helenic: (book; graffiti)
Police State UK.

This is what Denny and I have been working on for the last couple of weeks. It's still a bit buggy, and we haven't fixed the theme in IE 6 or for the subpages yet, but it's functional. Readers, commenters, and contributors are very much welcomed. Please, if you care about civil liberties and human rights in the UK, have a look and pass on the link.

There's an RSS Feed here; feel free to syndicate it. DW feed is [syndicated profile] police_state_uk_feed.

Thanks.
helenic: (troubled; sea; red sweater)

FOR THE ATTENTION OF
David Lammy MP
Labour MP for Tottenham

Dear Mr Lammy,

I am sure by now that you are aware of the allegations of police brutality against demonstrators during the G20 last week. This week, enough evidence has come to light surrounding the death of Ian Tomlinson that an independent inquiry has been launched, a fact for which I am very thankful.

I remain concerned, however, that the case of Ian Tomlinson's death may drown out the other incidents which took place on April 1 and 2 2009. This case has already demonstrated the willingness of the Metropolitan Police and the IPCC to cover up the truth. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/apr/09/g20-police-assault-ian-tomlinson-g20 provides a good summary of the many attempts by the police to close down the investigation, prevent crucial evidence from being published, and deflect blame away from themselves.

Since the protests last week, eye-witness accounts have flooded online media with convincing and consistent reports of police brutality. The tactic of kettling protesters has already, quite rightly, been publicly questioned. Batons and shields were used aggressively against peaceful protesters inside the Bishopsgate kettle on April 1. Even police medics joined in the fray, enthusiastically hitting demonstrators with full-arm swings from a position of safety behind police lines.

Around midnight on April 1, teams of baton-wielding riot police with dogs were sent to clear hundreds of peaceful protesters from the climate camp in Bishopsgate while the national media was absent. Not only were demonstrators injured and intimidated, but the police wilfully destroyed their personal property - a particularly hypocritical act given that the police used the vandalism of RBS by protesters to excuse police actions earlier that day.

All these eye-witness reports have, over the last week, been substantiated by an ever-increasing number of independent sources, including photographs and video footage. (http://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/1068 provides some useful links.)

Contrary to the narrative presented by most national media, most protesters were peaceful, and the police response was violently disproportionate. I have been appalled by the biased reporting of this case in the BBC and other national media, which I assume can only be the result of police pressure. I am concerned that this suppression will allow the bigger picture of police conduct and strategy to go unchecked.

I hope that justice is met regarding Ian Tomlinson's death, and that not only the individual officers, but also their superiors, will be brought to account. I also hope that the countless incidents of unprovoked police brutality against hundreds of peaceful demonstrators will be publicly accounted for. Ian Tomlinson was not the only innocent person to be assaulted by police, and the survivors of aggressive policing deserve justice as much as the victims.

I urge you to raise this matter in the House of Commons, and put pressure on the police for an independent inquiry into the wider issue of police conduct and strategy during law-abiding demonstrations. Police should enable peaceful protest, not impede it. The strategy of kettling is more likely to cause violence than contain it, and the use of riot shields and batons against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.

Many people in this country are unhappy with recent decisions made by this government, and have legitimate fears for the future. Personally, I am concerned by a pattern of increasingly repressive legislation curtailing our civil liberties and personal agency. In a party system our power to effect change is limited, and public demonstration remains one of our best options for making our voices heard. If exercising our democratic right to protest results in us being intimidated, unlawfully detained, and physically assaulted, then this country is more police state than democracy.

Yours sincerely,
Helen Lambert

Sent via Write to them. Given David Lammy MP's track record, I'm not particularly confident that he'll speak out on this, so I've also sent letters to Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer and Lord West of Spithead, who debated the use of force against protesters before the G20 last week.

I've also signed this petition against the use of kettling at peaceful demonstrations. And I'll be at the Memorial Protest tomorrow.

helenic: (atonement; sitting on city steps)

I've been continuing to add links and quotes to my previous post, trying to keep everything in one place. I do want to call attention to a couple of things though.

You probably all know by now that yesterday evening, additional footage was released of Ian Tomlinson's assault, clearly showing the full-arm swing with a baton which was directed at him from behind. The officer in question has now handed himself in.

This is positive. It means that people are beginning to accept the undeniable reality of disproportionate and unprovoked police violence on that day. It means that the individual accepts culpability, perhaps even feels remorse - although that seems unlikely given the late hour of his confession. And it means that justice, of a sort, will hopefully be served.

But it's also worrying, because if all the blame falls on a single officer or officers, it may deflect attention from everything else that happened. Ian Tomlinson wasn't the only person to be assaulted and injured by police. The peaceful protesters who were assaulted were no less innocent. Hell, even the protesters who started shouting and shoving might have had a point, after being threatened and unlawfully detained for hours with no food, water or medication.

Ian Tomlinson's death, while tragic, is not the whole story. I am glad that this case is being given the attention it deserves. But it's not the only case. The problem here is systemic.

Every time photos or video is released which corroborates the eye witness accounts, which have been many and consistent since April 1, it makes the rest of those accounts seem more plausible.

Eye-witnesses claimed that Ian Tomlinson was shoved and batoned by police.

Eye-witnesses claimed that police made free with their batons, attacking unarmed people who were protesting peacefully.

Eye-witnesses claimed that in the Bishopsgate kettle on the afternoon of April 1st, police medics were among the most violent with their batons, reaching over the front line to attack protesters.
"We turned to see the police hitting people. A whole line of them lashing out indiscriminately again and again. Two officers close to me who had “Police Medic” written on their back were walking up and down behind the line of their colleagues, protected from direct assault, reaching over and thrashing with the most gusto of all."
(from Indymedia, Saturday 04 April 2009)

Police medics doing exactly this can be seen in this video, 2:07-2:09. (Look out for the green patches they're wearing.)

Also in this video can be seen police baton-charging seated, unarmed protesters - at the Bishopsgate demonstration on April 1st (05:30-05:44). Climate Camp had not been charged yet; this was in broad daylight, in the middle of the kettle outside the Bank of England. This was people responding to the police assault passively and peacefully by choosing to sit down, have a smoke and look them in the eyes. They were attacked with batons and shields.

So, while I haven't yet seen any video evidence confirming the stories from Climate Camp on the evening of the 1st (beyond the footage of the initial swoop), an increasing number of independent sources are telling the same story about Climate Camp. And thus far, the eye-witnesses have been proved more right than wrong. Their accounts need to be taken seriously by the press, and by an independent investigation on the G20 policing.

I'll be at the G-20 Meltdown memorial and protest this Saturday, marching for our democratic right to protest without fear of police brutality. It'd be good to see you there.

helenic: (tales of gods and monsters)

Everyone in London has been following the saga of the G20 protests and the police response to it. But I keep finding things other people haven't seen, and other people keep finding things I haven't seen, and when I told my mum and dad about this at the weekend they hadn't heard about any of it, so I'm not sure how far this has spread in the national press yet.

And even if you're in London, if your sources are the BBC, the free papers or the Evening Standard, you've probably got a distorted version of events.

I wasn't at the protests; I was at work, and the evening was [livejournal.com profile] romauld's birthday, so I was spending time with him instead. I'd been invited to the Climate Camp by various hippie friends, and considered going to it, but I had mixed feelings about using the G20 as a vehicle for general protest. The G20 was convened as a financial summit to sort out global recession and world trade. I'd read up on it a bit and had a sketchy understanding of quite how complex the whole messy business was, and I felt that the world leaders would have their work cut out to curtail protectionism, and keep trade links from breaking which might take years to rebuild. Never mind world peace at the same time. President Obama has been criticised for trying to fulfil his progressive campaign promises at the same time as sort the economy out, and not really achieving either; critics argue he should fix the economy first and then deal with the rest of it. And while the Copenhagan summit is arguably too late to deal with climate change, it's only in six months' time, so I was sort of disinclined to tell the G20 they should be sorting out Jobs, Justice and Climate Change at the same time as all the complex financial stuff.

Since then I've rethought that. Not only because we should be thinking about environmental and financial crises holistically if we want to solve them, rather than compartmentalising - I don't think that's realistic with our present governmental system, but I still think it's true - but because the police response to the protests was shocking, and I wish I'd been there with a camera, been there non-violently, so I could have added my voice to the eye-witness accounts flooding the internet over the next few days and insisting that the media representation of what happened was wrong.

Okay, there's a lot to get through here, so I'm going to attempt it in roughly chronological order.
The G20 protests: attempting to see through the smoke )

helenic: (Default)

In lieu of actual content, here's some of the interesting stuff I've been looking at lately:

helenic: (Mad Hatter - sultry redhaired fingerbiti)

Announcement #1. My friend [livejournal.com profile] flannelcat is intending to walk on hot coals for charity, which is pretty fucking awesome, and he would very much appreciate your support.

Announcement #2. I am seriously considering being a member of the Julola Militia for a day in the Cotswolds, on September 24th; would any of you be interested in joining me?

"Actors are required for the Personal Security in Emergencies course at the Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, which is in the picturesque Cotswold Hills on the edge of Shakespeare country. The simulation setting is the fictional coutry of Julola (which is rather west African, bears an uncanny resemblance to 90's Liberia and Sierra Leone). You will be playing mainly Militia for informal & formal checkpoints. Some actors may also be requested to play villagers, refugees or journalists.

We ideally need you to arrive the night before for briefings and to get to know the other actors. If you are keen but can't get there the night before this still may be of interest - so let me know anyway. For both courses preparation will start the next morning from approx 8am. For both the simulation will finish by 5pm, and then you can choose whether to stay for food and pub or bugger off for your usual saturday night entertainment. We provide accomodation for the friday night, food if you arrive before 6.15pm, and all meals on Saturday. We will also pay travel expenses from within the UK."

The event is run by the charity RedR. There is another simulation taking place on Saturday 1st October, for which actors are also required if you're interested, but as this is the date of [livejournal.com profile] bacchae and [livejournal.com profile] areia's leaving-the-country party I won't be able to make it.

This weekend I am going to Synthetic Culture and [livejournal.com profile] kmazzy's birthday party, BOTH OF WHICH ARE PIRATE THEMED. I anticipate a total sensory overload of men in leather trousers. Mmmmm - I mean, ARRRRR.

helenic: (you mess with me you mess with ROME)

"At the turn of the millennium, the United Nations General Assembly agreed on a set of development goals, the supreme one being the eradication of poverty. It is not trivial that world leaders use the language of “eradication” instead of “relieving”. But victory it was not. We have the means to end poverty; the world is endlessly rich and more redistribution would not be costly. The real impediment is the old one: it is about will. ... Unnecessary misery persists because the will to end it comes not from our hearts, where we are all pure, but from our collective opinions and actions, where we are not." Stein Ringen

I'm not sure how I feel about Live 8. )

helenic: (Default)

I would encourage everyone on my friends list to read this article on Iraq by [livejournal.com profile] smhwpf, and follow his links if you have time. It's clear, rational, includes a lot of information I wasn't aware of, and makes a point that should be heard by as many people as possible.

helenic: (internal dialectic)
As well as reading about the election and writing about fear, I've spent quite a lot of time today (ah, Sunday afternoons! the bliss!) exploring Boing Boing and coming across some rather fantastic stuff, including an essay entitled "I Shit My Pants": Spontaneous Ancient Literary Structure in Modern Colloquial Speech, and The London Review of Books' Personals Column, which BB.net describes as "funny, steamy ads written by bookish middle-aged Britons looking for a casual shag". Some of my favourites:
Lazy, horny, Luddite flâneur, male, 52, seeks buxom, cheerful, affectionate female with low expectations, who wants to have lots of sex. This idler has a few cultural interests for the moments in between – poetry, art, film and opera amongst them. Down-to-earth, amiable – him, and you. No texts or emails please. Just letters, telephone, human contact. I did say I was a Luddite. Box no. 08/02

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. Box no. 08/06

Yes, sir. I can boogie. Man. Academic. 62. Quite possibly gay. Box no. 08/12

Massive-breasted heiress, 38, seeks witty Nobel-awarded intellectual beef-cake gardener-chef-poet with stonking pecs. Like me, you are dynamic, hilarious, serious, ironic, passionate, practical, affectionate, kind, funny, have most of your own legs, and are startled to find yourself still cruising the aisles of the Lurve Bazaar. Unlike me, you don’t exist. Am I right? If so, will consider any M who can make conversation, sense, a living, friends, four cooked meals, hot love and me laugh. Box no. 07/01
I'm half tempted to leave one myself. Watch this space.

I've also discovered the fond and satirical Harry Potter art of [livejournal.com profile] wizzart which is quite simply brilliant. Self-styled as "the worst HP art on the internet", remarkably expressive MS Paint cartoons that mock the books, fandom, and themselves. Including the story of how Arthur and Molly ended up with seven children. Genius.
helenic: (internal dialectic)

Surrealness! I just answered the door to a canvasser from our local MP. An attractive, young, blonde canvasser with good shoes. [livejournal.com profile] punkalou, in fact, whom I haven't seen for almost two years. Cue much squeaking of "ohmygod!" and bemused giggling. L, maybe we should meet up sometime and drink wiiiiiine?

I had an excellent weekend. On Friday evening [livejournal.com profile] elise, [livejournal.com profile] smhwpf, [livejournal.com profile] shreena and I saw Billy Bragg play at the Colston Hall in Bristol. We got there during the support band, whose name I didn't catch; they were a blues/electronica group with some fantastic rhythms and basslines and an excellent (and cute) tenor saxophonist, but the singer's voice really didn't blend with the rest of the sound, and their songs didn't seem to be about anything. Elise and I slipped out after a couple of songs and went to the bar. When we returned, Billy still wasn't on; we sat through an Indian guy speaking uninspiringly about Make Poverty History until, without any warning, Mark Steel came on stage. I've never heard his standup before and it was wonderful. Exactly what comedy should be. Hard-hitting, passionate, angry, absolutely fucking hilarious. Mainly he ranted about politics and religion, particularly New Labour and "all the bollocks about the Pope", and I was crying with laughter at the same time as applauding his sarcastically-expressed outrage. The evening would have been worth it just for that, but then Martyn Joseph and Steve Knightley were announced, also completely unexpectedly, which elicited a certain amount of squeaking from me. Apparently they've been touring together for the past three weeks. They mainly took it in turns to play their own songs while the other accompanied; I'd never heard MJ before, and he has an amazing voice. In the interval I bought the album they've recorded together. It was a shame not to see Phil Beer, but since I hadn't expected to see these guys at all I was more than happy.

Eventually Mr. Bragg came on at about 10pm, two and a half hours into the evening. His set only lasted 45 minutes but he was everything I knew he'd be. Forthright, rude, sincere, funny, heartbreaking. He played NPWA, Upfield, John Barleycorn, England Half English, I Keep Faith, All You Fascists, Power In A Union, World Turned Upside Down (which I was particularly happy about), Great Leap Forwards and A New England. For the encore he got Steve Knightley, Martyn Joseph, Mark Steel (who looked a bit uncertain about it all) and the blues singer onstage and did a group version of Redemption Song. Fucking amazing.

Two pieces of good news with which to start the week, both of which have made my insides twist with happiness and disbelief: Pakistan and India are at peace, and (is it wrong that I find this more exciting?) the Oxyrhynchus Papyri have begun to be decoded, making a potential addition of 20% to the current body of extant Greek and Roman literature. "The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ("Progeny") by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War." Well, that puts my dissertation into perspective.

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