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Archive for the ‘Future protests’ Category

Many of us make resolutions when January 1st comes around. I should be becoming an organised, fruit-munching research machine any day now. So what about those who have been taking to the streets in protest against fees, cuts and tax avoidance? Here’s what I reckon:

1. Keep fighting

We should literally be showing resolve as the new year progresses. We may have been battered, demoralised and kettled in Parliament Square; a few of us, including yours truly, were also kept away from UKUncut’s “pay day” on December 18th by the snow, but there are many things to fight for. Lobby your University, asking them to mitigate the fee rises. Accelerate the fight against tax avoidance. Now isn’t the time to give up.

2. Cut violence out of activism

“And if you know someone pictured, don’t grass them up. No-one likes a grass!” – Fitwatcher, Dec 21st

IMHO this “law of the playground” thing has gone too far. I’m not saying you should tattle on anyone based on a low-res image of a person standing in the crowd, but not all those who attended the march were innocent. One guy with a rock on a rope can lead to the marchers as a whole being referred to as rioters. In general, we should show solidarity among peaceful protesters, and speak out against those among us who, for whatever reason, insist on chucking bricks and stuff.

So how can we prevent people from smashing windows?

Obviously, by doing what many people have done already – if you spot someone holding or picking up a brick, ask them to put it down…

What about if the red mist has already descended?

The easiest way is to chant against them – people at Millbank shouted “stop throwing shit”, but I didn’t hear any similar chants at the Treasury, possibly because we were all too angry and disillusioned by the vote result and the kettling that we no longer cared. There’s too much violence at protests, and it’s given us a bad name. Don’t be afraid to stand up to the perpetrators.

3. Come prepared

Given the police tactics so far, I expect to be kettled again at some point in the future. It’s just common sense to be ready for this when attending a large-scale protest by bringing along plenty of food and water.

4. Keep your camera handy

Especially when close to police lines, you never know when someone will get dragged out of their wheelchair, or struck to within an inch of his life. Videos of skirmishes could prove invaluable to these people. Obviously not everyone can film all of the time, but hopefully we can cover as much as possible.

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This is mainly for new protesters making their way to a protest tomorrow. I’ve seen a few posts on the Facebook event page asking questions, and thought I should collate some useful advice I’ve garnered from twitter.

Kettling

There is a small chance that you’ll end up kettled. Don’t be intimidated by this. It really shouldn’t put you off, and I actually think it’s quite unlikely to happen on Thursday, but you never know.

Sticking together decreases the chance of being trapped, as does being familiar with defensive techniques (short version here, long version here). Very short version: keep an eye out for lines of police blocking side streets, and keep moving.

You might want to take the following things in case you do get trapped: something to drink, something to eat (biscuits, chocolate and apples all fit the bill), a scarf, extra warm clothes. Also, keep your wits about you and try not to lash out.

Arrests

If you are arrested, remember two words: no comment. You don’t have to give date of birth, height, shoe size etc. In fact you don’t have to say anything without a supervisor. (Advice from @Fitwatcher).

Green & Black Cross have a great page of advice for parents (which I guess is also worth bearing in mind if you are an adult), and also a phone number for further advice – remember this number, write it on your arm: 07946 541511 – cops might confiscate your phone but they’ll be hard pressed to scrub a phone number from your arm!

You are advised by G&BC to avoid using a duty solicitor – they recommend BINDMANS SOLICITORS (0207 833 4433), who specialise in protest cases.

Assaults

If you get assaulted by a cop, follow this advice from Green & Black cross: stay calm, find out the name/ID of the cop who hit you, and find witnesses (especially people with cameras) for statements.

Got a camera/video phone?

If you can take video footage and see that something might be developing, don’t be afraid to take a video. You might feel like a bit of a prat (and might have officers in your face), but the video could prove crucial for someone’s case if something does happen.

On Twitter?

Fitwatcher will be looking out for the FITs (undercover cops performing surveillance), and Pigseyes will be updating us on police movements – both would be worth keeping an eye on.

Anything else?

Feel free to add any other pieces of advice or questions in the comments page below.

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Two days until Day X. Two days to convince the MPs to vote against the coalition’s plan to hike up the fees and alienate a generation of students. Everything we’ve all done over the past month or two boils down to this, in a way.

I say “in a way” because of course the campaign of protesting and occupations will continue after this, over education, tax and other issues, but this feels like it’ll be a focal point, like the battle at Helm’s Deep.

We’ve taken an age to get out of the Shire (get to London in huge numbers to protest), gone through dangerous journeys in treacherous conditions (erm, it snowed a bit), Gandalf has fallen (OK, my mate who got me into activism was arrested* and is currently banned from Westminster – he probably wasn’t that important to most of you), and now we prepare in our thousands to face off with the orcs (this one should be obvious) again, in an attempt to protect the One Ring of affordable education.

The fate of the world higher education will now be decided.

There are two or three coaches (depending on funding for a third) leaving Oxford on Thursday morning; we’ll get to Russell Square in time to join the march to Parliament. The main Facebook event page calls for us to “shut down London” – I’m perfectly OK with smaller actions springing up around the city initially, but IMHO our best way of getting through to the MPs in the Houses of Commons is to all converge there for a non-violent protest. If this is the plan anyway, then… good. Splitting up into small groups will divide police attention but it is also likely to turn the public against us, and if the public are against us, then the MPs will have more reason to push the policy through.

Instead, imagine 15,000+ protesters at Parliament, shouting in unison, without ceasing, drowning out the speakers in Commons. It would be a compelling scene, but as soon as one fuckwit chucks a fire extinguisher, that’s what the media will focus on, and suddenly we’ll be a rabble of thugs.

Stop throwing shit.

* – on suspicion of violence at Millbank. He didn’t even attend the protests. Go figure. Then go get your scarf. Bloody FITs…

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Police brutality, covert tactics

Another shocking story has emerged about police brutality in Tuesday’s kettle on Trafalgar Square. A 15-year old girl, trying to escape the kettle, was beaten with a baton and then made to lie in agony for two hours before police were eventually persuaded to release her. Meanwhile, in City Hall, an unnamed Tory Assembly Member has called for the protests to be banned entirely.

The Guardian reports that even when they aren’t beating, kettling or trying to ban us, the police are still going undercover to watch us – even more reason to cover our faces with scarves.

How to avoid being kettled

There are a few excellent articles on how to stay safe. They’re quite long, but well worth reading. The Bristol Hum gives advice on just about every aspect, taking a lot from Wombles.org.uk, which has a TL;DR section that I’ll reproduce here:

Don’t be tempted to stand there and fight – get out to where you can still cause some damage or disruption without the police around.

Keep moving around, as a group and individually. Fill gaps. Never stand still.

Crowd divisions and the formation of police lines must be nipped in the bud.

Don’t be intimidated.

Do everything in small teams, prepare in advance.

Think defensively. Protect each other and escape routes.

Always face outwards.

Link arms as often as possible, form barriers, use your body.

Move quickly and calmly, never giving the police time to react.

This weekend

UKUncut’s national day of action against tax avoidance is tomorrow; I’ll be in London for a demo at Top Shop, which kicks off at 11.02am There are similar protests organised across the country. If you’re in Oxford, meet at 12.15pm at Carfax. There would have been another protest in London tomorrow, this time at the Lib Dem party conference, but they’ve cancelled it, just like Vince Cable back in October. Yellow bellies.

Then on Sunday, there appears to be general anti-cuts action in several cities, including over 1,000 listed as attending an event in Bristol, but I can’t find anything for Oxford.

No blog posting for me tomorrow as I’ll be in London, but check my twitter feed for updates, and I’ll get another post together on Sunday.

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