘annoying’ protests punishable by 10 years in prison,” they expose the danger of Sir Keir Starmer’s cowardly zero opposition policy. They reveal that “Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy informed MPs of leadership’s intention, but will Starmer cave after Clapham Common policing scandal? Labour is planning to abstain (again) on the Tories’ bill that will make ‘annoying’ someone by protesting a criminal offence punishable by up to ten years in prison. The bill is clear that mere ‘serious annoyance’ will become grounds for a prison sentence comparable with those for poisoning with intent to kill or cruelty to a child. In fact, such annoyance doesn’t need even to be caused. the sentence can apply if a ‘risk‘ of it is created: But David Lammy, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, has told the party’s MPs that Keir Starmer intends to have them abstain when the bill is voted on in the Commons.”
The Skwawkbox remind us that “Starmer has already abstained on Tory bills to legalise murder and rape in the UK by undercover ‘intelligence sources’ and to legalise torture and other war crimes by UK forces overseas. Will he cave in after tonight’s shocking scenes of police manhandling women at a vigil for murdered victim Sarah Everard at Clapham Common and actually oppose for once? Or will he continue in his determination to avoid opposition at all costs? Labour back-bencher Jon Trickett has already announced that he will vote against the bill and other left MPs are expected to follow.” He Tweeted: “Unacceptable scenes tonight. Policing requires consent and understanding of the public mood. A number of us refused to vote with the whip in the #spycops bill for this very reason. I will vote against the Tory policing bill on Tuesday. It must be opposed.”
Howard Becket Tweeted: “I am hearing @Keir_Starmer is going to whip to abstain on a Bill that makes a nomadic life of Gypsies & Travellers unlawful. And allows the state Police to prevent protest for annoyance. You Sir have become part of the problem. Shame.” Skwawkbox warn that “The bill will also criminalise the Gypsy Roma Traveller lifestyle, as Unite’s Howard Beckett has pointed out.” The targeting of Roma is the thin end of the wedge as this Tory Sovereign Dictatorship tries to expand authoritarian repression in the UK. Gypsies have proven a far too easy target in the past; the Nazis rounded-up and exterminated them just as ruthlessly as they slaughtered the Jews: we said never again, but fascist targeting is embedded in this bill! The intention to target our Gypsy Roma communities was in that lethal Tory manifesto that we didn’t vote for in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. It is never too late to demand a full Investigation of that unfathomable result that miraculously gifted an unstoppable majority to this dangerous regime.
Skwawkbox report that “Other union leaders also led where Starmer seemingly will not, while Labour activists pointed out the nonsense of a ‘Labour’ leader siding with the oppressor.” Dave Ward Tweeted: “A woman was murdered 10 days ago. Today a serving police officer was charged with this sickening crime. Tonight, this is the image the met police has chosen to project to the world. Utterly shameful.” Alex Nuns Tweeted: “Labour is currently intending to abstain on this…” In response to a Tweet from Unite Politics who included a copy of alarming sections of the bill with the comment: “This is a section of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, ordered by @pritipatel following the BLM and XR demos last year. It comes to Parliament on Monday, and MPs will vote on it on Tuesday.” Alex Nunns concluded “… which I find ‘seriously annoying’.”
In the Skwawkbox Article entitled “BBC deletes appalling tweet blaming Clapham Common vigil for police violence,” they expose the purely preventable trauma that occurred on Saturday night. But they say “Not in time to prevent yet more Establishment shame being captured. The BBC has deleted a tweet it posted this evening blaming those holding a vigil for murdered London woman Sarah Everard for shocking scenes of police violence. The Corporation initially tweeted describing a ‘confrontation with police at ‘unsafe’ vigil;’ ‘confrontation’ being a common Establishment media term for one-sided violence by those they support, after police waded into people gathered at a peaceful protest remembering Ms Everard and protesting against violence against women.”
The BBC has now deleted the tweet after it provoked outrage, with one claiming that “Clashes break out between police and people attending a vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham, London”, followed by another advising that “This tweet replaces an earlier tweet, which has been deleted following an update to the story’s headline“: In tragic irony, footage taken at the vigil included police aggression toward mourners as horrified women called out in protest: ‘Shame on you;’ ‘You’re meant to protect us’ and chanted ‘You are scum’!” Skwawkbox report that “Labour MP Jon Trickett was one of the most outspoken against the conduct of police, pointing as well to the government’s ‘spycops’ bill legitimising state-sponsored violence against members of the public, a bill passed in a vote in which Keir Starmer whipped Labour MPs to abstain’. The Reclaim These Streets group issued a statement condemning the police for ‘manhandling women’ and working against the vigil instead of working with organisers.”
Skwawkbox say “Shame on the BBC and all those complicit in tonight’s scandal.” It’s fitting that the push-back last night came from so many outraged women who will likely experience the brunt of increasing repression under the Tory Sovereign Dictatorship. This was a vigil for a young woman allegedly murdered by a rogue cop. The organizers went to Court to try to overturn the blocking of what so easily could have been a well marshalled, Covid safe event. The Met’s refusal to cooperate and allow the vigil to go ahead safely led to an uncontrolled crowd with inappropriate police intervention. Cressida Dick made an abysmally poor decision and she should resign. But the real fault lies with Covid laws that, due to extensive vaccination decreasing risk at outdoor events, are resulting in restrictions being lifted for sports events, while the Tories want to retain special powers over public gatherings and protests. No logic supports the protest ban so we must reclaim the right to protest as we will need to protest on mass to Get The Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!