29 March, 2005
Tuesday March 29, 2005
Some statistics don’t do anybody any favours, and here’s one of them. Since it was reclassified from class B to class C at the beginning of last year, cannabis has lost its lustre, especially for the young.
This is bad news for those lobbying to reverse the classification. It’s bad news for people selling the drug, who are now caught in the classic Tory conundrum – if you don’t attract new blood, all your supporters will eventually die. It’s not even terribly good news for marijuana lovers, since nobody likes to see their poison of choice consigned to the dustbin of drug history.
Matthew Atha, director of the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit, noted that the change in the law had had no effect at all. In fact, though, since the increase in regular users dropped to 0.5% last year, down from 45% in 1998, I’d say the legislation has had a very marked impact. It has made everyone lose interest. You might just as well have dressed this drug up in a sailor suit and sent it on tour with Geri Halliwell. It just isn’t cool anymore.
An intelligent observer of youth behaviour in relation to government initiatives would be able to deduce the following: people below 25, say, are counter-suggestible. I chose that 25 figure totally at random, and since I’m still quite counter-suggestible and don’t intend to change radically in the next couple of years, I’m going to amend it up to 35.
Thus, if you tell them things are dangerous, they will do them, and if you shrug and say “actually, it doesn’t seem to do too much harm”, they will do something else. Whole swaths of aberrant behaviour could be addressed with this in mind. Obesity, smoking, drinking, fighting, snowboarding and joyriding would all become terribly passé if the government were to become their advocates, particularly if prominent members of the government were to lead by example and take up dangerous activities in a high-profile way. I rather fancy Alastair Campbell for this job.
Failing that, they could always start by decriminalising all drugs. There seem to be three main strands of argument for the criminal status of psychoactive substances. First, they’re bad for people. Whenever anyone suggests slackening the laws against dope, for instance, the antis are immediately full of statistics about how very much worse are its effects than simply making everyone feel a bit foggy and forget to turn off the heating when they go to bed.
You’d think that by now we’d have devised ourselves a sliding scale for legality based not on the damage you do to yourself, but the damage you do to others. Regular smoking would therefore be a class A (for its efficacy as a long-distance carcinogen), alcohol would be class B (it makes people fight and drive badly), heroin and crack would be class C (they make people steal things), cocaine would be class D, along with PlayStations and an interest in sport (they make people very tedious) and dope would weigh in somewhere closer to the bottom of the alphabet (it sometimes makes people quite quiet), unless mixed with tobacco, in which case it would scooch back up to A.
The second argument is that, the laxer the penalties, the more people will do something. This might work with speeding (in cars, not on amphetamines). But it does not seem to work with drugs. It’s possible that people only do drugs at all because the anti-authoritarian impulse behind law-breaking attracts them, but they are too decent to mug. That would be quite hard to prove, though.
Thirdly, there is the contention that people shouldn’t take illegal drugs because they thereby keep buoyant an industry based on the most scandalous exploitation – a position given new expression since the release of the Oscar-nominated film Maria Full of Grace, which shows the horrifying realities of being a drug mule.
But, clearly, the only reason drug overlords can treat their mules so badly is that they’re unregulated, and they’re only unregulated because the product itself is illegal. And frankly, even industries that are regulated don’t seem to be able to ensure that the workers at the bottom of their foodchain are treated an awful lot better.
These are all arguments that were rehearsed an awful lot a decade ago, but the debate seems to be steadily receding back to “Shall we or shan’t we put people in prison for having the odd joint?”. It’s hard to say how that happened. Possibly, the first pioneers for legalised drug use have smoked too much dope and lost interest. And if that’s the case, we can look forward to the next generation, registering almost no uptake of a dope habit, being very radical indeed.
29 March, 2005
NNRF is an independent, voluntary organisation set up to help and support asylum seekers and refugees in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
In support of the European Social Forum Day of Action against racism and in defence of asylum seekers and migrants ….. Nottingham is having a Noise Demo on April 2nd
Organized by the Campaign Group. Bring banners and all manner of musical instruments – everything from trombones to dustbin lids – to the Market Square at noon.
Download a flyer here: http://www.nottsrefugeeforum.org.uk/noisedemo1.pdf
The Sumac Centre, showing its support with a bloody great banner…..!
More info from:
Nottingham and Notts Refugee Forum
Ph: 0115 941 5599
245 Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, Nottingham NG7 6HX
Ph: 0845 458 9595
Pictures at: http://tashcamuk.fotopages.com/?entry=394218
and on Indymedia at: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/03/307825.html
24 March, 2005
Earlier on Indymedia at:
During Mayday 2001, police trapped protestors in Oxford Circus for 7 hours without access toilets, food or water.
Nearly four years later, the High Court has rejected compensation claims by Lois Austin and Geoffrey Saxby who claimed they had been ilegally imprisoned and that their “right to liberty” under the European Convention on Human Rights had been breached when they were held for over seven hours along with thousands of other people.
The concequences of all this, might be a bit grim !!
Pictures of the event, to be seen at:
Pictures of this event, can been seen at the following links
” ” Don’t let the bastards grind you down ” ” 🙂
There are around 150 other claims by people held by the police operation which are depending on the test case outcome.
The pair have been given leave to appeal and say they will do so.
03/TLQ/0350 Austin v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis
03/TLQ/0411 Saxby v Same
The full judgement will soon be available here:
http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/judgments/judg_home.htm#queen in the near future
* * * * * *
Guardian Articles about it:
May Day detainees lose damages case
Wednesday March 23, 2005
Two people who were detained during a May Day protest for more than seven hours without food, drink or toilet facilities today lost a high court damages action against the police.
The case was brought by demonstrator Lois Austin and office worker Geoffrey Saxby, who were among about 3,000 people corralled in Oxford Circus from 2pm until 9.30pm by riot police during an anti-globalisation demonstration in 2001. Another 150 claims were hanging on the case brought by Ms Austin and Mr Saxby.
The pair claimed damages for false imprisonment and a breach of their right to liberty under the European Convention. They said that the police action caused them distress and alarm, and left them feeling humiliated and intimidated.
Today Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the police had been “duty bound” to impose an absolute cordon to prevent violence and the risk of injury to persons and property. It was not practicable for the police to release the crowd collectively earlier than they did, he said.
“It is obvious from the videos of the three previous English demonstrations that on May Day 2001 there was a real risk of serious injury and even death, as well as damage to property, if the police did not control the crowd. Those at risk included members of the public, police officers and other demonstrators,” he said in his written ruling. “The organisers’ literature could reasonably be understood as incitement to looting and violence, and it was hard to understand it in any other way. The belief of the police was clearly reasonable.”
Ms Austin and Mr Saxby were given permission to appeal today’s decision.
During the hearing of the case the court had heard how Ms Austin, 35, who was still breastfeeding, was not allowed to leave to collect her 11-month-old daughter from a crèche and had to arrange for a friend to collect the baby. She had travelled into central London from Southwark with her partner to attend the peaceful protest.
Mr Saxby, 48, who was working for a company selling data recording equipment, claimed police ignored him when he told them he was not involved in the demonstration, and was merely in the area to make a collection from a bank for his employer. He was caught up when he got off a slow-moving bus and complied with police requests not to take certain routes as he walked to Oxford Circus on his way to a restaurant. He was under the impression that there was a security alert of some sort.
Their counsel, Keir Starmer QC, told the judge that the lack of toilet facilities led to “inconvenience and distress”, with many individuals inevitably being forced to urinate in front of others in the crowd and police officers. That, he said, was relevant to the reasonableness of the action taken by the Metropolitan police and the question of damages.
“Our broad position is that there is no power to detain those who are not presenting any danger to the peace. Transitory detention might be justified in certain circumstances but seven-and-a-half hours without a toilet is unreasonable and certainly not transitory,” Mr Starmer said.
Ms Austin, who was present in court, said after the decision: “It is a disappointing judgement in terms of the right to protest in this country. We are worried that protesters are being criminalised for going on the streets and making their protests heard against war and world poverty.”
Her solicitor, Louise Christian, said the judge had found that the claimants were effectively imprisoned, but that on the particular facts of this case the police were justified in doing so.
“The police are looking at this as a test case on whether they can detain people in other circumstances,” she said. “Hopefully the court of appeal will take a different approach, otherwise the problem will be that the police will see this as a green light to use this tactic again.”
In a statement, police said: “The MPS believes that in the circumstances present on May 1 2001, we were duty bound to protect public safety through implementing this containment in Oxford Circus. For us not to take this action would have run a very real risk of serious injury to the public and our staff, looting and widespread criminal damage.”
Scotland Yard added that the organisers of the May Day protest had “contrived to make the policing of the day as difficult as possible by refusing to even communicate with us.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “Today’s judgement should alarm anyone who believes in the right to protest or that people should not be detained en masse like cattle. We do not believe that the reasoning will survive the court of appeal’s anxious scrutiny.”
* * * * * *
Two fail in May Day test case
Thursday March 24, 2005
A breastfeeding mother and an office worker detained during a May Day protest for more than seven hours without food, drink or toilet facilities lost a high court claim for damages against the Metropolitan police yesterday.
The test case brought by Lois Austin and Geoffrey Saxby is now likely to go to the court of appeal.
The two were among about 3,000 people who were corralled in Oxford Circus, central London, from 2pm until 9.30 by police during the anti-globalisation demonstration in 2001. Ms Austin, 35, from Southwark, south London, was a protester but Mr Saxby, 48, from Hastings, East Sussex, was on an errand for his employer.
Both claimed damages for false imprisonment and a breach of their right to liberty under the European convention on human rights. Both were given permission to appeal. But Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that the police’s actions were justified.
Ms Austin was not allowed to leave to pick up her 11-month-old daughter from a creche and Mr Saxby claimed police ignored him when he told them he was not involved in the demonstration.
Ms Austin said: “We are worried that protesters are being criminalised for going on the streets and making their protests heard against war and world poverty.”
Her solicitor, Louise Christian, said: “Hopefully the court of appeal will take a different approach, otherwise the problem will be that the police will see this as a green light to use this tactic again.”
23 March, 2005
Pair lose protest damages claim
Two people have lost a High Court damages claim against the Metropolitan Police after being detained for several hours during May Day protests in central London in 2001.
Geoffrey Saxby, from Hastings, East Sussex, and Lois Austin, of Southwark, south London, claimed the tactics in 2001 breached the Human Rights Act.
They were among people corralled in London’s Oxford Circus without food, drink or access to toilets.
The Met said the action stopped serious injury to the public and the officers.
Mr Saxby and Ms Austin, who had claimed damages alleging false imprisonment, have been given permission to appeal against the court decision
Ms Austin said: “It is a disappointing judgement in terms of the right to protest in this country.
“We are worried that protesters are being criminalised for going on the streets and making their protests heard against war and world poverty.”
The court heard how Ms Austin, 35, had to get a friend to collect her 11-month-old daughter from a crèche because she was not allowed to leave to pick up her up.
Mr Saxby said he had told police he was not involved in the protest but had got caught up in the chaos while collecting money from a bank on behalf of his employer.
Widespread criminal damage
Ms Austin’s solicitor, Louise Christian, said the judge had found both her client and Mr Saxby had been detained but in this case the police were justified in doing so.
Ms Christian added: “Hopefully the Court of Appeal will take a different approach, otherwise the problem will be that the police will see this as a green light to use this tactic again.”
But Assistant Commissioner Steve House said after the case: “The Met believes that if we had not taken this course of action on 1 May 2001 we would have run the very real risk of serious injury to the public and ourselves, plus looting and widespread criminal damage.”
Mr Justice Tugendhat agreed with the Met was “duty bound” to impose an absolute cordon to prevent violence and the risk of injury to persons and property.
He added: “The organisers’ literature could reasonably be understood as incitement to looting and violence and it was hard to understand it in any other way.”
But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “Today’s judgment should alarm anyone who believes in the right to protest or that people should not be detained en masse like cattle.”
My pictures of this event, can been seen at the following links
” ” Don’t let the bastards grind you down ” ” 🙂
19 March, 2005
In advance of the main G8 meeting at Gleneagles, there are a number of mini-meetings. This one was for Environment & development ministers meeting at Breadsall Priory Hotel, a few miles north of Derby. However, demonstrations, outside of a market area, within the City of Derby, were banned.
There was thus, an area marked out by fencing in Market Place. Quite reminicent of cattle pens. People arranged themselves anywhere, but ‘in there’!
Pictures of this, and related events, can be seen at:
G8 Environment & development ministers Meeting at Derby Pt1
http://tashcamuk.fotopages.com/?entry=384246 [more piccys]
G8 Environment & development ministers Meeting at Derby Pt2
http://tashcamuk.fotopages.com/?entry=384247 [more piccys]
Recent ‘Collected links’ re: G8 matters:
UK Indymedia 2005 Shakedown ‘05 – Nottingham G8 — The Pictures
UK Indymedia 2005 Nottingham Critical Mass Bike-About
UK Indymedia 2004 Nottingham Colwick ‘Oil’ Demonstration – Blockade
* * * * * *
For your interests, these links are about ‘public concern’ and disruption advice.
and at this one, you can download a copy of the Public Order Act 1986, Sections 13 & 14. These orders having been applied for because of the ‘serious threats’ to public disorder
These sections, together with the help of the Crime and Disorder Act 2003, now define an assembly as TWO OR PERSONS.
BLOODY HECK !!
As it turned out, a couple of hundred gathered, and to police these folks, cost the council tax payers of Derby £2,000,000. Still, the suppression of democracy, doesn’t come cheap, does it? If my maths is correct, that’s £10,000 per protestor.
16 March, 2005
I’m sure the impending 20th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield hasn’t slipped anyone’s memory – and if it’s something you don’t know about, the basic story is that on 1st June 1985, a convoy of vehicles en route to Stonehenge to establish the 12th annual free festival was set upon and ‘decommissioned’ with extreme brutality by the police.
To mark the anniversary, a few venues around the country will be hosting an exhibition of photos of the Stonehenge festivals, the Beanfield, and the exclusion zone – including photos by Tash and Adrian Arbib, as well some little-seen photos of the Beanfield. On the opening nights, we’ll also be showing ‘Operation Solstice’, the acclaimed 1991 documentary about the Beanfield, and I’ll be giving a talk on the Beanfield and its aftermath, based – in part – on my book Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion.
The opening night of the first of this year’s shows is next Wednesday (16 March), at 7.30 pm, at the Kebele Kulture Project, 14 Robertson Road, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6JY, where the exhibition will run until 7 April.
On Wednesday 20 April, the exhibition will move to SUMAC, 245 Gladstone Street, Nottingham, NG7 6HX, where there will also be a showing of ‘Operation Solstice’ and I’ll also be giving a talk. The opening night starts at 8pm, and the exhibition will run until 8 May.
I’m also collating some information for a small book to commemorate the anniversary, with Neil Goodwin, the co-director of ‘Operation Solstice’, and other interested parties, featuring, among other things, a cache of photos, most of which have never seen the light of day, transcripts of interviews made during the making of ‘Operation Solstice’ and other documentation from the time, so if you’ve got anything to contribute, please feel free to contact me.
There’s more to come, but I reckon that’ll do for now.
All the best,
Kebele: www.kebele.org or 0117 939 9469
Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion: www.hoap.co.uk/alternative.htm
‘It’s the best bit of modern British social history I’ve seen’,
John Hodge, SchNEWS
15 March, 2005
From pro-hunt rallies to fuel blockades, media-backed direct action campaigns have repeatedly captured the political agenda in the Blair years
Tuesday March 15, 2005
The budget is ready, the parties are poised. Everyone is braced for a general election – except the electorate. Pollsters predict a turnout lower even than the 59% of 2001. Politicians warn against apathy, evoking the image of a public too inert to heave itself off the sofa.
Yet outside conventional politics, civic life is far from inert. From pro-hunting rallies to fuel blockades, from raids on GM crops to demonstrations against the Iraq war, surges of single-issue protest have marked Tony Blair’s years in power. They suggest that voters, far from being apathetic, have interests that do not fit party platforms and are seeking other outlets of expression.
Popular protest has a history, so why pay any more attention to it now than 30 or 300 years ago? What is new is the congruence of protest, a partisan press in search of causes and an electorate whose anxieties are not being represented.
Direct action tends to be bracketed with the left. But the Countryside Alliance, fuel protesters and section 28 campaigners championed causes associated with the right. Protest has been reclaimed by anyone who feels their identity under threat, be they foxhunting polo-players or villagers with Gypsies on their doorstep.
These are issues that parties have been slow to spot or reluctant to take on. The fuel protests in September 2000 caught ministers unawares, although they knew from focus groups that the price of petrol annoyed voters. Hunting and section 28 belonged naturally to the Tories, yet the party had to run to catch up. A nationwide consultation found mistrust of GM crops, yet it was ignored by the prime minister.
The political vacuum has been filled by the press. The Countryside Alliance has been able to count on powerful allies at the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. In Scotland it was the Daily Record, a Labour-supporting paper, that led the campaign to stop repeal of section 28. The fuel protesters were hailed by the Sun and the Mail, both of which backed a cut in petrol duty, as honest folk whose tolerance had snapped. The Mail, its finger on middle England’s pulse, has even opposed GM crops, featuring Jude Law’s designer activism.
Faced with falling circulation and competition from the internet, newspapers are joining a 21st-century mutation of the picket line. The alliance is symbiotic. Protesters want instant attention, usually from government; the press wants instant attention from readers. Things have changed since the 80s and early 90s, when striking miners and poll-tax resisters would have hardly made bedfellows for right-of-centre papers. The Iraq protests had backing from the Mirror, Guardian and Independent. But the broadening of the protest spectrum suits editors and owners who dislike the Blair administration and what they see as its pro-tax, politically correct agenda.
This is not to suggest an invincible media conspiracy. None of these protests succeeded in its primary aims. Gordon Brown did not slash duty on ordinary petrol. The government banned fox-hunting, though it took seven years, and repealed section 28 north and south of the border. The decision not to go ahead with GM crops was taken by biotech firms, which proved more sensitive than ministers to public opinion.
The success of the press-protest axis lies in short-lived coalitions that capture the political agenda. The hunting ban mutated from an animal welfare measure into a debate about freedom and the countryside. Fuel blockades established motorists as a martyred class and made it politically impossible to raise duty. Section 28 was rehabilitated as vital for protecting children and even marriage, leaving the Scottish parliament nervous of legislating on anything relating to morality or family values.
What’s wrong with that, a robust editor will ask. Papers respond to opinion, and it is not their fault if they make a better job of it than politicians. When the governing party has a big majority and a weak opposition, they act as a safety valve for dissent.
They also get results. Party policy forums may toil away, but it only takes a handful of campaigners and a newspaper to stop a hospital closure or speed the deportation of asylum-seekers. For a generation that can vote someone out of the Big Brother house in minutes, a month-long media uproar makes more sense than waiting four or five years to express a view.
But the press is going further, using dissent to challenge the legitimacy of elected politicians. The Record’s unofficial referendum on section 28 drew 1.2m votes – from a population of 5 million – with the vast majority opting to keep the clause. The Mail followed suit with its 2003 ballot on whether the EU constitution should be put to a referendum, a demand Tony Blair conceded a year later. This time 1.7m votes were received, with 89% in favour. Despite the lack of oversight and scope for multiple voting, these numbers are hard to ignore.
Press protest matters, for reasons heartening and disturbing. The good news is that people have not given up on politics. They may not care to vote yet feel strongly, if intermittently, on single issues such as cannabis laws or asylum – and could be engaged through some form of direct democracy.
The bad news is that newspapers create their own political ecology, a one-party state of yes/no answers where the majority wins and the losers are, Big Brother-style, evicted. The Sun’s campaign against Gypsies (“Stamp on the camps”) shows how press protest tends to close off compromise on issues that divide us.
· Kirsty Milne is the author of Manufacturing Dissent: Single-Issue Protest, the Public and the Press, published by Demos on Thursday
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