Public Order Policing Then and Now

The Event 

In honour of the anniversary of the 1990 anti-poll demonstration on March 31st, Spectacle hosted a free screening of Despite TV’s film Battle of Trafalgar. This was followed by an online Q&A with filmmaker Mark Saunders.

The discussion brought out the many ways that the public order policing tactics captured by the film are still in use and can readily be seen in the policing of the #KilltheBill protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, and recent public order policing at Clapham Common of the Sarah Everard Vigil.

The Protest and the Making of the Film 

Despite TV was a filmmaking collective based in Tower Hamlets that operated through the 80s and 90s. Working as a co-operative, sharing resources, and making all editorial decisions through consensus, the collective published magazine videos.

The main aim of Despite TV was to revert hierarchies commonly reproduced in the media industry, promoting video production as inclusive, non-hierarchical group activity, and shared authorship and editorial control. Everyone in the group, in fact, had access to equipment and initial training, could propose what to film, contributed to the technical realization of the initial ideas, and was co-director of the final films. In order to enhance participation and avoid the exclusion of marginal voices in the group, all decisions were taken by consensus and all tasks and roles -such as chairing meetings, but also interviewing, operating cameras, sound recording, or carrying out runner’s tasks- were shared in turns.

In 1990, Despite TV was working on a special issue on the poll tax called Despite the Poll tax. The proposed poll tax was despised throughout the country. It was a blatantly extortionate tax which required all individuals, regardless of wealth, to pay the same amount, and anti-poll tax chapters sprang up across the country. Despite the Poll Tax was not so much focused on the inequities of tax, but how the law would necessitate ID cards, which were the origin of infamous SA pass laws during aparthied. The tax would offer a great deal of  social control and create a data blackmarket. The tax itself was therefore a colonial instrument. It was actually the second time that the British government had tried to institute such a tax. The first time was in the 14th century and led to a famous peasants revolt. 

The magazine was nearly finished. Three camera crews went to the protest to get some shots for the end credits. They stationed one camera near the front, one in the middle, and one at the back. Their expectations for filming a peaceful joyous mass demonstration quickly went out the window. 

Violence against protestors by the police left many bruised and bleeding. Hundreds were arrested. Police horses and vans repeatedly drove through the crowd, trampling people underfoot – all in the name of public order. However, none of this violence was reflected in the narrative on the evening news which depicted the demonstrators as violent and the police as responding to life or death violence. 

Despite TV managed to persuade Channel 4 to commission a film based on the footage to create a film showing the events in the order they really happened. The documentary was broadcast on Channel 4 in Sept 1990 and resulted in the upending of the accepted narrative of that day. 

The film was also used in court as a part of a common defence of protestors who had been arrest that day, showing many were acting in legal self defence.

Connections to the Current Moment 

In policing of public events in the last year including at the George Floyd BLM protests in 2020, Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham common, and Kill the Bill protests happening currently in Bristol. 

In the Battle of Trafalgar we see police vans driving through crowds, and the same tactics were used in Brooklyn 2020. Police vans were driven into crowds of BLM protesters who were protesting the murder of George Floyd. The Battle of Trafalgar demonstrates that the police were not “out of control” but following a dangerous and near secret tactic which was very likely to cause a crowd to react violently. During the anti-poll tax demonstration, the film argues, the protesters gained no benefit from violence, but the state did benefit because it allowed them to paint all protestors as criminals. 

This narrative is easily created when media sources uncritically present police statements as their only coverage of such protests. Again there is an uncanny similarity between the commentary of a mounted police woman in 1990 and one in 2021, both who claim to have never seen such violence directed at police in their entire lives. 

Jump to 1:30 for the report on Bristol protests

The use of provocation by police including the use of vans, attacking women, collective punishment, kettling, creates a large dragnet of offenders and erases the divide between peaceful and violent protests. The criminalising of protesting creates an excuse for the use of violence which paints the entire cause (whether it be BLM or anti-tax demonstrations) to be viewed as criminal in the court of public opinion. 

April 3rd – National Day of Action

The 3rd of April has been designated as a national day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill. Over 40 cities and counting across the UK will see #killthebill demonstrations, and they will be joined by those supporting the #ReclaimTheseStreets movement which grew from the murder of Sarah Everand and the policing of the vigils in her honour. 

In the demonstrations the week before violence from the police in Bristol created headlines of “violence against police” and “rioting,” but, as in 1990s, from the point of view of those on the ground the papers seemed to have switched around the subjects and objects of their sentences.

It will be interesting to see what policing tactics will be employed and what narrative the media will offer after April 3rd.

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Love me! Help me! – can art save Battersea Power Station?

Brian's poster

As Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group Brian Barnes has fought for the power station for 32 years.

The Battersea Power Station has without a doubt a special place in many Londoners hearts. It has this word presence – not many buildings have been featured in popular culture as much as the iconic building based on a river side site next to Thames.

Now the power station is facing a massive re-generation scheme led by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the ambitious building project. The scheme has stormed critique especially among local residents.

One of them is Brian Barnes, a mural artist who have been the fighting for the Battersea Power Station over three decades. Brian is Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group which has been campaigning to save the power station and to inform people about what the local community thinks about the redevelopment plans.

The Battersea Power Station has inspired Brian’s artwork and the posters made by Brian have been part of the Battersea Power Station Community Group’s campaign. One of Brian’s posters represent what Pink Floyd did in 1976. A helium filled 45 long pig was anchored to the chimney for the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animal album. “Battersea Power Station and the pig go together like peaches and cream” Brian says.

Algie

The iconic rock image Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig Algie has inspired Brian Barnes’ posters. Algie famously flew over Battersea Power Station for Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album cover in 1976.

However the pig isn’t the only animal Brian has used in his artwork. Orangutangs have also been a common feature in Brian’s art inspired by the power station. This is because one of the companies that owns the power station, Sime Darby – one of the biggest palm oil producers in the world – is cutting down a rainforest in equatorial zones and destroying the natural habitats of orangutangs.

“If they can do that in Borneo and threaten the rainforest and the orangutangs, I don’t think they are going to be much bothered about a building of brick”, Brian adds.

“On Valentine’s day we put up a big ‘Love’ banner up on the chimneys with a heart on it. That got everyone interested in loving Battersea Power Station”, Brian says. The 45 foot long banners which the Community Group members strung up between the chimneys have also said ‘Love me’ and ‘Help me’.

Brian believes that art helps to galvanise people’s attention to the power station and what’s going on: “Whether the chimneys are coming down or whether there is too much luxury housing around it or whether the tube station is really going to be useful for the local people”.

Brian and mural

A mural ‘Battersea in perspective’ was made in 1988. The mural including Battersea Power Station ‘is all about the Battersea area and people who are famous of being Battersea residents’ Brian says.

“Battersea Power Station missed out being an art gallery because it didn’t have a roof” Brian says referring to the Bankside power station which now serves as the Tate Modern.

The chimneys of the Battersea Power Station have been a significant part of Brian’s art. “If all the chimneys are down and the present Battersea Power Station Development Company leaves then you would have a box of brick with no chimneys”, Brian worries. At the moment the chimneys are indeed going down in order to be rebuild.

Perhaps art cannot save the Battersea Power Station. However it has spread the message of what is happening and helped social change by being a part of a wider campaign. “I used it (Battersea Power Station) as an image to represent Battersea”, Brian says and what is sure is that his campaign to save the power station isn’t over yet.

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Anti-gay law set for Winter Olympic Russia

To be gay and compete in the Winter Olympics 2014 in Sochi seems to become a problem. An anti-gay bill, to outlaw “Homosexual propaganda” which would involve making public display of affection by same-sex couples and public events that promote gay right illegal, is working its way through Russian parliament. Some cities in Russia, such as St. Petersburg, already similar laws.

If the new law gets approved, which it seems it will, gay athletes will not be allowed to talk about their sexuality or show their partners affection in public. It also prevents athletes who has not stepped out of the closet yet to do that anytime soon, since that might make them a target for discrimination during the winter olympics.

Vancouver and London hosted a Pride House for their gay fans and athletes, but even if a gay-rights group in Russia wanted to do the same the members claims the Russian Ministry of Justice banned them for doing so.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says that they can not do anything about there not being a Pride House in Sochi since they have no responsibility for the various national or special interest houses common during the Olympics. They also claims that there will not be any discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games.

You would think though that IOC would be big and powerful enough to be able to make the Russian Ministry of Justice to remove their ban from the Pride House, especially since they are keen to make sure that everybody knows they are against any kind of discrimination.

Marc Naimark, from the Federation of Gay games, says: “When they choose a country that’s homophobic, they send a message to the world and to gay athletes, among those messages is, ‘if you’re not out, stay in the closet.”

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2012 Unemployment increases in Olympic boroughs

The British Government promised work for 20,000 of the people who lived in the Olympics host borough. Despite that fact only 9,700 jobs went to the residents of these borough.

The Guardian wrote an article about how the unemployment has increased during 2012 in some of the Games host boroughs. What happened to Cameron’s promise to keep the legacy of the games alive and as a part of that legacy to bring jobs to people in East London? The long-term youth unemployment in Bethnal Green and Bow increased by 55% in 2012. Wasn’t it supposed to decrease according to Cameron’s promise?

So the real Olympic legacy, as in Athens, is debt, despair and less access to sport than before…

 

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Atos Protests Continue

New protests have been planned to force Glasgow 2014 to drop Atos as sponsors.

This news comes after demonstrations were held in tandem with the paralympics, protesting against Atos’s poor record in their fit-for-work assessments.

The coming protests still aim to bring the inferior assessments to public light and are hoping to take Atos out of the sponsor list for Glasgow 2014, where they are hoping to gain good press.

Below is a video of one of the protests held during the paralympics games


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The Dark Side of Olympic Sponsor, Coca-Cola

As one of the world’s largest brands, Coca-Cola is drunk globally at most major events, organisations and in normal day-to-day life, but controversy is never far away from the corporation’s door as their actions are felt by all of those unable to defend themselves.

They pedal their work in communities, but always fail to mention their crippling effects on non-western countries, the drastic effects to the environment around their bottling plants and the mysterious deaths associated with their work.

The Olympic sponsor’s chokehold on the drinks market is unassailable, but as opposition to their activity grows, legal challenges will continue to bombard Coca-Cola until something drastic changes in their behind-the-scenes work.

Carmen Garcia and German Gutierrez made the following film telling the story of Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingsworth as they attempt to take on one of the most recognisable companies on the planet using The Alien Tort Claims Act, an act dating back to the early days of the American Constitution.

Click below to watch the film on the ever-intriguing thoughtmaybe.

Wikipedia hosts a broad summary of a number of the criticisms of Coca-Cola.

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Olympic impact on UK retail sales

Olympic impact on UK retail sales. August brings the worst sales growth this year.

UK retail sales values were down by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from August 2011, when they were down 0.6% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 1.6%, against a 1.5% rise in August 2011.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “There’s no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall. Sadly, apart from April – distorted by Easter timings – August saw the worst sales growth this year.

It’s clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items. Usually-reliable online sales suffered, putting in the worst sales growth since we started the measure four years ago. Some retailers told us online activity was particularly thin in the evenings. If people weren’t watching television they were more likely to be following the sport on PCs and mobile devices than shopping.

Full article: http://www.brc.org.uk/brc_news_detail.asp?id=2282

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Join the Atos Games with Disabled People Against Cuts

Join the Atos Games with Disabled People Against Cuts

Join Disabled People Against Cuts for The Atos Games From Monday 27 to Friday 31 August – five days of action against a company that’s sponsoring the Paralympics but wrecking disabled people’s lives.

We are calling on disabled people, disabled activists, families, colleagues, friends and supporters to come together and fight back against Atos’s attacks. Atos represents as dangerous an opponent as any government, law or barrier the disability movement has faced in its long history. It’s not just welfare, but our very identity and our place within society that is under attack.

We are asking the whole of the anti-cuts movement to join us in our opposition to the company most responsible for driving through the government’s brutal cuts agenda.

Let’s make it Games over for Atos!

We’re not against the Paralympics, or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.

Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week – then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’.

Atos uses an inhumane computer program to do the testing and trains its staff to push people off benefits. The government has admitted the tests are flawed and the British Medical Association wants them to end immediately.

So – join in The Atos Games however you can – online, on the phone, or on the streets!

• Monday 27: A coffin full of your messages about Atos will be delivered to its doorstep.

• Tuesday 28: Pay a visit to your local Atos office – and maybe even take your protest inside!

• Wednesday 29: We’ll hold a spoof Paralympic awards ceremony – hopefully with some very special guests…

• Thursday 30: Phone jam! Let’s flood Atos with calls, and generate a Twitter-storm they can’t ignore!

• Friday 31: Join us in London where we’re teaming up with UK Uncut for the Grand Finale – an audacious, daring and disruptive action. Last time we shut down Oxford Circus. This time we will be performing miracles…!

We’ll give more details about each day of action. We’ll make sure that DPAC members and disabled people who can’t travel will be able to take part in different and accessible ways.

We’d really like YOU to make this week of action a great success!

Atos has offices in most towns across the country, so start organising an action for August 28 at your local Atos now!

Let the Atos Games begin.

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Liquid Bombs and Price Explosions

The fear for agitation during the London Olympics 2012 is tangible. The number of security staff is doubled compared with last year’s plans and this includes a doubling of  the costs for security. This makes the overall cost of the Olympics 2012 so far around £11bn. This summer, London will experience the biggest UK military mobilisation since the Second World War. Despite these high security policies, an attempt to smuggle in a fake bomb was successful according to The Sun.

Water bottles that can be used as liquid bombs, are a fear of terror and the reason the Olympic organisation has sharpen the safety policies, which are now turning  into airport safety policies equivalents. Visitors are not allowed to bring their own refreshments anymore, which leads into food prices that are the real criminal activity. A price explosions that is getting out of hand.

Is the organisation taking advantage of the banning of foods and drinks from the area? A sandwich is approximately going to cost £4.90  and a hot dog could fetch £5.90. Apparently you can expect some high standard food quality, but do cheering people  really fancy a haute cuisine hot-dog while watching sports? You can bring their own baby food snack (without bottle?) though.

Weapons and whistles are also prohibited. And any expression of political or religious opinion in the shape of cheering material are also a no go. Weapons, obviously. But whistles? Well the athletics must be thankful for the ban of whistles, meaning also no Vuvuzela’s which are weapons for the ears and distracting both athletic and supporter. It would have been amazing watching a game of table tennis while listening to a Vuvuzela concert though.

No but really, 6 quid for a hot-dog?

 

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John ‘Black Power Salute’ Carlos speaks in London 21st May 2012

John Carlos, who marked his medal at the 1968 games with a raised fist ‘black power’ salute, will speak about inequality, resistance and struggle in London on Monday 21st  May 2012 at a meeting organised by members of the RMT trade union on the London Underground and sponsored by the Fire Brigades Union. The famous gesture by John Carlos and fellow medal winner Tommie Smith epitomised resistance to racism.
The world is under the spell of the Olympics 2012. In these times of global gathering around an sports event, resistance is the best Olympic spirit according to Olympic athlete Carlos. Resistance against inequality and being pro human rights.

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City John Carlos created one of the most powerful images of all times. When the American anthem started, he and Tommie Smith bowed their heads and raised their fists to represent the Black Power movement of that time. Their way of dressing and posing represented symbols for working people, black poverty, peace, and lynch mob victims. In defies of the important Olympic rule: no politics. This controversial gesture created huge debates about politics. Carlos’ athletic career was over, but his human rights spirit did not die. He represents personal sacrifice for humanity and equality and this is your chance to hear him speak in real life.

John Carlos will be joined by activist and campaigner  Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered by racists and whose long battle for justice brought the conviction of two of his killers earlier this year. Also on the platform will be Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody, and Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett.
Other speakers include Samantha Rigg-David from the Sean Rigg Campaign for Justice and Change and United Friends and Families Campaign, Sharhabeel Lone of the We are Babar Ahmad Campaign, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and Mac McKenna, an RMT activist on London Underground.

Register here for FREE! and join the FaceBook page.

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