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Lawyer Explains How Lord Walney’s ‘Extreme Protest’ Groups Report Makes ‘Criminal Law Redundant and is Draconian and Dangerous’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2024 - 9:51pm in

A report expected to recommend a new category proscribing Just Stop Oil and Palestine Action as extreme protest groups is an attempt to silence voices the Government doesn't like and will lead to a further escalation of violence against demonstrators, a leading protestor has suggested, while a lawyer has argued it will make criminal law redundant.

The report by crossbench peer Lord John Walney, the Government's Independent Advisor on Political Violence and Disruption, will sanction certain protest groups in similar ways to terrorist organisations, and will reportedly target those who routinely use criminal tactics to try and achieve their aims. The move could restrict a group's ability to fundraise and assemble.

Last June, the Metropolitan Police said that policing the actions of the Just Stop Oil group had cost more than £4.5 million – and the equivalent of almost 13,770 officer shifts the Guardian reported – with the environmental group causing regular traffic chaos through marches and roadblocks, as well as disrupting major culture and sporting events.

Palestine Action has sprayed red paint on the walls of several buildings across the UK in recent months, including the Ministry of Defence in central London, among other actions.

Palestine Action sprayed Britain's Foreign Office with blood-red paint, "to commemorate 75 years since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began". Photo: Alamy

The BBC, according to a report on 12 May, has seen extracts of Lord Walney's recommendations and quotes him as saying: "Militant groups like Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil are using criminal tactics to create mayhem and hold the public and workers to ransom without fear of consequence.

"Banning terror groups has made it harder for their activists to plan crimes - that approach should be extended to extreme protest groups too."

Ahead of the report being published, the Byline Times Podcast spoke with Gail Bradbrook, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, who has been found guilty of criminal damage for protesting; and Francesca Katyayani, a senior associate at Hodge, Jones and Allen, which regularly represents protestors in court.

Lord Walney encounters a protest by campaigners against the arms trade as he arrives at the ADS Annual Dinner in January 2024. Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy

"When you conflate us with terrorists who threaten life, when we're here to protect life, and you use words like 'extremists’... one of the dangers is that one of us is going to get killed one day off the back of that," Bradbrook told the podcast.

She added that the move was also a "march further into authoritarianism, to the Government deciding whether protesting suits them or not", and was something people should be "extremely worried about".

"It does smack of 1930s Germany, some of the enabling powers that have been given to the Home Secretary," Bradbrook said.

She further argued that applying the word 'extreme’ to protest groups was as inaccurate as it is dangerous. Extreme, Bradbrook said, is when something "threatens a life. It either intends to harm life or it is going to harm life. That's what we mean when we think about terrorism. And we're the opposite of extreme. Non-violent, peaceful protestors".

The term, she suggested, would be more suitably applied to ministers and business leaders, who through climate-damaging policies and decisions are harming lives.

Podcast host, Adrian Goldberg, spoke to Bradbrook about the already significant impact protesting has on the individuals involved, including prison time and career advancement, remarking: "It's not as though it is cost-free to you to take part in the kind of disruptions that you've been involved with."

Bradbrook said: "I was in the dock last year, three different times I had a prison bag with me because I've been threatened. We've been sent to jail for simply mentioning climate change in front of the jury."

But she said that the climate emergency "agenda is too big" to cower to the threat of punishment.

Just Stop Oil protestors during a slow walk in Westminster last May. Photo: Denise Laura Baker/Alamy

"We know from our history books, and from social science research into civil disobedience, that these methods are more likely to work than ordinary protest," she added.

The Government was "conflating" disruption with violence when the two are "very, very different", Bradbrook told the podcast. Marathons, and other sporting events, she noted, also cause disruption to the public.

Goldberg quizzed Katyayani about how protestors were being silenced in court with the accused being told "what they can't say" – preventing them from providing context and establishing a defence.

He cited the case of three Insulate Britain activists who were jailed for contempt of court because they were told not to mention the climate crisis, fuel poverty, and the history of peaceful civil rights movements.

Katyayani: "I think it's hard to imagine how you would be tried, justly and properly, in a court of law, if you are completely prevented from explaining where you're coming from and what motivated you to commit the acts they are alleged to have committed."

Goldberg asked Katyayani if she had recognised any "extreme protest groups" during her time defending protestors.

She said it was a "difficult definition" which was "quite dangerous" and, given that some protestors may be cleared of charges but still punished under the proposed legislation for belonging to a proscribed group, "it's a way of overstepping the judiciary and saying 'well, I don't care'".

"It sort of makes the purpose of criminal law redundant," she argued. "Where you're trying to punish people and limit their freedoms, before they've even done anything, simply by virtue of belonging to a certain protest group, just in terms of the groups that they'd mentioned."

Katyayani added that "anything difficult to implement leaves open a lot of space for it to be used in the wrong way or abused in the wrong way".

The lawyer suggested that the Government is "losing sight of", or just ignoring, "the fact that the right to protest is the right to cause disruption", which is covered under the Human Rights Act. "To suggest that to cause disruption is inherently unlawful," she told the podcast. "That's legally simply incorrect."

Bradbrook added that the focus of the legislation was politically motivated, with the Conservatives happy to back protest groups if it suited them, as demonstrated by this Led by Donkeys YouTube video.

To start criminalising people because they "care about the fact that there's a genocide in Palestine and care about the fact that the climate systems and life support systems the Earth had are been destroyed by policies of our Government and others... it's just highly political," she added.

"Democracy is always been fairly fake in the last few years. But this is really ending the democracy in the UK, for me."

Katyayani noted that the Government's approach to protests is similar to its approach to crime – rather than deal with the root cause, it seeks to increase the punishment, and just like the 'War on Drugs’, it will fail.

Bradbrook: "You read these rulings, and they all have a line that says, 'well, we've got a functional democracy'. So if you've got an issue you just say, 'take it to Parliament'... like you've got the same amount of lobbying money as Big Oil has. It's a very circular argument of power that's trying to keep itself in place. It's damaging the world. And we're all going to pay the price of this."

Goldberg asked Bradbrook if she sympathised with Brits disrupted by protests and she argued that public sentiment was being fuelled by the right-wing press, which was making readers angry about delays, rather than telling them that "the health service is falling to pieces".

"If the Government would actually get on with doing [the UK's] duty as so-called climate leaders – which is frankly a joke – if the UK would speak up about a genocide and stop providing Israel with arms etc. then people wouldn't be protesting and protesting for reasons that are proportionate and incredibly serious."

Goldberg concluded the podcast by asking Bradbrook if being put into the same "category as people might see a terrorist" might stop her from taking action. She said she was already subjected to considerable abuse.

"I had somebody saying that I should be shot in the face in front of my kids," she told the podcast. "[The public] have been told that we are terrorist threats and extremists and a threat to the country... I mean, what could possibly go wrong?"

Government ‘Independent Adviser’ Who ‘Backs Ban’ on Climate and Palestine Groups has Paid Roles with Defence and Business Lobbyists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/05/2024 - 7:15pm in

The Government’s ‘independent adviser’ on domestic extremism – who has reportedly backed banning certain pro-Palestine groups – is the chair and paid adviser for a defence sector lobbying organisation, it has emerged.  

Earlier this week, extracts were leaked to the media from a forthcoming report of the Government’s so-called ‘Independent Adviser on Domestic Violence and Disruption’, Lord Walney – a former Labour MP who has since worked closely with the Conservatives. 

It will reportedly call for supposedly ‘extreme’ campaign groups such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil to be banned, despite the groups themselves being denied access to the report.

Now campaign group Plan B has alleged that “far from being ‘independent, Lord Walney serves vested corporate interests in the arms and fossil fuel industries, whose profits are being threatened by precisely the groups he’s proposing to ban”, after analysing his financial interests registered with the House of Lords authorities. 

The declarations reveal that, among other roles, Lord Walney is:

  • Paid chair of the Purpose Defence Coalition, members of which include Leonardo, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, with “extensive links” to Israel’s military. 
  • Paid adviser to lobbyists Rud Pederson, clients of which include the oil and gas giant, Glencore.
  • Paid adviser to the Purpose Business Coalition, members of which include fossil fuel giant BP.
  • Paid chair of the Purpose Defence Coalition, members of which include Leonardo, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, with “extensive links” to Israel’s military. 
  • Paid adviser to lobbyists Rud Pederson, clients of which include the oil and gas giant, Glencore.
  • Paid adviser to the Purpose Business Coalition, members of which include fossil fuel giant BP.
  • Lord Walney, whose name is John Woodcock, also visited Israel in January this year, funded by Elnet, an NGO promoting cooperation between Europe and Israel. It was founded in 2007 as a European pro-Israel advocacy group, to counter "widespread criticism of Israel in Europe".

    According to NGO Action on Armed Violence, Purpose Defence Coalition member Leonardo “equips Israel with Aermacchi M-346 aircraft and parts for Apache attack helicopters" while the "company’s site in Edinburgh is responsible for producing the laser targeting system used in F-35 fighter jets”.

    Plan B argues that the revelations about Lord Walney echo a previous attempt by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange to brand climate activists ‘extremists’ in 2019. Vice later reported that Policy Exchange had been funded by fuel firm Drax and industry lobbyists Energy UK. 

    Tim Crosland, director of the climate justice charity Plan B, said: “Lord Walney’s report is being presented as ‘independent’. But that’s not true. That’s dishonest.”

    He pointed to Lord Walney’s position as chair of the Defence Purpose Coalition, “a group which represents the interests of arms companies, such as Leonardo” – which Palestine Action has attempted to “expose” over providing Israel with military equipment amid the Gaza conflict.

    Crosland added that Lord Walney’s role as a paid adviser to the linked Purpose Business Coalition will be partly funded by BP, “whose vast profits are threatened by Just Stop Oil”.

    “His recommendations are not surprising… [but] it would be a shocking deception on the public for anyone to present those recommendations as ‘independent’,” he added.

    Huda Ammori, co-founder of Palestine Action, said: “Whilst our Government remains complicit in the ongoing Gaza genocide, it is our duty to take direct action to halt the production of weapons in Britain which is being used against the Palestinian people. 

    “It is a sham for the Government to try and claim Lord Walney is an ‘independent’ adviser, who only a few months ago travelled to Israel, whilst families were being massacred a couple of hours away.” 

    Ammon added that “unelected politicians with vested interests in arms companies” should “not be given airtime to dictate British policy”.

    It was originally expected that the full report would be released on Wednesday morning. It is understood that legal issues may have caused a short delay to publication, related to groups being named in the report not having seen it before it was released to the press.

    Lord Walney resigned from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn in 2018, amid an investigation into his conduct over alleged inappropriate text messages. He denied wrongdoing. 

    The crossbench peer and the Home Office were contacted for comment.

    It comes as a YouGov poll commissioned by Medical Aid for Palestinians and Council for Arab-British Understanding suggested that a majority of British people think there should be an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and would support the UK ending its arms sales to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza.

    This latest poll found that 55% of Brits surveyed supported the UK ending the sale of arms to Israel for the duration of the conflict in Gaza. Only 13% wanted to see the continuation of arms sales. Of those who voted for the Conservative Party in 2019, the poll found that 40% are in favour of the UK suspending arms sales to Israel, while just 24% opposed.

    This article was amended on 18th May to remove a paragraph included before its intended publication date.

    If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

    Opposing The War Machine Is Cool Again, And The Empire’s Getting Nervous

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/05/2024 - 12:35pm in

    Tags 

    Gaza, art, War, Protest, activism

    Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

    https://medium.com/media/dd5a195048adbfd358314470629235d7/href

    American rapper Macklemore has released a single titled “Hind’s Hall”, the name given to Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall by anti-genocide protesters in honor of the six year-old Hind Rajab who was murdered in Gaza by Israeli forces. The artist says all proceeds from the track will go to UNRWA.

    The song with its accompanying video is such a scathing indictment of the US-backed destruction of Gaza that Google-owned YouTube promptly age-restricted it. Macklemore attacks Biden, the brutal police crackdowns on protesters, the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, US politicians and the Israel lobby, with lines that will haunt you for days like “The Nakba never ended, the colonizer lied.”

    This marks the first really mainstream artist to take on this issue in their chosen medium with a track intended for widespread circulation. It probably won’t be the last. Opposing the Gaza genocide is quickly moving from the right thing to do to the cool thing to do, which is a major problem for the empire.

    Macklemore on Twitter: "HIND'S HALL. Once it's up on streaming all proceeds to UNRWA. pic.twitter.com/QqZEKmzwZI / Twitter"

    HIND'S HALL. Once it's up on streaming all proceeds to UNRWA. pic.twitter.com/QqZEKmzwZI

    The empire can handle being on the wrong side of an issue; it has all the media and mainstream culture-manufacturing institutions on its side, which allows it to frame public perception of that issue in a way that quells dissent. What it absolutely cannot handle is a critical mass of young people deciding the imperial murder machine sucks, and that opposing it is fun and makes you cool.

    That’s when dissent takes on a momentum of its own. As long as opposing militarism and imperialism is just the morally correct thing to do it will always be a marginal position in an information ecosystem that’s controlled by the powerful, because simply being on the right side of an issue has little natural magnetism of its own. But the instant it moves from being about morality to being fun and cool it suddenly starts crackling with energy and drawing in huge numbers of people who normally wouldn’t be that interested on their own.

    The empire has no answer to this. Seriously, how can a bunch of boring empire managers in DC and Virginia hope to compete once that happens? What are they going to do, win the young back by writing another Wall Street Journal think piece? Have Netanyahu rap about how Zionism is rad while Tony Blinken plays guitar? They’ve got nothing.

    This crackling excitement behind an antiwar protest movement hasn’t happened since the sixties, and the empire had to retreat from Vietnam with its tail between its legs and dramatically restructure western civilization before it could recover from it. And all the empire managers who worked on solving that problem are dead and gone now; the people working on it now have never had to deal with anything like this, which is why it took them by surprise. The empire managers of today have only ever encountered protests against the war machine that were either very small or short-lived and easily diverted; this one’s only gaining momentum seven months in.

    And the northern hemisphere’s summer hasn’t even started yet. I guarantee you the swamp monsters are scheming very hard to try and shut this thing down before summer starts, because the kids are going to have a whole lot of fun at their expense if they can’t.

    __________________

    My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to find video versions of my articles. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

    Bitcoin donations: 1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

    Featured image by Markus Felix via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED)

    ‘We Must Stop Incitement of Violence Against Environmental Activists Before Someone is Seriously Harmed’

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/04/2024 - 9:47pm in

    In 2012, then Home Secretary Theresa May declared her aim “to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration”. The intention to do so spread, not just in our political structures, but through the media – with an emboldened Katie Hopkins using a column in The Sun to liken migrants to "cockroaches" who should be repelled by gunships.

    Given that immigration was a key debating ground in the 2016 EU Referendum, this hostility was also a factor in the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by white supremacist Thomas Mair just before the Brexit Referendum. Police reported that hate crime rose by 57% in the four days following the referendum, with 14% of them involving threatened or actual physical violence.

    The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance singled out The Sun and Daily Mail for their use of "offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology" in October 2016.

    The report highlighted hate speech as a significant issue, urging them to “avoid harm to targeted persons or vulnerable groups”. The Commission's chair, Christian Ahlund, warned that “violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians”.

    Now we see the incitement of violence towards climate activists.

    Last year, Rod Liddle wrote in The Sun that "if it were up to me I would advance towards [climate activists] in a steamroller. Glued your arse to the road have you? Well you won’t be needing it much longer”. 

    This year, GB News celebrated Louis Grieves, who assaulted a Just Stop Oil (JSO) protestor, while TalkTV presenter Andre Walker suggested that rubber bullets were not an adequate response to Extinction Rebellion (XR).

    He bemoaned the unlikelihood of ‘fixed bayonets’ – an open invitation to the kind of retribution threatened in this all too typical a response on an XR activist’s X (formerly Twitter) feed: “People like you should be shot in the face. Your kids should witness it and then also be shot in the face. You are absolute scum.”

    Then there are the fossil fuel-funded Tufton Street think tanks, led by figures such as Ian Plimer, who calls for his readers to "maintain the rage”, and Allister Heath, who believes that climate activists threaten “the total destruction of Western society”.

    Such commentators freely incite anger and disdain towards climate scientists in their opinion pieces.

    Another example came in The Sun“Plough On: US cops show Brit police how to deal with eco protestors as they drive truck through Extinction Rebellion barricade”. I complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that this piece, at the very least, it constituted harassment. But it was deemed not to have contravened its definition of harassment, which applies only to situations where journalists harass individuals.

    Such incitement seems obvious, though, to UN Special Rapporteur for Environmental Defenders, Michael Forst. In a statement laying out his concerns, he wrote: “I am distressed to see how environmental defenders are derided by some of the mainstream UK media and in the political sphere.

    "By deriding environmental defenders, the media and political figures put them at risk of threats, abuse and even physical attacks from unscrupulous persons who rely on the toxic discourse to justify their own aggression.”

    If regulators fail to act, it must surely be the duty of the law to step up.

    Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act of 2007 creates the statutory crime of intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence.

    In its original formulation, the act included a clause stating that it was “not a defence to a charge of incitement that the other person... does not commit the offence, or commits a different offence to that incited”. However, section 59 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 removed this caveat – essentially giving culture warrior commentators a ‘get out of jail free’ card whatever the consequences of their rhetoric.

    It is ironic that the Government’s Police Crime Sentencing and Courts act criminalises "a person who incites another to commit an offence”, but reserves this indictment for peaceful protestors.

    With UK law emasculated, attention must turn to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which, in the 2006 Erbakan versus Turkey case, concluded that,as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance".

    Indeed, in 2018, the ECHR addressed the case of Kaboğlu and Oran, two lecturers who had experienced threats and hate speech in newspaper articles after writing a report supporting minority rights.

    Despite losing their cases domestically, the ECHR found a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) due to the failure of the authorities to protect them, ruling that the "threats of physical harm made against the applicants sought to undermine their intellectual personality, causing them feelings of fear, anxiety and vulnerability in order to humiliate them and break their will to defend their ideas".

    Globally, an environmental activist has been killed on average every two days over the past decade by petrostates. How long before an activist in this country suffers serious harm?

    Governments that foment 'culture wars’ can be voted out. However, the press will remain untouchable until brought before the courts.

    We should take heed of former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, who concluded her keynote speech to the Royal Society of Arts by exhorting us not to “ ignore or turn away from threat but instead to metabolise the understanding of that threat into an effective response guided by... gritty determination and resilience; openness to others; optimism; love and courage".

    From Sylhet to Spitalfields: Bengali Squatters in 1970s East London – review

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/04/2024 - 8:41pm in

    In From Sylhet to Spitalfields, Shabna Begum examines the Bengali community’s struggle for housing and belonging in the face of systemic racism in 1970s East London. According to Md Naibur Rahman and Ruhun Wasata, Begum’s rich combination of ethnographic work and historical analysis reveals how, through squatting, activism and community organising, Bangladeshi migrants successfully demanded their right to housing.

    From Sylhet to Spitalfields: Bengali Squatters in 1970s East London. Shabna Begum. Lawrence Wishart. 2023.

    Someone with a rumbling stomach taking a stroll around Tower Hamlets in London, famous for its Bangladeshi community and cuisine, might be focused on finding a place to eat. Once satiated, attention can be focused on questions of how this diasporic community who were once colonised made it to the land of the coloniser and eventually called it home. In From Sylhet to Spitalfields, Shabna Begum undertakes an academic journey to examine the experiences of the Bangladeshi community as they faced systemic and targeted racism in their struggle to find literal and figurative homes in East London.

    The book examines the Bangladeshi Squatter movement in the 1970s [. . .] to ensure the minimum basic rights of finding tenancy agreements in places that could keep them safe from targeted and street racism.

    The book examines the Bangladeshi Squatter movement in the 1970s, a united effort against institutionalised racism of the Greater London Council (GLC) and Tower Hamlets Council (TLC) to ensure the minimum basic rights of finding tenancy agreements in places that could keep them safe from targeted and street racism. Begam’s robust ethnographic research both documents the suffering and struggles of the Bangladeshi community in London and records their resilience and resistance in the face of adversity.

    The book begins with a historical account of the migration pattern of people from Sylhet, the North Eastern region of Bangladesh, to East London. Dating back to the boat building and sailing traditions of Sylheti people found in Ibn Battuta’s record in 1346 and Robert Lindsay’s observation in 1777, Sylheti men were initially employed as ship workers by the East India Company under British rule. Lindsay, the revenue collector deployed in Sylhet, extracted all trading opportunities for limestone, elephant trading (at least 6000), tea plantation and ship building. This typical practice of colonial-era property acquisition and exploitation of natural resources led him to purchase Balcarres House in Fife, Scotland from his older brother, Earl Alexander. This is a glaring example of how Sylhet and Sylheti seafarers contributed to the growth of the economic and political power of British colonisers in the 18th century.

    The book observes this migratory pattern as part of the legacy of imperialism, epitomised in Sivanandan’s phrase, ‘We are here because you were there’.

    The exploitation continued with an administrative strategy of annexing Sylhet to Assam, the neighbouring district, whose tea plantations became a cash cow. This layout and arrangement made Sylheti people owners of their land, unlike in other districts, which were governed by a few elite landlords and the majority of tenants. With the growing population, Sylheti people gravitated towards the merchant shipping industry to ease the pressure on the land-based economy. As part of an invitation to new commonwealth citizens in the post-war period Sylheti people started migrating from Bangladesh to East London in the 1960s and 1970s in search of opportunity, finding work in the garment, catering and hospitality sectors. The book observes this migratory pattern as part of the legacy of imperialism, epitomised in Sivanandan’s phrase, “We are here because you were there.”

    The book stands out for highlighting the significance of the role of women in the squatter movement. In the mid-1970s, Sylheti men were concerned that, due to the racialist restriction on Commonwealth migration, they wouldn’t be able to bring their wives and children to the UK in the future as family reunification migrants, who would then morph into economic migrants. Their families were eventually allowed to join them, and their temporary, unstructured and compromised accommodation setups were no longer adequate. The lack of suitable accommodation led to Sylhetis wrangling with the GLC and THC powered with residency qualification and fifty-two weeks continuous residency policy for endorsing their discriminatory allocation. Eventually, the only option left was squatting. In these squats, women became the frontline defenders against discriminatory attacks since men were largely away at work outside the home. From protecting the home to protesting on the streets, Sylheti women played a key role in the movement, requiring resilience and defiance.

    With no facilities for private bathing, broken windows and doors and interrupted utility supplies, the squatters adjusted to squalid living conditions.

    Through the heart-wrenching lived experiences of its interviewees, the book evidences the poor conditions of the squats: dilapidated, leftover houses where no one else would agree to live. With no facilities for private bathing, broken windows and doors and interrupted utility supplies, the squatters adjusted to squalid living conditions. Beyond the this, squatters experienced smashed doors and windows, targeted racist harassment and elected politicians’ committing to expel the Bengali people from the area. In one rare instance where a Bengali family was allocated a council tenancy, the targeted violence they were subject to from the local community meant prevented them from moving in.

    The formation of the Bengali Housing Action Group (BHAG) in the spring of 1976 paved a new way to coordinate the efforts and demands of squatters that were conveyed to the councils. The book highlights how this organisation not only established a game-changing platform but also emerged as a united force to resist violence. The formalised voice and force of the organisation proved crucial in gaining support, respect and acceptance from different groups.

    The book presents a thorough account of BHAG activities which led to broader amnesty for squatters, enabling them to register and receive GLC tenancy in June 1978. From desperate attempts of squatting to 3000-strong demonstrations of Bangladeshis to finally being able to meet with GLC Councillors, the BHAG representation gave momentum and organisational force to the movements. In 1977, it was agreed by the GLC that their request to be housed in the E1 area would be honoured. BHAG activists made it clear that white or mixed-race people were also welcome as long as the majority of Bangladeshi people are housed in the same area.

    The friendship, love and sacrifice of non-Bangladeshi BHAG activists like Terry Fitzpatrick, Mala Sen and Farrukh Dhondy demonstrated the power of multiculturalism and solidarity that London enables.

    The Squatter movement and formulation of BHAG fomented lifelong friendships and connections that went beyond shared trauma and suffering. The friendship, love and sacrifice of non-Bangladeshi BHAG activists like Terry Fitzpatrick, Mala Sen and Farrukh Dhondy demonstrated the power of multiculturalism and solidarity that London enables. While some tried to protect Bangladeshis through their vigilante patrolling in Ford Zafire every night for a year, others voiced their frustrations, sufferings and demands on behalf of the Bangladeshi women. In addition, the support from the Socialist Worker Party, the Anti-Nazi League, and Race Today brought more attention and visibility. This movement worked as a foundation stone for many subsequent achievements in the housing cooperation, direct representations in councils and recognition of Bangladeshi culture. From forming housing cooperatives such as Shahjalal and Mitali Housing Co-Op to having representation with a Labour Councillor in 1985, the community established their presence in East London and beyond. British Bangladeshis’ continued political awareness and engagement led to the election of their first Member of Parliament (MP) in 2010, followed by three others in 2010, 2015 and 2019, respectively. The overall emergence of Bangladeshi community in almost every sector has often been credited to their commitment to education, which resonated through many interviewees’ responses – “because we put a graduate in every family”.

    The book takes the reader on both an academic and an emotional journey, balancing robust historical research with human stories of resilience in the face of adversity.

    Begum’s book does a commendable job of weaving the impacts of political events in Bangladesh with the nature of protests in East London. Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971, the famine of 1974, and the assassination of the Founding Fathers of the Nation sedimented the resilience, resistance and courage, demonstrated by Bangladeshis who stood for their rights in Spitalfields, East London. Although many Sylheti people moved to Britain with the full intention of returning to Bangladesh, the struggles and achievements in East London gave them a sense of double belonging. The book effectively employs an oral ethnographic approach, making it a significant historical record of the Bangladeshi community in East London. The book takes the reader on both an academic and an emotional journey, balancing robust historical research with human stories of resilience in the face of adversity. From historians and geographers to anthropologists, sociologists to gender studies specialists, this book will appeal to many as a means to better understand the experiences of immigrants in Britain.

    Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Image credit: Olivier Guiberteau on Shutterstock.

    It Is Everyone’s Responsibility To Help Save Gaza

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 29/04/2024 - 12:36pm in

    Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

    https://medium.com/media/dadba7b91b1c008bac17c57d52d22093/href

    I think one of the reasons it took so long for student protests against the Gaza genocide to kick into high gear in the US might be because it took some time for the collective realization to dawn that nobody in charge is interested in ending this nightmare.

    If Trump had won in 2020, it may not have taken so long for this to occur. Progressive-minded students would have understood from the beginning that the president is an immoral Israel-coddling imperialist, and we may have been seeing these campus protests that are freaking out the empire managers today a lot sooner.

    But because it was Biden and not Trump, there was this background assumption that surely the grownups in charge would take care of this thing. Surely they won’t let this go on for very long. Surely they’re just walking a careful diplomatic line while negotiating a ceasefire in the near term, as any government that cares one iota about human rights would be doing.

    It took half a year for that illusion to be dispelled. Half a year for people to really start going, “Oh shit. They’re really just going to keep these atrocities going. Nobody in charge cares about stopping this.”

    Half a year to see that nobody in the White House is going to save Gaza, none of their elected lawmakers on Capitol Hill are going to save Gaza, nobody anywhere in their government is going to save Gaza — not even the ordinary members of the public in the older generations are going to save Gaza.

    Half a year to see that the responsibility for ending an active genocide had been passed all the way down to a bunch of wide-eyed college kids.

    Which would of course be a horrifying thing to realize, and would in fact be a profoundly jarring indictment of our entire civilization. But that is indeed what has happened. And you can see how it would take some time for young people to come to understand and process such a thing.

    And to be clear, no part of this should be accepted by anyone. The fact that nobody in the world’s most powerful government is taking any responsibility for ending the continual mass atrocity in Gaza proves that government does not deserve to exist, and that it needs to be completely dismantled from top to bottom — including and especially the unelected aspects of that government which are not officially acknowledged. The fact that it has fallen to a bunch of university students to begin causing any meaningful problems for this genocidal regime is obscene, and should never have happened.

    Those university students should not be responsible for standing against this genocide, and in truth the responsibility is NOT all theirs — it is ours as well. Each and every one of us are responsible for doing everything we can to end this horror.

    None of us can end it single-handedly, but we can all do something every day to help end it collectively. The machine is far too big and powerful for any one person to deal it a fatal blow, but we can all throw sand in its gears to make it harder and harder for it to continue.

    We can do this by making our opposition known in every way possible, and by drawing public awareness to the sadistic savagery that’s being perpetrated in Israel with the help of its western allies we live under. Using any medium and platform we can make use of, we can help people understand the ways the imperial media have been manipulating public understanding of this genocide and minimizing their own government’s responsibility for it so that they can really understand the severity and urgency of this issue.

    The US-centralized empire is heavily dependent on soft power, which means it needs to maintain a good public image in order to continue functioning — that’s what all the mass media propaganda, Silicon Valley information control, and mainstream culture manufacturing in New York and Hollywood is all about. If enough people start working to destroy the empire’s public image by spreading awareness of its depravity in Gaza, it will be forced to retreat or risk losing the credibility of the soft power manipulation systems it has put so much energy into maintaining over the years.

    All positive changes in human behavior of any scale are always preceded by an expansion of consciousness. By spreading consciousness throughout our society about what’s happening in Gaza, we throw sand in the gears of the imperial murder machine and make it harder and harder for it to keep rolling forward. And it is our responsibility to do exactly that, in every way we can.

    This world is so sick because nobody takes responsibility for the things that are happening in it. The rich and powerful shore up more and more wealth and power while offloading the responsibility for it onto others. They destroy the biosphere while offloading the consequences onto ordinary people, while telling us we just need to ride our bikes more and consume less in order to fix the problem. They start wars and back genocides abroad while refusing to provide for the needful at home, and if you complain they tell you you just need to vote harder next election. They take all of the power and none of the responsibility.

    We can’t have a healthy world until we reverse this dynamic, and like all matters concerning responsibility that means it begins with the face in the mirror. We all need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for turning this catastrophe around, and in 2024 that means starting with the genocide our own governments are actively facilitating.

    __________________

    My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to find video versions of my articles. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

    Bitcoin donations: 1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

    Featured image via Adobe Stock.

    US unis even arresting TEACHERS as Israel lobby group demands anti-Palestine crackdown

    Students and teachers targeted by police as ADL demands government breaks student anti-genocide protest movement

    At least one US university has called in police to arrest faculty members as well as students, as the so-called ‘Anti-defamation League’ (ADL) demanded a crackdown on the spreading anti-genocide protest movement among US students.

    NYPD officers took NYU teachers as well as students away from a demo against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, as demonstrations spread to universities around the country. Columbia University, also in New York, has seen further student arrests as a sit-in demo by students against Israel’s slaughter of innocents continues undeterred.

    In a tactic reminiscent of the recent rigged stunt in the UK by the Israel-linked, so-called ‘Campaign against Antisemitism’ (CAA), the ADL has claimed Jewish students are unsafe and demanded the immediate suspension of anyone who dares protest against mass murder:

    Innocent women and children in Gaza are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands by Israel – and Palestinian students have been attacked, leaving at least one paralysed, by morons whipped up by the Islamophobic speech of politicians and pro-Israel lobbyists – but it seems we are meant to treat the feelings of the friends of genocide and apartheid as more important, on both sides of the Atlantic.

    If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

    Publishing and Political Culture

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/04/2024 - 12:40am in

    The New School’s Creative Publishing & Critical Journalism (CPCJ) and Woodbine Research Center present a discussion on the role of radical politics in publishing. ...

    Read More

    Exclusive: Unite bans anti-racist documentary – after first offering to support

    ‘Resistance Street’ film premieres in London this week – but not in Unite buildings, against the wishes of Unite officers and reps

    The Unite union has continued its trend under general secretary Sharon Graham of banning left-wing films and books by blocking showings on its premises of a new documentary by Richard David – despite its equalities directors first offering maximum help.

    ‘On Resistance Street’ trailer

    The film was shot over a two year period in England, Belfast and New York and features renowned musicians, bands, writers and commentators looking at the role music plays in the fight against Fascism and racism. Siobhan Endean, Unite’s equalities director, initially responded to David’s approach:

    Thank you for your email that you sent to our Executive Council. My role is working in the field of equalities within unite and I would be very keen to help you as much as I can. You asked for an email address for our general secretary it is [redacted]  I would also be very grateful if you could share a link to your film, and I will see what can be done to support the film.

    However, within a short time this willingness to help was withdrawn, prompting the film’s creators to write directly to Sharon Graham:

    Dear Sharon,
    I am writing to you as the writer-director of the new British feature-length documentary ‘ON RESISTANCE STREET’, which received its sold-out international premiere in Belfast, at the Queen’s Film Theatre on October 19th 2023.

    The film was a two year independent production, shot in England, Belfast and New York. It is an in-depth examination of the role which music has played historically in the fight against Fascism, racism, bigotry and Right Wing ideology.

    As such it contains contributions from a wide array of musicians, Trade Union leaders, activists, authors, historians and commentators. These include members of The Sex Pistols, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Stiff Little Fingers, The Levellers, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The Defects and The Outcasts. There are also contributions from contemporary British artists such as the East London based Grime Star Lady Shocker, who performs individually but is also a founder member of the
    ground-breaking ‘Female All-stars’ Grime collective.

    Other contributors include: Matt Wrack FBU Leader, Weyman Bennett, national co-ordinator of ‘Stand Up to Racism’, Chris Salewicz, biographer of Joe Strummer and Bob Marley, Anti-Fascist author and historian Rick Blackman, feminist historian and author Louise Raw, Clash ‘Rude Boy’ movie star Ray Gange, leading female Black Lives Matter activist Chantelle Lunt, Terri Hooley, founder of ‘Good Vibrations Records in Belfast, Mexico City Trade Union leader Fernando Luna, New York State Union organiser Dan Gniewekei and others.

    The film also shows as to how a new Trade Union, was created in Mexico City, with between 3-400 members, this after a year of online video call consultations, between British, American and Mexican members of an online Clash fans group named ‘Clash Fans Against The Right’. The members involved were full-time Union officers in their own countries. That group was founded by myself and Robin Banks, in direct response to Boris Johnson’s ludicrous and deeply cynical claim that The Clash were one of his ”Two favourite bands”, that obscene announcement contained inside an official Conservative Party political broadcast in November 2019.

    That social media group has since evolved into a real life Anti-Racism organisation named ‘Resistance Street’, which has staged live music events in London, Liverpool, New York and Belfast over the last two years. These events also featured many political speakers including Trade Union leaders like Matt Wrack. In its third section, ‘On Resistance Street’ traces that evolution and shows how social media can be harnessed and utilised powerfully on behalf of the Left, when people pool their intellectual and creative strengths.

    The film was produced by myself and Robin, the lifelong friend of The Clash’s Mick Jones, who was immortalised in the band’s song ”Stay Free”. A song written by Mick himself and about their friendship. Robin and I were both friends of the late Joe Strummer, whose lyrics and quotes appear at various stages of the film.

    This letter is sent in direct conjunction with a recent proposal which originated via friends of mine who are Unite Officers and Shop Stewards in Southampton, the city in which UK production was based. This followed another sold-out Southern regional premiere screening at Solent University Film Theatre on November 17th. The proposal was that there would be a special screening of the film for Unite members, Anti-Racism activists and other members of Trade Unions at the Unite-The Union HQ in Southampton.

    I have personally attended previous Anti-Racism documentary screenings at the HQ, which were well supported and successfully received, audience-wise. Secondly, it was proposed that following that initial event, this could act as springboard for a series of special screenings in Unite HQ’s across the country.

    Both Robin and myself were only too delighted at this proposal, given it had always been our hope that special political screenings could materialise via agreements with Trade Unions.

    Many people who have seen ORS, have commented on its in-depth educational value. The film not only chronicles music’s role in this battle as stated, but charts the entire drift towards the political Right in America, Europe and Britain, as we confront the present. As such, the ascendancy of Trump, the Brexit campaign and the British and European Far Right are all documented, with emphasis on the now alarming authoritarian stances of the current Conservative government in Britain.

    We emphasise that given our own political convictions formed over a lifetime, we were absolutely perfectly happy to see this screening and the proposed series across the country, take place with us making not a single PENNY of profit from it all.

    We have now been informed that this proposal is not possible, in direct relation to a relatively recent motion passed by the Unite-The Union National Executive.

    As you are well aware, that motion has forbidden the screening of any documentary films in Unite-The Union buildings, unless they are specifically to do with working conditions, wage disputes and industrial relations.

    The officers and Shop Stewards concerned were truly shocked by this motion. So are we. Firstly, such films are few and far between and are only likely to be made if they were commissioned by Unions individually or the TUC.

    Secondly and more importantly, this decision was taken without consultation of your regional political education officers, general membership or indeed the Unite-The Union Community section. As such, we believe this amounts to a Stalinist-style decision and one which stands directly at odds with the overall principles and history of Anti-Fascism and Anti-Racism in Britain.

    It is a decision which consequently denies workers/members the opportunity to watch a film like this inside a recognised Union environment. It is a decision which raises serious questions concerning your Union’s commitment to Anti-Racism in general and which constitutes a gross act of cultural censorship.

    Working class cultural activism and creativity should be an absolutely integral part of any genuine political education programmes. Particularly when it is based inside energies challenging racism in Britain.

    The Shop Stewards and officers all voiced that belief and it is one we share and endorse completely. We are of course aware of the furore caused via screenings or potential screenings of the Jeremy Corbyn film ‘The Big Lie’.

    We shall not comment further on that, other than to say until we hear differently, we have to assume that this motion was passed as a knee-jerk, supposedly politically expedient reaction, to all that. If you are of the view that there are other bona-fide reasons behind the motion, we would very much like to hear what they are.

    In light of all this, we are now requesting the following:

    • That your National Executive convenes to formally re-assess this decision.
    • That in doing so, the Executive democratically consults fully with your regional political education officers and only reaches a final decision after such consultations.

    If this does not happen, we believe it makes an utter mockery of their supposed role and programmes. We also believe strongly that there should be further extended consultations with appropriate representatives of Unite The Union-In The Community, this also on a regional basis.

    It is our conviction that the current decision cuts right to the heart of supposed ‘democracy’, as related to fundamental ethics and principles of Trade Unionism within ‘Unite-The Union’. We believe this decision should be reversed. We believe that these matters will attract widespread attention and public interest within the public domain. With that in mind, we request a formal response from yourself at the earliest possible point.

    In Solidarity.
    Richard David
    Robin Banks

    The pair received a response from Sarah Carpenter, Unite’s newly-promoted (without proper process, according to union insiders) ‘Executive head of operations’. The reply, while anodyne in its language, confirmed that Unite has no intention of reversing its ban – and did not address any of the makers’ concerns about the political motivations behind it:

    Dear Richard and Robin,

    Thank you for your letter which you sent to the General Secretary on 18 December. The GS is currently involved in industrial disputes and has asked me to respond.

    Your letter rightly refers to a decision made by the union’s Executive Committee (made up of lay members, elected democratically by and from the wider membership), which was debated and agreed by them at their meeting in September 2023. This decision was ‘That Unite should not use its premises or resources to show or promote any external films or other content that does not relate to our industrial agenda to support the pay, terms and conditions of our members and/or support existing Unite policies. In this context the Union should be especially careful to avoid appearing to endorse any material which causes unnecessary offence to members.’

    This would mean that we cannot show any films unless there is a clear link to our industrial agenda. The film you have produced looks fascinating and I am pleased to see that you have found venues where this can be shown. However, from the information you have sent I do not see that there is a link to our industrial agenda, and so we are not able to use Unite premises or resources to show or promote this film.

    Carpenter has been accused, acting on Sharon Graham’s behalf, of threatening a soon-to-retire regional official with the loss of his pension bonus if he did not cool his support for the people of Palestine against Israel’s genocide – and of cancelling showings and readings of films and books showing the pro-Israel lobby’s sabotage of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party and exposing abuse by Starmer’s Labour toward left-wing party members.

    Sharon Graham has been alleged by Unite insiders to have:

    Her supporters also prevented debate and votes on Gaza at a March meeting of the union’s elected executive.

    Apart from the issue of Gaza, her tenure as Unite boss has also been marked by a string of other allegations – which neither she nor the union has denied – including destruction of evidence against her husband in threat, misogyny and bullying complaints brought by union employees. She is also embroiled in both an employment tribunal for discrimination and a defamation lawsuit brought by Irish union legend Brendan Ogle for the union’s treatment of him and comments made about him by Graham and her close ally Tony Woodhouse.

    ‘On Resistance Street’ will receive its London premiere at The Gate Picturehouse Cinema in Notting Hill on
    Wednesday April 17th. That will be followed by a short theatrical run across Britain. The film will then feature in a wide number of national and international Film festivals.

    If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.

    ‘A Keir Starmer Government Will Trigger a Revival of the Labour Left’

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 6:37pm in

    Owen Jones’ resignation from the Labour party and his proposal for a form of tactical voting to support Greens has brought the subject of the left’s relationship to the Labour Party to a very wide audience. A debate that is usually reserved for the pages of left journals, or among the left on social media, has received much wider attention. 

    Questions of whether the left should be in or out of Labour have been building for some time. From Jeremy Corbyn's suspension from the party, right through to Labour’s appalling position on Gaza, anger and disaffection has deepened. In some quarters there are arguments against any kind of Labour vote at all, although this is not what Jones himself has said. 

    Yet while the debate is real, the other side of the discussion is the unarguable fact that Labour is ahead in the polls and will likely form the next Government. 

    There is no groundswell of warmth and support for the Labour leader. Rejection of the Conservatives, rather than untrammelled enthusiasm for Labour, is driving Labour’s huge poll leads. Straightforward class instinct leads millions of people to reject the Conservatives, who are now widely and deeply disliked. For many, Labour is the only available mechanism to remove the Conservative party from government.

    Even if there proves to be a degree of fragmentation in sections of the Labour vote, leading to some independents and Greens winning seats, the overall line of march is towards a Starmer Government. But until that happens, politics in Britain is in a long intermission in which everyone knows the Conservatives are going to lose and the only question is when and by how much. 

    This impasse in British society is also reflected in the politics of the labour movement.

    One principal exception to the impasse is the dynamic pro-Palestine mobilisation against Israel’s killing in Gaza, which has reshaped the politics of protest on a sustained basis. 

    For now though, with the election in abeyance, we are at peak Starmer. The Labour leadership dominates the party’s central apparatus, which it has used to clamp down on debate, block candidates for selection and withdraw the whip from left-wing MPs. Policy formation has excluded major spending commitments, and thereby debate about the economy outside Rachel Reeves’ 'Securonomics' framework. Even on that narrow basis Labour voluntarily reined itself in further, gutting its own Green Prosperity Plan. But as long as Labour is in opposition there is a tendency to give the party the benefit of the doubt. Some of the more breathless responses to Reeves’ Mais lecture are an example of that. 

    Labour’s proposed supply-side reforms as a precursor to growth are not a sufficient platform to cope with either the immediate spending pressures built up over years of austerity, nor with the major challenge of the climate crisis. Labour’s plans are reliant on increased private investment whereas public investment is woefully low. As the Resolution Foundation has pointed out, the average OECD country invests nearly 50% more than the UK. Stagnant wages and the attack on disposable household income amount to a massive bottle neck of pressure for higher living standards and improved pay. Many local councils are in crisis. Once in power a Labour Government will face a tension between tight spending, self-imposed rejection of a variety of higher tax options, and the pent-up problems of immediate living standards. What Labour proposes is not equal to the scale of the task it will inherit.

    But while there is a mismatch between the needs of the population and the solutions on offer, the real argument about that is not going to move beyond its current terms in any fundamental manner until the blockage of the general election is out of the way. Thus however contradictory it may seem, the formation of a Labour government under the politics of the Starmer leadership is now an essential step in breaking down the dominance of those politics within the labour movement and wider population. 

    Since Starmer is a leader pursuing a right-wing Labour course it is necessary for that course to first be exposed to the reality of its limitations in office, so his programme and its weaknesses can seen by the largest number of people for what they are.

    Until Labour is in office Starmer will continue to be the beneficiary of anti-Conservative sentiment and will receive benefit of the doubt, including within Labour’s own base. Testing the Labour right’s agenda against the realities of power will move the political discourse on from the impasse and the question of getting a Labour government, and onto concrete questions of what the Government should do over living standards, public services and inequality.

    Of course this being a Labour Government in waiting, there will still be differences with the Conservatives even under self-imposed constraints. Measures such as the New Deal for Working People, the extension of public ownership for the railways, and some of the remaining green agenda are bound to be opposed within and without the next Government. Figures such as Peter Mandelson, who have sought to water down elements of Labour’s programme, will continue to do so.

    But it would be wrong for the left to draw the conclusion that these policies in themselves are sufficient justification for Labour’s otherwise limited package. In its totality the Labour leadership’s trajectory is wholly inadequate to the scale of the problems faced by a majority of the population, and will place the Labour Government in deep contradiction with the needs of working class people. At the same time, a renewed Labour Atlanticism, on display most obviously over Gaza, is bound to draw continued opposition. 

    We do not have to wait to see what opposition to Labour’s foreign policy means. Mass mobilisation over Gaza and the pro-Palestine movement has completely shaken up a sense that the Labour leadership is impervious to any opposition. The new politics under a Labour Government will not only be fought through the institutions of the labour movement, but also on the streets. A new left politics under a Labour Government will also raise questions about the degree to which the left and the unions are able to work more closely with each other. An inability to do so would give the Labour right more room to manoeuvre than it would otherwise enjoy. 

    The right of the party knows full well that once in office it will face pressure to go further, or alter course altogether, which is one of the principal reasons for its efforts to immunise the parliamentary party from the left. As the limits of the Labour Government’s programme are tested so there is every likelihood of a radicalisation among at least some sections of society on both domestic and international agendas.

    For all the efforts of the leadership of the Labour party to protect itself from this, some elements of that political radicalisation will work their way through Labour and the unions, including those affiliated with the Labour Party. Other movements will be entirely distinct or new.

    As the formation of a Labour Government under Starmer brings the present impasse to an end, the tensions at the heart of its project will be laid bare. When that happens, the conditions for the left to rise again will be formed.

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