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What didn’t we hear about from our once trusted public broadcaster the BBC? Few were reporting the hugely successful peaceful protests being held up and down the country this past weekend, but they were well attended. The Tory mouthpiece was primed and ready to focus on the violence and apportion all the blame on protesters, but I was immediately suspicious. In the Canary Article entitled “As the media fixates on Bristol, don’t forget thousands took to the streets this weekend to #KillTheBill, they note that “As the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill languishes in the committee stage, an increasing number of people have shown their opposition to the legislation. But while the escalation at the Bristol protest has dominated the headlines, let’s not forget that thousands of people took to the streets to protest the bill across the country at the weekend. The bill will give the police increased powers to impose conditions on protests as well as criminalising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.”
The Canary report from around the country starting in Birmingham where they say “Hundreds of people showed up to support the right to protest in Birmingham. Demonstrators socially distanced as they gathered at Victoria Square in the city.” Alice Matthews Tweeted: “Amazing turnout in Birmingham today to #KillTheBill and defend our right to protest. Everyone who came showed WM police, the PCC candidates and BCC: we won’t be ruled by fear. We’re policed by consent, & can remove consent. There is no place for police brutality in Birmingham.” Sean Farmelo Tweeted pictures: “Very proud to see numbers out for the #killthebill protest in Birmingham. Tories want to push it into the long grass but that won’t happen. We are organised and against it!”
The Canary reported that in Brighton “Over a thousand people joined a march against the bill in Brighton on Saturday 20 March. The protesters gathered at around 2pm and marched through the streets, disrupting some bus services and traffic. After hearing speeches, protesters moved through the city, raising chants such as ‘we will not be silenced’. The demonstrators reportedly started heading home after 4pm, after a peaceful march.” Joyce Stack Tweeted: “Well done #Brighton. #KillTheBill,” as Will Flockton Tweeted a Video: “#KillTheBill protest in #Brighton. Easily 1000 people.”
The Canary account of what occurred in Bristol exposes a different picture recorded both in pictures and in several pieces of video footage. They say that “The protest against the bill in Bristol has been widely reported, after some protesters set police cars on fire. Seven arrests have already been made. Prior to this, and until the police moved in, the demonstration which began on College Green, had been peaceful.” Billy Stockwell tweeted a Video: “Police using batons on #KILLTHEBILL protesters outside Bristol Police Station. @EpigramPaper.” Alon Aviram Tweeted two Videos: “People sitting down now outside Bristol’s central police station. Shields and horses out. Hundreds still lining the streets as night descends. #killthebill,” and “Backup arrives and the flames go higher #killthebill #bristol”
The Canary say that in Leeds “Hundreds of people gathered in the centre of Leeds on Sunday to protest the legislation. Outside the Civic Hall, protesters listened to speeches and poems. As reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, One speaker said: Throughout history many significant improvements have been gained through protest. We have stood collective in our fight of injustice many times before. It is our time to make history and fight for improvements for our children and grandchildren. They are already fighting climate change and we need to give them the tools to do that and the democratic right to protest is one of them. This Bill is impacting on our freedoms and we shall not let it pass. Make no mistake, this Bill comes from a place of fear. They are frightened of our collective action and they should be. We are so powerful when we come together and they know it.”
Haikool included a telling picture of all the cardboard Protest signs laid out on the ground in front of Civic Hall when the protest ended when the Tweet was posted: “Fight the power. #KilltheBill #BlockTheBill #Leeds.” By all accounts ‘Fight the power’ was a fight-free peaceful protest. George Aylett Tweeted: “Not only does the Policing Bill limit our fundamental right to protest but it also essentially criminalises the GRT community just for existing. A socially distant and mask-wearing crowd in Leeds says #KillTheBill to protect our right to protests and stand against antiziganism,” and also included a Video: “Chants of ‘Kill The Bill’ in Leeds. A huge spirit of solidarity here. #KillTheBill”
Without further information regarding Police intervention the Canary report that in Liverpool “Two people were arrested at a protest against the bill in Liverpool on Saturday that attracted a large crowd.” Paul McGowan 4 Young Labour LGBT+ Officer included a Video in his Tweet saying that: “I was proud to support yesterday’s protest in Liverpool against the controversial Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill. We have to oppose the #PoliceCrackdownBill every step of the way, in Parliament in the courts, and in the streets.” Cinderella also Tweeted a Video: “Protest in Liverpool #killthebill”
The Canary say that in Manchester “Thousands of demonstrators chanted ‘kill the bill’ as they took to the streets of Manchester on Saturday. Protester Anna Preston told the Manchester Evening News: We’re just angry and upset like everyone else. It’s the fact that the whole society we live in seems violent, particularly towards women of colour and disabled women. It’s getting worse. I wanted to come out as a tribute to the women who are murdered and assaulted. Protesters said demonstrations would continue until they were successful in stopping the bill’s process through parliament.” Lauren Tweeted: “Tonight’s protest in Manchester #killthebill,” while Joe White included a Video: “Still loads here at #killthebill Manchester.” Sisters Uncut Tweeted: “In Manchester, our Sisters organised a demo for all those affected by state end gendered violence, and to demand that no more power be given to police. #KillTheBill We will not be silenced by state violence. #KillTheBill”
The Canary reported that in Newcastle “Three people were arrested at a Sunday demonstration that attracted around 600 people. One of the arrested protesters was photographed being pinned to the ground by multiple officers.” It’s important to understand that in the vast majority of situations there is no legitimate necessity to pin anyone to the ground; this is done to unarmed protesters to intimidate and humiliate them; it has killed victims in the past! “Protesters marched through the streets of Newcastle under heavy police presence. They called for the freedom to protest and an end to gendered violence.” Sol Gamsu Tweeted: “Big #killthebill demo in #Newcastle. Probably 1000 ppl- young, energetic & angry. Heavily policed- sending riot police into a park when things clearly calm & peaceful? Anyone wanting to leave flowers would’ve had to go thru line of heavy-duty men in riot gear- not a good look.” Yash included a Video in her Tweet: “amazing turnout in Newcastle today for the #reclaimourstreets #killthebill protest. feeling empowered.”
The Canary say that in Truro “Police monitored a peaceful protest against the bill in Truro in Cornwall attended by more than 200 demonstrators. The Resist G7 Coalition, who organised the protest said: We made it clear: The Cornish community stands against the government’s push towards authoritarianism. We can’t thank you enough. To those that came today and those that watched and shared from home, you did this. It is your continued support that grows this movement. It is your commitment to determined actions which will help us kill this bill. The streets are where we won our rights, and the streets are how we keep them. Do not let this inept government throw away your democratic freedoms.” Amy Slack Tweeted: “Kill the #PoliceCrimeSentencingCourtsBill. We have the right to peaceful protest. This bill completely undermines our rights. #KillTheBill #Truro.”
Emily Apple Tweeted: “So inspiring to see hundreds taking to the streets to #KillTheBill in Truro today. Cornwall is rising. And so is the rest of the country. Solidarity to all resisting the #PoliceCrackdownBill this weekend.” The response in Truro will seriously alarm the authorities now that they have forced the local community to accept the unwanted incursion of the G7 Summit. Boris Johnson’s decision to bring the G7 summit to one of the most severely deprived areas of the entire country demonstrates his extreme disconnect with the realities faced by our rapidly expanding working poor. To make situations worse in Cornwall numerous local properties have been bought as second homes, buy to let or vacation lets, making the housing market completely unaffordable to local people. There are limited plans to build social housing and the rental costs are high; so G7 just throws salt into a gaping wound.
Thankfully the situation in Wales did not spark any violence in Cardiff, according to the Canary, despite recent protests against police brutality towards a man who died while in police custody there were no major incidents reported. They Canary say that “Similarly, Saturday saw several protests against the bill in Wales. The largest was in Cardiff, but demonstrators also turned out in Bangor and Wrexham. In Wrexham, the demonstrators marched to lay their placards at MP Sarah Atherton’s office. Bangor saw protesters hold a minute of silence to ‘honour the sisters we have lost’ and lay flowers of remembrance.” Me thinks it is hard for a Police Officer to justify beating someone or wrestling them to the ground and piling in on top of them if they are carrying a bunch of flowers. What could they say in Court? The protestor was carrying a weapon; we were in fear of being injured by the protestor hurling a dangerous projectile bunch of daffodils? Armed with just flowers the police excuse for resorting to violence evaporates.
The Canary reported that “People in Cardiff have been protesting against South Wales police since Mohamud Hassan died in January after being held overnight in police custody. Four police officers have been served misconduct notices in relation to his death.” Pictures from the Welsh protests including a video were Tweeted by Voice.Wales: “People march through Cardiff chanting against Home Secretary Priti Patel, in a protest today against the Tory Police and Crime Bill.” Another highlighted: “The large demonstration is now heading down Bute St chanting ‘No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police.” SUTR Wales Tweeted: “Cardiff Reclaims The Streets #WorldAgainstRacism #TakeTheKnee #KillTheBill @AntiRacismDay @CardiffSutr”
Reporting on “A country-wide movement” the Canary post a Link to “A petition against the Bill now has almost 200,000 signatures, meaning it will be debated in parliament. With more protests planned over the coming weeks, the number of people against this bill could not be clearer. With the bill still in parliament, we must continue to fight for our right to protest.” Sisters Uncut Tweeted: “From Manchester to London, through Bristol and Leeds, the past week has seen a mass uprising against the #PoliceCrackdownBill. We’re proud to be part of the movement to #KillTheBill. Whether you’ve been out on the streets or protesting from home, we see you. And we will win.”
In the Canary Article entitled “You might want to check your privilege before condemning the Bristol riot,” they question those condemning the protesters. “As events in Bristol unfolded on 21 March, and as police vehicles burned, the mainstream media were quick to condemn protesters. And now we are seeing protesters themselves issuing statements, hurrying to distance themselves from the events. Politicians will be rubbing their hands with glee as activists split themselves into two camps, with one morally-superior group demonising the other, and therefore weakening our collective outrage. Bristol’s local Extinction Rebellion group released a statement about Sunday’s events, saying: In light of last night’s events, XR Bristol emphasises its absolute commitment to non-violence.”
The Canary report on XR’s lofty statement of non-violence “This basic tenet is one of our core principles, and represents the values of our wide range of supporters, from grandparents to schoolchildren, to doctors, scientists, builders, shop workers, and teachers. Within their statement they included an image of a past XR action, showing a row of activists dressed in costume facing the police. ‘Check your privilege; The Canary’s Kerry-Anne Mendoza wrote a response to those who were condemning Sunday’s riot. She said: For many communities targeted by police violence, the white, middle class tendency to treat police as their mates is honestly galling. Those of us who have faced harassment and violence at the hands of police know it’s an institutional issue. We know we shouldn’t trust police accounts automatically. And honestly, given the revelations of past decades, neither should everyone else.”
The Canary note “It is surely those with white, middle-class privilege who are most outraged by a few burnt-out police vehicles and a couple of smashed windows. If you’re reading this and feeling anger at these words, check whether you have that privilege. If you do, it’s unlikely that you’ve been very harassed by the police in your day-to-day life. Yes, I am aware that you may well have been arrested at an XR protest, and you may have possibly posted on social media that you did yoga in your police cell. But if you don’t have white, middle class privilege, you will know what it’s like to live with daily police violence towards you. You know what it’s like to be racially profiled. You may well have been taken into custody, and if you have, it’s unlikely that you’ve felt safe enough to practice yoga. Someone you love may even have been murdered by the police.”
If that is your backstory the Canary say “You will likely be asking yourself, ‘what’s a couple of burnt-out cop cars in comparison to someone you love dying? Or if you’re a woman, you might have been tricked into a relationship with an undercover police officer, or raped by a police officer. You might even have a mother, a sister or a daughter who has been murdered by a police man.” They clearly assert “No, the police aren’t here to help you to ‘peacefully protest.’ XR Bristol continued their statement by saying: An organised protest can have safeguards in place, but Bristol police were warning last week of £10,000 fines for anyone who took an organisational role. The rally yesterday belonged to no organisation. When XR plans an action we organise stewards and marshalls, including stewards trained in de-escalation, plus a reasonable degree of police liaison. The escalation of yesterday’s peaceful protest demonstrates why it is essential that organised peaceful protest remains legal” They sound a bit ‘preachy!’
The Canary report “Through XR Bristol emphasising their commitment to non-violence and to ‘organised peaceful protest’, they are assuming that their method of organising with stewards is the only successful way to bring about change. But this statement reeks of privilege. For a start, a vast number of people in the UK don’t feel safe enough around the police to ‘liaise’ with them. And while XR Bristol might think this the best tactic, it is a foolish one. Because if you politely ‘liaise’ with the police, they will gather evidence on you and your fellow-protesters to use against you. They are not your friends, despite their often-friendly chatter. Their job is to protect the state, gather intelligence and to defend the status quo. Even if you do want to ‘peacefully’ protest, there’s no guarantee that the police will let you.” Carry a brief legally valid written statement that says “I am not legally required to prvide my name or any information to the police; thank you for your acceptance of my legal rights!” Some of the Police tactics of crushing restraint carry a serious risk of death: it is only a matter of time before a protester is killed!
The Canary say “Take this person who was beaten up at the Sarah Everard rally in London. He told The Canary: I am a strong believer of peaceful protesting, and I was just in the demo with some friends from work, when four officers grabbed me from the side, without explanation they put me to the floor. Whilst they were trying to handcuff me I was moving my arms because of the pain and then suddenly 10 more officers were on top of me. There was [an] officer sitting on my back, two officers on my shoulders, and the rest just using unreasonable force on me. They banged my head to the floor, scratched my hands, and the handcuffs were so tight that my wrists were bruised and knees. Or take Sunday’s Bristol protest. The Canary’s Sophia Purdy-Moore said: ‘We were literally sitting on the floor shouting ‘this is a peaceful protest’ while police hit protesters round the head with batons. At one point it looked like their horses were going to charge into the crowd. What response did they expect?’”
We cannot afford to be intimidated by threats of huge fines or aggressive Police tactics as “We must continue to resist the Police Bill.” The Canary remind us that “The government knows by now that its hope of quietly slipping through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has failed dismally. In fact, their continuous violence towards protesters is just drawing more and more attention to it. If you’re sitting at home in a comfort that others can only dream of, please don’t condemn those who are fighting for our last slivers of freedom. Because banner-waving might not be enough to win this one.” Although I respect this argument and have not been among those criticizing the conduct of others; I do believe that a non-violent pathway is the most productive. This is primarily because the Tory authorities and their violent enforcers have absolute control over the media and that disgusting Tory mouthpiece the BBC. The slightest flicker of non-passive resistance will become the focus of attention for days on end.
When the aggression is all very clearly one-sided and Police attacks are entirely unprovoked there is nothing for them to highlight and fill the airwaves and tabloids with. My tactic would be to gather a core of individuals who are prepared to function as a protective front line and equip them with crash helmets, face guards and padded protective suits to resist baton blows. You could even issue a press release announcing that this has become necessary due to the threat of unprovoked police violence. Helmets could be fitted with bodycams for continuous hands-free filming without relying on a mobile phone which is easily wrenched from your hand in a scuffle and dashed on the ground. Organising stewards and marshalls, including those trained in de-escalation is a sensible idea and this doesn’t have to involve liaising with the Police, as this will become more and more difficult in future.
If protesters carry only flowers the Police excuse for resorting to violence completely evaporates. Breaking News: several Police officers were taken to hospital after being seriously injured when pelted by protesters with an avalanche of projectile daffodils! Your Honour, it was necessary for six officers to pin the petite female defendant to the ground after she threatened us with a sun flower! We do not have the climate for barefoot and half-naked Ghandi style, but he proved that non-violence can be powerful. It will take intense discipline to resist Police provocation, but it is the best way to disarm this Tory Government’s violent enforcers especially if everything is caught on camera. We should never have allowed this dangerous Fascist regime to corrupt our Electoral process and warp our BBC prior to the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. It was their takeover of the state broadcaster and dominance in the Media that duped so many into believing the Tory lies about ‘borrowed votes:’ this truly unfathomable result must still be Investigated. DO NOT MOVE ON!