Kettle tactics risk Hillsborough-style tragedy – doctor

A senior doctor has warned that police risk repeating a Hillsborough-type tragedy if they continue with tactics deployed during the recent tuition fee protests.

The anaesthetist from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, who gave medical assistance to the protesters, said that officers forced demonstrators into such a tight “kettle” on Westminster Bridge that they were in danger of being seriously crushed or pushed into the freezing River Thames.

The 34-year-old doctor, who set up a field hospital in Parliament Square, said that people on the bridge suffered respiratory problems, chest pains and the symptoms of severe crushing.

“Police had us so closely packed, I couldn’t move my feet or hands an inch. We were in that situation like that for hours. People in the middle were having real difficulty breathing.

“It was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen – it must have been what Hillsborough was like. The crush was just so great. Repeatedly I tried to speak to officers, telling them that I was a doctor and that this was a serious health and safety risk,” said the doctor, who did not want to be named.

Her comments will raise fresh concerns over police tactics during the protest 10 days ago during which almost 50 police and protesters were hospitalised.

During the Hillsborough tragedy of April 1989, Britain’s worst sporting disaster, 96 Liverpool fans died when police failed to control crowds and a lethal crush developed. Hundreds more were injured after being squeezed against the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, which was hosting that year’s FA Cup semi-final. The inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor established that the main cause was a failure of police crowd control.

Student Danielle Smith, 21, from Dagenham, studying creative and professional writing at the University of East London, said she was squeezed so tightly during the kettle that the day after it felt “like I’d been in a car accident”.

“I couldn’t move, and it hurt to laugh, breathe, sleep, sit down and eat. To do anything just really hurt. For days after I took as many painkillers as I could a day. I had real trouble standing in such a tight space. Again people were getting crushed. I had a shield in my face a few times. The police just hit those closest to them, they weren’t really thinking about who was in the wrong or right.”

She said it was incredible that none of the hundreds of protesters sandwiched between two lines of riot police fell off the bridge: “The people around the edge, they were screaming, saying they thought they were going to fall off.”

The Aberdeen doctor added: “The sides of the bridge were only waist high and all it would have taken is one stumble and someone could have gone over the side. I’m surprised that no one died there. And if anyone had been injured, I would have struggled to respond even if I was stood next to them.” She said that when several police became caught inside the kettle they were screaming to get out. “They were experiencing what we were experiencing.”

Her comments also include allegations of disproportionate police violence, pointing to the number of serious head injuries among protesters. Along with two colleagues who had volunteered to staff a field hospital, the doctor said they treated around 30 protesters.

“It got incredibly violent. The vast majority of injuries I saw were head injuries. I was surprised how much force the police had used. Between us we probably saw thirty folk. A couple of people also had injuries to their wrists and elbows where they had raised their hands to cover themselves from baton blows.”

Witnesses say a section of the crowd were ushered from Parliament Square around 9pm onto Westminster Bridge before being kettled for around three hours until they were released.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said kettling was used to control sections of the crowd, who had became violent, while minimising force. He said that every effort was made to keep the crowd as safe as possible.


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Lib Dem Conference the circus is comeing to town..

Lib Dem conference at Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 – the first time Sheffield has hosted a conference by a national political party.

Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.

It’s interesting. I personally feel that non-violent civil resistance is one of the most effective forms of protest. Don’t get me wrong, by that I don’t mean well behaved civilians walking along the well planned routes decided by the police and being watched over by the still plotting and scheming state as they march past…

For some years I have not gone to or attended demos in London, I’ve felt such frustration and anger when faced with a snarling, ignorant police officer, calling me names, swearing at me while I’ve stood, calmly and politely asking to leave the area before the violence kicks off. I’m not interested in fighting police. I’m not interested in getting pulverised when caught between them and the very brave, but very ignorant and reactionary, protesters who may want to fight. Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.

When the G8 come to Sheffield I was in a very desperate circumstance, being a part of the dysfunctional attention seekers was, I thought, a means to an end and looking back at what happened it was just another play for today. We all had our set roles, aims and objectives from the protesters to the Police. When the Liberal Democrats come to Sheffield in April it will be much the same.

The students and young people at these protests, I personally feel, have every right to fight if they so wish. The government does what it likes and the police tend to do as they like – it is deeply unjust to proclaim that these young people, who are having what they know of their futures torn up and trampled on, are wrong to resist that. However, even though it may be an animalistic and instinctive right of any human being to fight back and defend through violence, further study and thought about how to stand against the government may provide an alternative, and most probably optimal, outcome.

The state are all too ready for what Paul Scriven calls thugs, we could debate for an age who have been the real thugs on the student protests, a section 14 was imposed in Sheffield, The Police in their riot vans, batons at the ready, lined the route of the protesters. Much the same when the circus comes to town in April.

The protesters, or should that be dysfunctional attention seekers, will no doubt be protesting. Once more, as with the G8, the real impact of holding such a conference in Sheffield will be on the people of Sheffield and Paul Scriven says it is of benefit for the people of Sheffield. Need I remind him that people not involved in the G8 Protest were followed, stopped and searched, due to fact they knew people involved, or had alternative viewpoints but nothing to do with the protest itself. Once more the lives of working class people will bare the impact of such a conference coming to Sheffield.

The middle class and the Police will no doubt play their part in the play for today, then we will have the same old crass headlines, along with commendation As a long standing Anarchist, I need to make it very clear that I have no time for Middle Class protestors and the Police, both are a part of the state, the problem not the solution. Neither is a full scale riot a solution or meaningless protest where the dysfunctional attention seekers shout their slogans and sell papers to each other. The circus might be coming to Sheffield but I see nothing to get overjoyed about, we need to seek alternative ways of expressing our discontent at the injustice of Capitalism and all what it stands for, agreed.

There is nothing I hold in common with the protesters or the current government and you will find this be the fact for millions of working class people. Of course we either take now or stay the same, once more you will not even find myself involved with the dysfunctional attention seekers, the greatest key is to understand that they have a heart. Do not reinforce their self trickery; violence towards them reinforces that what they are doing is just and right! By smacking you when you are calm, it hurts them. If an entire crowd is calm but calculated and organised, the police aims will be revealed.

In the end it will eat itself from the inside out.

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Ainsworth is right, we should end drug prohibition

Since we first prowled the savannahs of Africa, human beings have displayed a few overpowering and ineradicable impulses—for food, for sex, and for drugs. Every human society has hunted for its short cuts to an altered state: The hunger for a chemical high, low, or pleasingly new shuffle sideways is universal. Peer back through history, and it’s everywhere. Ovid said drug-induced ecstasy was a divine gift. The Chinese were brewing alcohol in prehistory and cultivating opium by 700 A.D. Cocaine was found in clay-pipe fragments from William Shakespeare’s house. George Washington insisted American soldiers be given whiskey every day as part of their rations. Human history is filled with chemicals, come-downs, and hangovers.

And in every generation, there are moralists who try to douse this natural impulse in moral condemnation and burn it away. They believe that humans, stripped of their intoxicants, will become more rational or ethical or good. They point to the addicts and the overdoses and believe they reveal the true face—and the logical endpoint—of your order at the bar or your roll-up. And they believe we can be saved from ourselves, if only we choose to do it. Their vision holds an intoxicating promise of its own.

Their most famous achievement—the criminalization of alcohol in the United States between 1921 and 1933—is one of the great parables of modern history. Daniel Okrent’s superb new history, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, shows how a coalition of mostly well-meaning, big-hearted people came together and changed the Constitution to ban booze. On the day it began, one of the movement’s leaders, the former baseball hero turned evangelical preacher Billy Sunday, told his ecstatic congregation what the Dry New World would look like: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever rent.

The story of the War on Alcohol has never needed to be told more urgently—because its grandchild, the War on Drugs, shares the same DNA. Okrent alludes to the parallel only briefly, on his final page, but it hangs over the book like old booze-fumes—and proves yet again Mark Twain’s dictum: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

There was never an America without chemical highs. The Native Americans used hallucinogens routinely, and the ship that brought John Winthrop and the first Puritans to the continent carried three times more beer than water, along with 10,000 gallons of wine. It was immediately a society so soaked in alcohol that it makes your liver ache to read the raw statistics: By 1830, the average citizen drank seven gallons of pure alcohol a year. America was so hungry for highs that when there was a backlash against all this boozing, the temperance movement’s initial proposal was that people should water down their alcohol with opium.

It’s not hard to see how this fug of liquor caused problems, as well as pleasure—and the backlash was launched by a furious housewife from a small town in Ohio. One Sunday in 1874, Eliza Thompson—a mother to eight children, who had never spoken out on any public issue before—stood before the crowds at her church and announced that America would never be free or godly until the last whiskey bottle was emptied onto the dry earth. A huge crowd of women cheered: They believed their husbands were squandering their wages at the saloon. They marched as one to the nearest bar, where they all sank to their knees and prayed for the soul of its owner. They refused to leave until he repented. They worked in six-hour prayer shifts on the streets until the saloonkeeper finally appeared, head bowed, and agreed to shut it down. This prayer-athon then moved around to every alcohol-seller in the town. Within 10 days, only four of the original 13 remained, and the rebellion was spreading across the country.

It was women who led the first cry for Temperance, and it was women who made Prohibition happen. A woman called Carry Nation became a symbol of the movement when she traveled from bar to bar with an oversize hatchet and smashed them to pieces. Indeed, Prohibition was one of the first and most direct effects of the movement to expand the vote.* This is one of the first strange flecks of gray in this story. The proponents of Prohibition were primarily progressives—and some of the most admirable people in American history, from Susan B. Anthony to Frederick Douglass to Eugene V. Debs*. The pioneers of American feminism believed alcohol was at the root of men’s brutality toward women. The anti-slavery movement saw alcohol addiction as a new form of slavery, replacing leg irons with whiskey bottles. You can see the same left-wing prohibitionism today, when people like Al Sharpton say drugs must be criminalized because addiction does real harm in ghettos.

Of course, there were more obviously sinister proponents of Prohibition too, pressing progressives into weird alliances. The Ku Klux Klan said that “nigger gin” was the main reason that oppressed black people were prone to rebellion, and if you banned alcohol, they would become quiescent. An echo of this persists in America’s current strain of prohibition. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine are equally harmful, but crack—which is disproportionately used by black people—carries much heavier jail sentences than powder cocaine, which is disproportionately used by white people.

It was in this context that the Anti-Saloon League rose to become the most powerful pressure group in American history and the only one to ever change the Constitution through peaceful political campaigning. It was begun by a little man called Wayne Wheeler, who was as dry as the Sahara and twice as overheated—and a political genius, maneuvering politicians of all parties into backing a ban. He threatened them by weaving together a coalition of evangelicals, feminists, racists, and lefties—the equivalent of herding Sarah Palin, the National Association of Women, David Duke, and Keith Olbermann into one unstoppable political force.

With the implementation of the 18th Amendment in 1920, the dysfunctions of Prohibition began.* When you ban a popular drug that millions of people want, it doesn’t disappear. Instead, it is transferred from the legal economy into the hands of armed criminal gangs. Across America, gangsters rejoiced that they had just been handed one of the biggest markets in the country, and unleashed an armada of freighters, steamers, and even submarines to bring booze back. Nobody who wanted a drink went without. As the journalist Malcolm Bingay wrote, “It was absolutely impossible to get a drink, unless you walked at least ten feet and told the busy bartender in a voice loud enough for him to hear you above the uproar.”

So if it didn’t stop alcoholism, what did it achieve? The same as prohibition does today—a massive unleashing of criminality and violence. Gang wars broke out, with the members torturing and murdering one another first to gain control of and then to retain their patches. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire. The icon of the new criminal class was Al Capone, a figure so fixed in our minds as the scar-faced King of Charismatic Crime, pursued by the rugged federal agent Eliot Ness, that Okrent’s biographical details seem oddly puncturing. Capone was only 25 when he tortured his way to running Chicago’s underworld. He was gone from the city by the age of 30 and a syphilitic corpse by 40. But he was an eloquent exponent of his own case, saying simply, “I give to the public what the public wants. I never had to send out high pressure salesmen. Why, I could never meet the demand.”

By 1926, he and his fellow gangsters were making $3.6 billion a year—in 1926 money! To give some perspective, that was more than the entire expenditure of the U.S. government. The criminals could outbid and outgun the state. So they crippled the institutions of a democratic state and ruled, just as drug gangs do today in Mexico, Afghanistan, and ghettos from South Central Los Angeles to the banlieues of Paris. They have been handed a market so massive that they can tool up to intimidate everyone in their area, bribe many police and judges into submission, and achieve such a vast size, the honest police couldn’t even begin to get them all. The late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said, “Al Capone epitomizes our earlier attempts at Prohibition; the Crips and Bloods epitomize this one.”

One insight, more than any other, ripples down from Okrent’s history to our own bout of prohibition. Armed criminal gangs don’t fear prohibition: They love it. He has uncovered fascinating evidence that the criminal gangs sometimes financially supported dry politicians, precisely to keep it in place. They knew if it ended, most of organized crime in America would be bankrupted. So it’s a nasty irony that prohibitionists try to present legalizers—then and now—as “the bootlegger’s friend” or “the drug-dealer’s ally.” Precisely the opposite is the truth. Legalizers are the only people who can bankrupt and destroy the drug gangs, just as they destroyed Capone. Only the prohibitionists can keep them alive.

Once a product is controlled only by criminals, all safety controls vanish and the drug becomes far more deadly. After 1921, it became common to dilute and relabel poisonous industrial alcohol, which could still legally be bought, and sell it by the pint glass. This “rotgut” caused epidemics of paralysis and poisoning. For example, one single batch of bad booze permanently crippled 500 people in Wichita, Kan., in early 1927—a usual event. That year, 760 people were poisoned to death by bad booze in New York City alone. Wayne Wheeler persuaded the government not to remove fatal toxins from industrial alcohol, saying it was good to keep this “disincentive” in place.

Prohibition’s flaws were so obvious that the politicians in charge privately admitted the law was self-defeating. Warren Harding brought $1,800 of booze with him to the White House, while Andrew Mellon—in charge of enforcing the law—called it “unworkable.” Similarly, the last three presidents of the United States were recreational drug users in their youth. Once he ceased to be president, Bill Clinton called for the decriminalization of cannabis, and Obama probably will too. Yet in office, they continue to mouth prohibitionist platitudes about “eradicating drugs.” They insist the rest of the world’s leaders resist the calls for greater liberalization from their populations and instead “crack down” on the drug gangs—no matter how much violence it unleashes. Indeed, Obama recently praised Calderon for his “crackdown” on drugs by—with no apparent irony—calling him “Mexico’s Eliot Ness.” Obama should know that Ness came to regard his War on Alcohol as a disastrous failure, and he died a drunk himself—but drug prohibition addles politicians’ brains.

By 1928, the failure of Prohibition was plain, yet its opponents were demoralized and despairing. It looked like an immovable part of the American political landscape, since it would require big majorities in every state to amend the Constitution again. Clarence Darrow wrote that “thirteen dry states with a population of less than New York State alone can prevent repeal until Haley’s Comet returns,” so “one might as well talk about taking a summer vacation of Mars.”

Yet it happened. It happened suddenly and completely. Why? The answer is found in your wallet, with the hard cash. After the Great Crash, the government’s revenues from income taxes collapsed by 60 percent in just three years, while the need for spending to stimulate the economy was skyrocketing. The U.S. government needed a new source of income, fast. The giant untaxed, unchecked alcohol industry suddenly looked like a giant pot of cash at the end of the prohibitionist rainbow. Could the same thing happen today, after our own Great Crash? The bankrupt state of California is about to hold a referendum to legalize and tax cannabis, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pointed out that it could raise massive sums. Yes, history does rhyme.

Many people understandably worry that legalization would cause a huge rise in drug use, but the facts suggest this isn’t the case. Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001, and—as a study by Glenn Greenwald for the Cato Institute found—it had almost no effect at all.* Indeed, drug use fell a little among the young. Similarly, Okrent says the end of alcohol prohibition “made it harder, not easier, to get a drink. … Now there were closing hours and age limits, as well as a collection of geographic proscriptions that kept bars or package stores distant from schools, churches and hospitals.” People didn’t drink much more. The only change was that they didn’t have to turn to armed criminal gangs for it, and they didn’t end up swigging poison.

Who now defends alcohol prohibition? Is there a single person left? This echoing silence should suggest something to us. Ending drug prohibition seems like a huge heave, just as ending alcohol prohibition did. But when it is gone, when the drug gangs are a bankrupted memory, when drug addicts are treated not as immoral criminals but as ill people needing health care, who will grieve? American history is pocked by utopian movements that prefer glib wishful thinking over a hard scrutiny of reality, but they inevitably crest and crash in the end. Okrent’s dazzling history leaves us with one whiskey-sharp insight above all others: The War on Alcohol and the War on Drugs failed because they were, beneath all the blather, a war on human nature.

Johann Hari

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Students Should Not! be panicked by mets published pictures

Once again the Met have released a set of images of people they want in connection with the student protests last Thursday 9/11/2010.

If you or one of your mates is one of them, you’ll be worried and unsure about what to do. Before you do anything, read this first.

The dilemma is this – if you hand yourself in, you are DEFINITELY throwing away your chance of walking away from all this. If you don’t hand yourself in, you MIGHT get caught anyway – or you might not. And they MIGHT give you a slightly tougher sentence – or they might not.

Handing yourself in does NOT guarantee a softer sentence. Those who gave themselves up after disorder at the Gaza protests a couple of years ago, DID NOT get noticeably lesser sentences than others.

The fact they have published your photo means that they probably DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. The police have a hard job tracking people down just from a photo.

Even if you have previous convictions, there are lots of reasons why they still won’t know who you are. They may not be able to get a link to your police record just by having a photo. If the picture they have is not clear, or you have changed appearance, they have no chance.

GOING TO A LAWYER at this stage may NOT BE A GOOD IDEA. If you go to a lawyer for advice they will tell you to hand yourself in – they will be duty bound to do so.

Having the name of a good lawyer to keep in your back pocket in case the worst happens may be a very good idea.

You might want to read the advice FITWATCH gave after the Millbank demo. It may be relevant.

STAY PROUD of yourself. The police were brutal and violent on Thursday. Defending yourself and others against police attack should not be treated as a criminal act.

IF you are arrested:

Say NO COMMENT to ALL questions in interview. DO NOT justify yourself to the police. DO NOT comment on why you were there. DO NOT comment on who you were with. DO NOT comment on what you did. SAY NOTHING – for your own protection and that of others.
Get in touch with defendants support at Green and Black Cross.

Really Fit

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On Police Violence (2)

We live in a democracy right?

So we all have the right to be represented. In fact equal rights to representation is the ideology on which our society has (eventually) been built. My rights as a citizen in this country depend upon my recognition of your rights. If I have access to the vote then so should you. If I have access to education then so too you. Especially since we have a first class education system – accessible to all, excellence for all.

Or we did. Until Thursday 9th December at around 4.30pm when a slim majority of 21 MPs compromised their election promises and sided with the coalition government, rather than the students who voted them in. 21 MPs. 21 individuals have made a decision that will dismantle our national treasure – a world famous and public Higher Education. Along with the hike in tuition fees those 21 MPs have forced hundred of thousands of children, the poorest children in our society, to finish school at 16. The fates of 660,000 of our most vulnerable children have been decided by 21 people who promised to represent them.

This is the back-story to the youth protests that have shook our cities and dominated the nation’s press.

Kids have never had it so hard – their future mortgaged to shore up a deficit created by the banks; an ecological debt created because our leaders lack the will and imagination to invest in a sustainable future. For the first time in a long time young people with the smallest voice and the most to lose have got together and coordinated a response.

Cameron responded to their frustration and anger with appaled outrage. How dare these children use any means possible to achieve representation? How dare they smash national treasures he asks whilst he holds the axe to Higher Education, the Independent Living Fund, the nation’s forests, the NHS.

Originally posted by Climate Rush on their blog.

The violence we saw on the streets during the student fees protest last week was totally unacceptable. The violence by the police was not restricted to a tiny minority.

We saw police charge demonstrators with horses (leaving one girl with a broken collar bone). We saw police beat protesters with batons and riot shields (leaving one man with serious head injuries). We saw people held for many hours on the streets in freezing cold conditions without water or food or toilet facilities.

People have the right to demonstrate in front of Parliament not find their access blocked.

People have the right to expect the police to safeguard their democratic right to protest, not to herd and coral and beat around the head.

Will you be launching a full Public Inquiry into the appalling policing that took place last Thursday?

People expect the police to be there to protect them not live in fear of them.

We want policing by consent, not policing by baton wielding thugs in uniform and riot gear.

This is not a Third World State or a country in the old Soviet Bloc and yet I saw no difference in behaviour by the state security apparatus. What we are seeing is history repeating itself, our Prague Spring, our Orange Revolution, and the knee-jerk reaction of the state is the same.

Will you be launching a full Public Inquiry into the beating of student Alfie Meadows? Who would have died but for his mother finding him.

We demand, not politely request, all FIT film footage to be placed in the public domain and to be handed over to Alfie’s family.

We demand a prompt and speedy and competent investigation. We do not want to see the delays we saw into the death of Ian Tomlinson, that by the time the case reaches the Courts it is too late for a prosecution of those police officers involved.

Has nothing been learnt from the death of Ian Tomlinson? Has nothing been learnt from the illegal kettling?

Sup Julia Pendry blatantly lied when she gave her press conference from New Scotland Yard. As did the Met Commissioner.

Yes, there was violence committed that day, violence that will have long reaching impact, that will scar a generation for life. That was the violence committed on our education system and the youth of our country.

We are seeing the privatisation, marketisation of our education system. We are seeing people who live in slums denied a helping hand. We are seeing massive welfare cuts. We are seeing housing cuts. Next will come NHS, our libraries, our public transport, our museums, sell off of our woods and forests.

An alleged Budget Deficit is being used as the excuse for slash and burn of the public sector. There would not even be a budget deficit if tax dodgers were forced to pay their taxes.

No we are not in it all together. The rich retain their privileges whilst the poor, the disadvantaged, the environment, pay the price of greedy bankers and decades of economic mismanagement.

What you saw on Thursday was the Big Society in action. It may take a long time and a lot of provocation to awaken from its slumber, but provocation has finally roused its ire. Big Society is on the case and does not like what it finds. Big Society does not like the democratic deficit at the heart of the Gothic chamber of horrors.

The anger that erupted on the streets, was as a direct result of the vote in Parliament and the violence and intimidation by the police beforehand.

Had you been with the students and lecturers and school kids as they walked to Parliament, you would have been able to have joined in the party atmosphere, what many described as a carnival. But you would have also have seen the attempted kettles, the blocked roads, to try and stop people reaching Parliament.

You owe an apology for falsely claiming there were ‘scenes of police officers being dragged off police horses and beaten’.

Maybe you should spend some time talking to Caroline Lucas MP as she seems to have a better grasp of reality than either yourself or lying hypocrites Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

More Reading:

  1. The fight for Parliament
  2. Caroline Lucas MP speaks at student fees protest
  3. A sad day for democracy
  4. Captain SKA – Liar Liar
  5. The Battle for Parliament Square
  6. Taming the Vampire Squid: Take back our banks
  7. Why cuts are the wrong cure
  8. London Student Assembly Press Conference
  9. Alfie Meadows seriously injured in student fees protest
  10. ‘Scenes of police officers being dragged off police horses and beaten’
  11. Inside the Parliament Square kettle
  12. Kettled During 9th of December Protest
  13. Britain’s woods and forests for sale
  14. Climate Rendezvous with Climate Rush

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Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance: Communiqué No.1

Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance launched 24th November

Over 350 people turned up to our launch meeting in Novotel to give massive thumbs up to setting up a Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance (see press release). This was way beyond our expectations and demonstrates what a huge potential there is to mobilise trade unionists, students, pensioners, tenants, community groups and indeed a wide range of individual citizens of Sheffield to oppose this ConDem Government’s vicious public spending cuts agenda.

Since that meeting volunteers from PCS union have been compiling an email list of over 175 names from the attendance sheets. Obviously we want this list to grow so please forward to us email contacts you wish to add to the list. In practice we do not have the resources to mail out to those who only left postal addresses. Please forward this communiqué to your contacts.

Steering Committee 14th Dec Trades & Labour Club 7pm

Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance Steering Committee will have its first meeting on Tuesday 14th December at 7pm at the Trades & Labour Club on Talbot Street (downstairs room). The Steering Committee should be representative of the many trade unions and other organisations which wish to be affiliated e.g. students, pensioners, tenants associations, community groups etc. Please contact your organisation to formally endorse its delegate(s). In order for the meeting to go ahead and not lose time we trust organisations can agree pro-tem delegates for this meeting. We also want the Steering Committee meetings to be as open as possible, so we are suggesting that others may attend in a non-voting capacity, as was the wish of the launch meeting.

The Steering Committee will need to agree the necessary officer positions to allow the Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance to function properly, the rights to representation and an appropriate affiliation fee, plus open up a bank account. We also need to consider a plan of future activities i.e. next public meeting, protest activities, stalls in city centre etc, press releases, communications etc.

Student protests in Sheffield

Mass protests by students across the country, not least here in Sheffield, have suddenly raised the temperature in the fight against the cuts. Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance has given a big message of support to the Sheffield University students sit-in at the Richard Roberts Building, and Martin Mayer was invited to speak to the occupation on Sunday 5th December. Whilst the main emphasis of their protest is the hike in tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA, it is clear the students wish to support a broad alliance with workers, trade unions and others against all the cuts. We expect to see a significant student presence within Sheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance from now on.

Sheffield Children’s Hospital faces dramatic cuts

Forget the ConDem Government’s claim that the NHS is ring fenced, and that the cuts won’t hit our hospitals. Trade Unions estimate the failure to increase spending just to maintain the current service is equivalent to a £20B spending cut over 4 years. And the first Sheffield hospital to be affected is the one most dear to Sheffielders’ hearts – the Children’s Hospital which will face a cut of nearly £300M this year. Contact is currently being made with the trade unions to see how best we can mobilise Sheffield to come to their aid and stop this cut.

£83B cuts over 4 years – yet UK finds £7B to help Ireland!

In an astonishing sleight of hand, the ConDem Government has had no trouble in finding £7B to lend to their Conservative Fine Fail friends in Ireland. If UK also contributes to IMF and EU funds in the bailout, this could be as much as £10B! Funny – we were supposed to be in such desperate straights here in the UK that £83B worth of cuts were necessary to save UK plc from bankruptcy! By the way we should take no lessons from the Irish Government. Massive spending cuts have already been implemented on their economy – with devastating results. The cuts have led to a severe economy slowdown as unemployment soared, the cost of benefits increased and tax receipts to the Government plummeted. Fine Fail’s response when the first tranch of cuts failed? Make MORE cuts. The Irish are now experiencing their fourth tranch of spending cuts and the picture for the economy looks even bleaker. Most pundits predict the Government will fall in the New Year.

LibDems in chaos as tuition fees vote looms

Will they vote for it? Will they abstain? The nation is on tenterhooks as an increasingly shambolic LibDem Party frets over its policy of spending cuts in education and the broken promises over tuition fees. A London LibDem Conference was abandoned over the weekend in response to massive student protests scheduled to take place. The vote in Parliament takes place this Thursday 9th December. Quite rightly the students have focused their anger on Nick Clegg and the LibDems for their broken promises in the election. Many thousands of students voted for the LibDems because of their stance on this issue. Remember their claim to represent a “new type of politics” unlike the stale old politics of Labour and Tory? Here in Sheffield the students are mobilising for a “recall” of Sheffield MP Nick Clegg and watch out for big protests when the National Lib Dem conference takes place in Sheffield in March 2011. With opinion polls showing LibDems support down to around 12%, we have every chance of voting out the LibDems in Sheffield Council elections in May.

Is there an alternative to the cuts?

Of course there is an alternative but you wouldn’t think so from reading the papers or watching the telly. Even if you believe the deficit must be cut quickly (and many experts say it is better to stage the deficit reduction over a period of time) there is an obvious alternative. Instead of cutting spending, increase the tax revenue! This can be done! Even on the Government’s own figures about £20B per year is “avoided” by big business. The Inland Revenue is notoriously under resourced and PCS members who work there know that billions of tax is uncollected each year for this reason alone.

What about closing tax loopholes and tax havens? Sir Philip Green, the ConDem Government’s special advisor on Government “waste” does not pay a penny in UK taxes on his massive business empire. Instead it is all registered in his wife’s name and she lives in Monaco! Many big businesses have found “tax efficiency savings” by registering their companies in tax havens like British Virgin Islands and so pay little or no tax on their UK operations. Even without increasing the official rate of tax on the rich and powerful we could easily replace this £83B of spending cuts with more than the equivalent in tax revenue.

Of course the one tax the ConDem Government are increasing is VAT to a staggering 20%! It is the most regressive tax of all and will hit working people disproportionately hard – and will probably lead to a downturn in sales and hit the economy further. Far better to introduce a Robin Hood tax – a tiny percentage on each share transaction in the city would bring in around £20B per year.

Martin Mayer UNITE; Marion Lloyd PCS; Ben Morris NUTSheffield Anti-Cuts Alliance

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Hacktion Stations.

A real (but largely virtual) war is being fought over control of information and your right to hear the truth – especially any truth unpalatable as far as the ruling elites are concerned. In their guise of ‘The Authorities’, the nod for a full on assault on WikiLeaks was given sometime ago; a not-so-covert campaign to shut the website shut down and trace and punish those responsible is well underway.

Indymedia: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Despite founder Julian Assange being arrested in the UK this week (and wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in that interview room?!), the website itself has proved harder to conquer, and a mass direct ‘hacktion’ campaign of unprecedented size has booted itself up to help fight back.

Following the release of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the constant drip-feed of awkward news stories flowing since, the diplomatic world has been flapping in panic. The nut-o-sphere of right-wing media and front-of-house politicians continue to froth in helpless rage at the constant parade of behind-the-scenes dirty laundry.

But backroom US government departments, and their proxies, have been stepping up their efforts by leaning heavily on anyone with connections to the web’s whistle-blowers.

Last week, Amazon pulled the plug on its hosting of the site, while the Wikileaks domain name was also yanked off-line by (hosting was switched to mirror sites in Europe). Funding was also targeted, with PayPal freezing funds and Mastercard and Visa suspending all payments to Wikileaks. Swiss bankers PostFinance shut down accounts containing defence funds for Wikileaks and founder Julian Assange. The site has also been subject to a continued barrage of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks from ‘sources unknown’.

The only possible point to all this is presumably petty revenge and as a warning to les autres; the file containing the source data has been posted and torrent-downloaded by many thousands of people all over the planet. There’s no keeping this embarrassing cat in the (diplomatic) bag.

With Wikileaks under siege, hacktavist group ‘Anonymous’ launched ‘Operation Payback’ – widely distributing software that can launch DDoS’s of their own. This week they took aim at an array of targets including PayPal, Amazon, Sarah Palin, Visa and Mastercard (whose website was paralysed, shutting down its ability to process transactions for a time).

‘Anonymous’ describes itself as “an anonymous, decentralised movement that fights against censorship and copywrong”. In the past they have targeted Kiss’s Gene Simmons for his attacks on filesharing and sinister culty weirdos the Church of Scientology.

One member said, “If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they disagree with as they wish.” Although there has been no let up in the attacks, he said the group would now focus on methods to support Wikileaks such as mirroring the site.

‘Payback’ has also targeted the Swedish prosecution authority in protest over the strange affair of Julian Assange’s sex-offence charges.

The allegations against Assange concern two women he had consensual sex with, one of whom accuses him of deliberately breaking a condom the other of later having non-consensual sex without a condom. (See here for more details of the strange affair)

The original charges of rape were thrown out last August when Swedish authorities found they were unfounded. However, as Assange was gaining renown as the public face of Wikileaks, the case was reopened last November. Two days after the release of the first diplomatic cables, the Swedish authorities issued an Interpol alert, leading to his arrest in the UK – and denial of bail. He now faces extradition to Sweden.

Protesters declaring their support for Assange gathered outside Westminster Magistrates Court for Assange’s bail hearing on Tuesday (7th). Demos have been called against Assange’s extradition for Monday (13th), outside the Swedish Embassy at 16.00, and for Tuesday (14th) outside Westminster Magistrates Court.

To get a slice of the hacktion,see

SchNEWS 751

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On violence against the police..

The condemnations are as predictable as they are boring.  The public-school educated Sun hacks, who write like some coked up parodies of proletarian semi-literacy, refer to “louts” and “hooligans”.  The Daily Mail complains about someone urinating against Churchill’s statue, and the Telegraph is dismayed that Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were “attacked”.  Probably by a “baying mob”.  Meanwhile, someone in a moustache on The Guardian talks about how, no doubt, this will provide a “distraction” from the “real issues”, whose repetition ad nauseam presumably has some intrinsic value for the solemn liberal contingent.

I can’t even be bothered to look up the precise terms of the condemnation this time.  It’s always the same.  A dash of the royal family, veneration for some long dead racist, shakes of the head from the banal but well intentioned.  Is anyone still listening?  Haven’t we read all this before?

The NUS and UCU are of course, for “peaceful protest”.  What is the effective record of “peaceful protest”?  How does social change happen?  Is it always peaceful?  Are kettles acceptable, and is it reasonable to try and break them?  Such questions are politely neither asked nor answered: that would be politics – we’re just about protecting our reputations.  Thanks.

One of the oddest, least remarked upon, features of contemporary capitalism is the way it systematically enlists all its main functionaries in talking nonsense on a day to day basis.  The police don’t really believe that the “kettle” is a necessary response to violence.

It seemed more to be motivated by traditional aims of kettling that are rarely stated: to demoralise protesters so much that they are dissuaded from taking part again, and to exhaust them physically so that they go home quietly (not that there was any need for the latter by this stage of the night). While queueing to leave Parliament Square, a woman next to me jokingly told a police officer that if they let us go, she would promise that this would be her last demonstration. The officer replied, “That’s the point.”

OK.  Now we know that.  They know that.  We know they know we know that.  But, of course, they can’t say it, officially, in public.  That’s against the rules.  It’s like the “have you ever taken any illegal drugs” question on a job application form.  No one expects you to answer truthfully: it’s a test, the real content of which is: “are you a fucking idiot?”  No?  Well go right ahead them.  As long as you can play the game, it’s all ok.

Another recent example: Wikileaks cables shows that the US finds the obsequious grovelling of Conservative politicians “humorous”.  But of course, Atlanticist politicians on both sides leap to say how important “the special relationship” really is to America.  Of course they do.  It’s the same rules we learned at school: deny everything, keep looking straight ahead and there’s nothing anyone can do.

We all have our own stories from last night, no doubt.  A girl had a clump of her hair pulled out.  A 20 year old is in hospital, having had to have life-saving brain surgery, amongst 43 hospitalised protestors.  I’m sure it says somewhere that “there will be an investigation”.  (Tomlinson, cough, Menezes, cough, etc. cough.)  “My 19-year-old sister was forced to the floor by police when caught in a crowd and when attempting to get up was punched in the face by a male officer. She is sporting a black eye this morning” says one.  Another: “a guy running away from police along Whitehall getting being unable to run further because of a stray barrier. Before he could jump over, two police charged into him with their shields and repeatedly hit him with their shields, against the barrier.”

Fair-minded people are against “disproportionate”, “provocative”, or “brutal” policing; and presumably in favour of a polite push and shove.  This is an appealing message (and it may make sense to accentuate it to the cameras), but is more or less a fiction.  Of course, there are incidents here and there where we can say that particular police could have been less brutal.  But if the direct action we defend has any content at all, it must mean we supported, and support, concrete attempts to stop the law being passed, up to, including, and beyond the invasion of parliament – and we are in support of people trying as hard as possible to do that.   And it is a fiction that the police could have tolerated that, or that preventing it could ever have been done gently.  If it could have been, we wouldn’t have really been trying.  If the police hadn’t been at parliament square last night, and if they hadn’t been prepared to act brutally, parliament would have been stormed, and legislation to triple top-up fees and abolish EMA would not have been passed. The brutality of the police is not incidental to the nature of the state, it is essential to it.

So you have to pick: the state, and horse charges against children who object to having their pockets robbed; or against the state (which means: against capitalism, for social revolution); and against the police too; brutal or otherwise.   Polite fudges are polite – but more or less part of the continuous stream of liquid nonsense which constitutes the news media.

Next time, we should bring masks to give out.  Just like on the Gaza demos in 2009, too many young people are going to get arrested because their faces appear on police footage – and in the photographs of the numerous “independent” photojournalists who sell images to the right-wing press, many of whom should arguably be looked on as police evidence gatherers.

Someone has to say it: mass violence against the police is necessary as part of any social struggle.  We wish it wasn’t but it is.  The reason is simple: the police defend the state unconditionally, the state defends capital unconditionally, and capital attacks us without remorse – or even a second thought.  Reasonable liberals yearn for a compromise: but the state isn’t listening.  Neither should protestors.

When Charles and Camilla were ambushed, or a fence was thrown at police, or a crowd broke the thin blue line: those were good things, and we support the people doing it.  They are by no means sufficient, nor are they particularly helpful as isolated acts.  What is important is that they establish the movement on new terrain.  They represent the conscious willingness to defy and confront state authority, and state power.  And that is the beginning of everything hopeful.

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December 9th, 2010.

Will go down in history as a good day for liberty, justice and freedom. A combination of the student demo and Anonymous’ Operation: Payback activity has empowered thousands of people.

During the miner’s strike a father nearly died after needing surgery to remove half his bowel.  He had been severely beaten by officers from the Metropolitan Police for the ‘crime’ of fighting for his future. When they finished beating him the shit-headed fascists laughed and said “Now you’ve met the MET!”

A quarter of a century later the Met are beating up children who, like the miners and the poll tax protesters before them, are taking a stand to defend their future. As usual the media is lying through it’s teeth, but nowadays we have technology on our side and detailed reports are more easily – and more widely – spread. Here are two which are definitely worth reading…

The MET are scum. The media are liars. Despite the bullshit about ‘anarchist agitators’ and ‘violent minorities’ ‘hijacking legitimate protest’ the truth is that these are working class children and young adults who are taking a stand because previous generations and the democratic process have failed them. Either join them or get out of the way and let them do what needs to be done!

Nobody was under any illusion that government would do anything else but protect the interests of the rich – even if this meant condemning the poorest people in this country to greater deprivation in an uncertain future. Student fees are to be tripled, loss of EMA makes it impossible for many kids to go to college, and an 80% cut in university funding will have a detrimental effect the quality of education on offer (although it’s always worth bearing in mind that Poll Tax was also passed in parliament, so it certainly ain’t over yet!).

It might have been a bad day for education, but LESSONS HAVE BEEN LEARNT!

  1. So called ‘representative democracy’ has been completely unmasked. Many students voted for the Lib Dems because they knew the Tories were scum and that Labour introduced the fees in the first place. Now they can see the truth. Democracy has become little more than smoke and mirrors used to disguise the fact that the rich use the political and legal systems to rob the poor. Wikileaked runs a constant stream of stories which show that supposedly democratic governments are simply the pawns of corporations (i.e. collectives of rich scum who hide behind a wall of greedy little shareholders) and banks (with the same collection of rich scum in the driving seat). The students were quick to point out that ordinary people stood outside parliament while a collection of bloated millionaires decided upon their future!
  2. This, in turn, further strengthened the battle-lines which are becoming ever clearer to more and more people. We are engaged in out-and-out CLASS WAR – unfortunately, as things stand, we’re losing. In affluent times it was too easy, for too many people, to ignore the truth. They didn’t mind that the rich were getting richer as long as they still got their share of the crumbs. This was a time of a Cold-Class-War in the UK (though globally it was a different story), where the poorest were marginalised and working class communities were denied a voice by virtually all political parties. But when the banks fucked-up somebody had to pay, and it wasn’t going to be the rich!  There are some token gestures from a minority of rich scum, but are we really supposed to be impressed when a handful of billionaires give away some of the fortune when they stole it from the poor in the first place? Now, however, the times they are a changing, the Class War is getting hot and the slums of London are stirring!
  3. Not only are they stirring, but they’re learning new tactics on a daily basis. Despite the media myths about ‘an-aargh-kist influence’, the movements we are witnessing are both organic and horizontal. Yes, as anarchists, we welcome this uprising, but it is a groundswell that is completely independent of any of the usual political parasites. They’re learning as they go and they’re learning fast. The decision to breakaway from kettles and the use of harris fencing to defend themselves from police charges were not the result of an anarchist plot, they were ideas generated moment by moment on Twitter (the harris fencing tactic was actually suggested by a copper on Sky News before being tweeted!).
  4. Twitter also helped to further unmask the media for what they truly are. A combination of Tweets and live TV feeds painted a very different story from the one journalists were portraying. 14 yr old kids being charged by police horses is “crowd control” in media speak. A girl stripped of her clothes by cops is no longer a ‘student’, somebody somewhere decided that reporters should use the word ‘protester’ to help disguise the fact that they’re talking about grown men fighting with teenage girls. Lots of shots of paint-spattered coppers, but none of the wheelchair left empty after the police had dragged the occupant from it. Lots of talk about ‘hospitalised police officers’, but no mention of the 20 yr old student who required emergency brain surgery! We could go on, but you get the drift about the so called ‘free press’ – and MediaLens is far more eloquent about the lack of press freedom than we are.
  5. Communication and information technology also came into it’s own when Anonymous (irc chat network (6667) – channel #operationpayback) continued their attacks on the corporations complicit in the dirty tricks campaign against Wikileaks (a current list of Wikileaks mirror sites can be found here). The power of this campaign is the fact that the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) application can be downloaded and used by almost anyone regardless of their technical know-how. Obviously we would never encourage illegal activity (but it’s always worth bearing in mind who’s laws we’re talking about here), but the implications are fascinating when some of the most ICT literate people in the country are exactly those who are currently being attacked by the government. Cyberspace is one battlefield where the underdog can still deliver damaging blows to the rich and powerful.
  6. The same technology also renders the bloated bureaucracy of government completely obsolete. The dream of non-hierarchical participatory democracy is now more possible than ever before. Can anybody, anywhere, honestly tell us why the fuck do we need parliament in the third millennium?


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Children of the Revolution


Most of you will no doubt be aware that 9 11 2010 will see the arrival of “Day X”, the day that the UK government will vote on whether to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per annum.

The Condems claim that cuts have to be made due to the economic crisis and that students will be better off under the proposed system.


I say Bollocks.

OK well as strong an argument as that is, allow me to elaborate . . .

Let us first take their claims at face value. We can all appreciate that we don’t have unlimited supplies of money and we have to decide where we can spend it, so that surely sounds fair enough.

Well actually no, the economy directly benefits from higher education. Therefore in a time of economic difficulty is is wise to spend more on a proven investment to help boost the economy.

Let us remember that in the post war financial crisis of the 40’s we managed to create the NHS with some loose change we found down the back of the UK sofa. In the recession of the 80’s not only did students pay no tuition fees at all, they also claimed grants not loans and were able to sign on and claim benefits during the period of their study. (This is the system under which many of those now proposing cuts for future generations were educated). Quite simply there is no valid economic justification for the level of proposed cuts and fee increases.

Students will not be better off under the proposed system, this is a much longer argument with a good bit of maths, you can take my word for it or just can read a good summary of the financial stuff here:

Secondly we should look at why we don’t have more money in the pot to fund education. In the UK we have a financial system which allows the country’s top earners to avoid billions of pounds of tax. Just one example is Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia group, alone has avoided in excess of 300 million pounds. If we removed the legal loopholes and enforced taxation for the highest earners this would easily fund higher education, and a few new hospitals, libraries etc.

But we just can’t afford education, we can however afford billions of pounds to bail out the banks, to engage in illegal warfare and replace trident. Clearly we aren’t that skint.

They suggest that as it is the students who will earn more as a result of their degrees then surely it only fair that they should foot the bill, why should those without degrees fund others to go to university.

Because clearly that is the way our society works. I haven’t been ill so I won’t be paying the bit of my tax that goes to the NHS for those people selfish enough to require medical care, my house hasn’t burnt down recently so I’ll be claiming back that bit that has gone to the fire service as well, you get the point.

And don’t forget for those of us who having not been to university do not benefit at all from higher education, we will never use the services of a doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, architect etc. . . .

For many of the reasons I have listed above, and many more besides, the Lib Dems had the issue of tuition fees high on their agenda during the election. So high in fact that many Lib Dem MPs publicly signed pledges that they would oppose ANY rise in tuition fees and would work to remove them completely within the next couple of years. This was successful and the elections saw an unprecedented turn out in a society which over recent years has been largely apathetic. The turn out was so great that many polling stations where unable to cope, with queues round the block, running out of ballot slips and ultimately turning people away. In the city of Sheffield, home town of Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, hundreds of students turned up to an impromptu demonstration outside Nicks home complaining that they had tried to vote for him and had been turned away. Fast forward a few months and in the greatest political u-turn imaginable not only have the plans to scrap tuition fees disappeared but they plan to vote unanimously in favour of a 300% increase.

OK well Cl egg’s argument is that the Lib Dems are not the ruling party, they are in a coalition with the Tories. Now for Cl egg’s benefit let me explain the concept of a coalition. You agree to work together on the issues with you (largely) agree on, while still being able to hold opposing positions on key issues. The issue of tuition fees on which you campaigned throughout the election and arguably was the sole issue which won your seats would be one of these key issues. If you choose a complete u-turn and 100% agreement with the party you previously completely opposed you are not a Condem coalition, you are simply a Conservative government.

Fortunately one thing the government did not count on was how much this generation value their education. Student activism went out of fashion with tie-dye flares, long gone are the days when occupying your university library or marching through the streets for the issue of the day was a right of passage, of course a small demo and a few angry letters to the guardian were expected but not the reaction they have been faced with. For the past couple of months there have been continuous demonstrations in cities across the country, universities have been occupied for weeks (or more), high street stores have been closed and as I type fencing is being erected around parliament in preparation for the thousands of students who plan to descend upon the city on the day of the vote.

The future of of education may be uncertain, but with a generation of young people so passionate about safeguarding higher education and public services I am positive about years to come.

Always Thinking on Wednesday, December 8, 2010.

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