Remember when they threatened to shoot at us for walking through London? ///OLD MATERIAL///
By the time of publishing, “tomorrow” should read “today”.
Tomorrow morning I will get up for the first time in my life knowing that, at some point during the day, somebody might shoot at me.
I know that I am lucky to be in this position at the age of twenty-four. Luckier still that the rounds I may face will be plastic; luckier once again that it is pretty much certainly just a scare tactic that the Metropolitan Police are employing to try to keep the people from the streets.
Tomorrow is the November 9th student walkout and demonstration against fees and cuts.It’s the first big anti-cuts demonstration since the 23rd of March last year, when trade unionists marched on Hyde Park to hear Ed Miliband say something slightly disappointing, and UK Uncut activists, many of whom are also involved in the labour movement, descended on Picadilly and occupied Fortnum and Mason. Police behaviour on that day was atrocious in itself: designated legal observers were arrested in the course of their duties and are still awaiting trial, there were kicks and thumps and cuts and bruises to very nearly anybody who came face-to-face with a police officer at Picadilly, some worse incidents of police violence using shields and batons and bizarre attempts by police to disable demonstrators – one activist using black bloc strategies on the demonstration had their shoes removed by Her Majesty’s Finest, and had to hobble home in their socks.
Prior to that, the last time I had been on the streets among my fellow students was on December 9th, the day of the Parliament Square kettle. Nobody I knew got out of that without bruises from police boots and batons at the very least, one of our party had her collarbone broken by a police officer and I was myself nearly crushed under Harris fencing as cavalry were ridden at us hard.
So I was already nervous about hitting the streets tomorrow. Because before bullets were threatened, I was expecting violence on the part of the police. I was expecting to have my activities criminalised: on the 9th, we were unable to leave Parliament Square long before the “violence” against the treasury started. (And please, in future can we limit the definition of “violence” to act that harm sentient animals?) I was already trapped when the site was declared a crime-scene. I should like to be clear that I do not condemn any of the actions taken by members of this movement so fa; I stand in support of all those young people serving custodial sentences for their participation in these events, and in particular my friend Charlie Gilmour. However. Even if I had wanted to b e a long, long way from the “criminal” activity taking place at the treasury – in fact the other side of the square from where I spent my day – I couldn’t have got out. I had no choice.
Of course, this is how the kettling technique works: it causes temperatures within the containment area to rise to boiling point, so people, angry, frightened, tired, hungry, frustrated, start to do things that they can be arrested for. Of course a lot of them are also kicked and batoned before they take any form of retaliation, too, but that is considerably harder to prove.
Members of this movement who have been around since last year have already been traumatised and frightened. Thanksgiving dinner last year was for us a night of sitting quiet and huddled, exchanging battle stories. And now the government are letting the police have access to bullets. Make no mistake but that this is an attempt by the law-makers to frighten students, many of whom are still children by law. The threats had me considering staying away – and I’ve been marching against every government we’ve had since they started killing people for oil, or being Muslim, or whatever excuse to cover those two reasons they were making at the time. I’ve occupied three universities (two of which I even attended), I’ve camped for climate action, I’ve sat in, I’ve sat down and I’ve sat on the roof of a school as part of struggles against top-down injustice, and I was still almost scared away.
Among my friends, I am one of the less experienced, less cop-savvy and less risk-happy. If I didn’t know that I had better informed people, whom I could trust and who have seen situations I can barely imagine, right there with me to inform me and willing to support me, I would have been frightened away.
How dare they. These are the people who brutalised my friends for walking through the streets. Those who gave the orders, or condoned the giving of the orders, are to my mind as culpable as the people who struck our bodies with their weapons. And they don’t want me to march.
So of course I will.
I am going to march – and I intend to do it entirely safely. My solidarity to anyone taking any form of action against fees and cuts tomorrow; I will be following social media very closely, smartphone in hand, and if there is a whisper of a kettle I’ll be beating a hasty retreat. But when the numbers of people in the street are counted, the number of people who came out in defiance of the threat of artillery, who saw that kind of violence as entirely consistent with the violent cuts that are crippling the poor in this country and keeping ordinary people out of higher education, sounding the knell agains social mobility, I will be in that number. And if I am arrested or kettled, it will be entirely the fault of the police. Tomorrow, I am just going to walk through London.
This threat of gunfire is as unsurprising as it is unjust. I am willing to wager that there will be no shots tomorrow; the gathering of students at MALET STREET at TWELVE NOON will doubtless constitute a giant game of Call My Bluff.
But this is the first time anyone has ever threatened to shoot at me and my friends.
And I’ll be damned if I’ll let it happen again.
See you on the streets!
August 29, 2011
This is the letter that I am sending to my MP, Caroline Lucas, about Nadine Dorries’ and Frank Field’s disgusting proposals for abortion counselling reform. Please feel free to use the text as a model letter to your own MP if you wish to do so.
It is with anger and genuine fear that I read today of the Department of Health decision to push independent bodies, often with pro-life agendas, into the abortion counselling process. It is already remiss that there is not a complete state-funded counselling service for those considering terminating their pregnancies. Organisations like Marie Stopes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service should be recognised as doing stellar work in providing objective and non-judgemental counselling for women undergoing what is often one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.
The decision, falling just short of legislative procedure for the time being, comes from Conservative back-bencher Nadine Dorries and Labour MP for Birkenhead Frank Field, and it is ideological. It may be aimed at reducing the rate of abortions in the UK and I have little doubt that this astronomically high statistic, with 200,000 terminations taking place in the UK annually, needs addressing; but the introduction of private companies with their own political agendas into the decision making process risks damaging women’s physical and mental health, and quite possibly their entire lives, in the process.
In taking the decision to terminate a pregnancy women are already determining to give away the pound of flesh closest to their hearts. It must be their decision to do so; this decision must be made with access to strongly regulated, impartial advice and consultation from healthcare professionals. In an ideal world abortion counselling should be brought under state control as part of the NHS, available free to everyone who needs it.
Under the present government this will not happen, but Andrew Lansley and the Department of Health are pushing us towards a world in which private companies have a say in our reproductive freedoms and that is a dystopia in which I had never imagined living.
I know that my voice is not alone in our constituency in opposing this new and radical reform to our abortion rights and I hope that you will recognise our voices and speak out and publicly campaign against these changes over coming weeks.