Protest

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Calls for the Crown to Stop Prosecuting Peaceful Climate Protesters as Prisons Clogged and Criminals are ‘Let Off’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 7:21pm in

Tags 

Protest

A coalition of climate and anti-war campaigners are urging officials at the Crown Prosecution Service to face down political pressure to charge and lock up peaceful protesters – amid serious overcrowding in prisons.

A demonstration outside the CPS offices in London’s Petty France earlier this week aimed to shine a light on Conservative Government pressures on the public body, which prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police in England and Wales. (A CPS spokesperson insisted the organisation was independent of the Government.)

Campaigners included retired social worker Trudi Warner, who faced prison for holding a sign outside a court informing jurors of their ability to acquit activists on the basis of their conscience – something that is a legal fact.

At the same time, it has emerged that police have been urged by ministers to limit the number of arrests as the prison system cannot cope. 

Defend Our Juries, which organised the action, said they were standing against the prosecution of individuals taking nonviolent actions to uphold the rule of law, such as preventing the illegal deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, addressing alleged war crimes in Gaza, or tackling environmental violations.

The letter references Article 3(8) of the Aarhus Convention, which bans penalising environmental defenders, highlighting a UN report on the UK's crackdown on such activists.

It also alleges violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly recent cases in England where judges forbade ‘environmental defenders’ from explaining their motivations in court. Defend Our Juries said a string of examples of this undermined the right to a fair trial.

The letter also slams the continued imprisonment of Julian Assange for “exposing war crimes”, urging the CPS to resist Conservative attacks and uphold the civil service code of conduct to act impartially.  

It comes in the same week that the Government adviser John Woodcock announced proposals for another round of sweeping anti-protest legislation, that could see far more protests banned, and many more campaigners criminalised. 

Changes already going through Parliament in the Criminal Justice Bill would ban the use of flares and other pyrotechnics at protests, and let police forces ban face coverings supposedly used to conceal identities. Many people wearing masks for health reasons could be swept up in the proposed bans. However, the bill is unlikely to pass before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “The CPS considers each case on its own merits based on the evidence and whether it is in the public interest to bring charges, in line with our legal test.

“We are independent and make our decisions independently of the police and government.”

On Wednedsay, the PM's spokesman told journalists it would assess the latest anti-protest proposals from John Woodcock, saying: "Whenever we discuss these issues, we always say that we have a long and proud tradition in this country have a right to peaceful process protest. But we can never tolerate violent criminal or threatening activity on Britain's streets. We would acknowledge that protests are complex operational matters for the police."

The No 10 spokesman added: "[Police] do already have extensive powers to place conditions on protests, where it might result in serious disorder or disruption to life of the community...We would obviously want to then look at the recommendations that are in the report to see whether they would assist with with that."

Labour do not appear to be particularly keen on John Woodcock's anti-protest plans, but have not totally disavowed the report. It is not yet clear what protest-related legislation passed under the Conservatives a Labour Government might repeal, though the party has pledged to scrap the latest anti-trade union legislation which introduced Minimum Service Levels for several major sectors including health, schools, and transport.

Government Launching Direct ‘Attacks’ on Protesters

It comes as legal campaigners warned that a Government appeal in the courts risks further wasting public resources and harming the right to protest. 

The Solicitor General is pushing contempt of court claims against climate protestor Trudi Warner to appeal, despite its initial case against her failing. 

Good Law Project said the appeal exposes the “warped priorities of a government with no answers to the big problems”.

The Solicitor General – a Conservative minister who advises the government on the law – is appealing a High Court decision not to charge Warner, a 69-year-old climate campaigner, with contempt of court. (The decision is not being pushed by the CPS, as contempt charges are handled separatly). 

In March last year, she held up a placard stating jurors have a right to give a verdict based on their conscience – a message that features on an historic plaque at the Old Bailey. 

Last month, Mr Justice Saini ruled that there was no basis to take action against Warner. Mr Saini said the government’s claim that her behaviour fell into the category of criminal contempt was “fanciful”. Warner had spent the past year fearing she could be sent to prison for two years. The retired social worker had thought her ordeal was over.  But the solicitor general is to appeal the ruling. 

Good Law Project legal manager Jennine Walker said: “The High Court was quite clear that there was no basis to take action against Trudi when it threw the case out last month. 

“The solicitor general’s decision to appeal is chilling evidence of how far removed the government is from truth and justice and the lengths it will go to to try and silence protest.

“The UK government is not doing enough to prevent the damage caused by the climate crisis. Yet people like Trudi who call them out are threatened with jail. This case exposes the warped priorities of a government with no answers to the big problems.”

In the same court case Warner was demonstrating outside, the judge had ruled that the defendants were not allowed to tell the jury why they were protesting and banned them from mentioning the words ‘climate change’ and ‘fuel poverty’ – claiming the motives were irrelevant to the alleged crimes. Defend Our Juries said it was an attack on their free speech and the right to a fair trial. 

Additional reporting by Adam Bienkov.

Climate campaigner Trudi Warner outside the CPS offices on Monday. Photo: Defend Our Juries

Letter in Full: Defend Our Juries to Director of Public Prosecutions

Dear Mr [Stepen] Parkinson,

Re: Conflict between government policy and civil service duty to uphold international law 

Today we demonstrate outside your offices not in protest against the CPS, but to highlight the increasing tension between Government policy and the civil service code of conduct.

We consider it to be inconsistent with both the code of conduct and the public interest to prosecute those who are taking nonviolent and proportionate measures to uphold the rule of law, such as those seeking to prevent:

  • The deportation to Rwanda of people seeking asylum, in violation of international law (see UNHCR conclusion: “the UK-Rwanda Partnership Treaty and accompanying legislative scheme does not meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of the transfer of asylum seekers and is not compatible with international refugee law”).
  • Crimes of international law in Gaza (see Transatlantic Civil Servants Statement on Gaza, February 2024: “There is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide”.)
  • Violations of the international law duty to prevent harm to the territory of others states, to be interpreted in the light of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (see Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland), and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). 
  • The deportation to Rwanda of people seeking asylum, in violation of international law (see UNHCR conclusion: “the UK-Rwanda Partnership Treaty and accompanying legislative scheme does not meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of the transfer of asylum seekers and is not compatible with international refugee law”).
  • Crimes of international law in Gaza (see Transatlantic Civil Servants Statement on Gaza, February 2024: “There is a plausible risk that our governments’ policies are contributing to grave violations of international humanitarian law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide”.)
  • Violations of the international law duty to prevent harm to the territory of others states, to be interpreted in the light of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (see Verein Klimaseniorinnen Schweiz and Others v. Switzerland), and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). 
  • In relation to members of the public taking action to hold the Government to account for its environmental obligations, we draw your attention to Article 3(8) of the Aarhus Convention, which prohibits the penalisation, persecution or harassment of environmental defenders. Earlier this year the UN Special Rapporteur for Environmental Defenders, Michel Forst, wrote an unprecedented ‘end of mission’ report concerning violations of this prohibition in the UK (“I am issuing this statement in the light of the extremely worrying information I received in the course of these meetings regarding the increasingly severe crackdowns on environmental defenders in the United Kingdom”).

    We draw your attention too to the violations of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights that are occurring in trials of those taking nonviolent direct action, as referenced by Michel Forst:

    “I was also alarmed to learn that, in some recent cases, presiding judges have forbidden environmental defenders from explaining to the jury their motivation for participating in a given protest or from mentioning climate change at all. It is very difficult to understand what could justify denying the jury the opportunity to hear the reason for the defendant’s action, and how a jury could reach a properly informed decision without hearing it, in particular at the time of environmental defenders’ peaceful but ever more urgent calls for the government to take pressing action for the climate.”

    Environmental defenders have been imprisoned simply for using the words ‘climate change’ in court (see “Activists jailed for seven weeks for defying ban on mentioning climate crisis”, openDemocracy). This cannot be in the public interest at a time when the prisons are so full they cannot accommodate even those convicted of violent crimes; in conditions so bad, Germany has refused to extradite to the UK. It is another matter whether it is in the interests of the oil and arms companies who pay Lord Walney, the Government’s ‘independent’ adviser on political violence and disruption (Lord Walney recommends that groups such as Just Stop Oil and Palestine Action should be banned as ‘extremists’).

    We refer too to the ongoing criminal investigation into twenty-four people simply for holding up signs asserting the principle of jury equity, despite the ruling of Mr Justice Saini on 22 April that the attempt to characterise such conduct as criminal was ‘fanciful’ and contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These twenty-four people have been under investigation since September for perverting the course of justice, an offence which carries the threat of life imprisonment. Famously, a jury acquitted the civil servant, Clive Ponting, of breaching the Official Secrets Act, after he exposed violations of international law during the Falklands War on the basis of the principle of jury equity. Meanwhile Julian Assange remains incarcerated for exposing war crimes, such as the brutal shooting of Iraqi journalists from an Apache helicopter. His appeal against extradition to the US is back in court today.

    No CPS employee should feel pressured into complicity in violations of international law, and we trust that as DPP, you will stand up for your team in resisting political pressures to violate the civil service code of conduct. We will take steps to ensure that all your staff have the means of reporting, confidentially, any concerns.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss these matters further.

    Yours sincerely, 

    Defend Our Juries

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

    Unrest in New Caledonia: ‘The Kanak people’s destiny should not be decided in Europe’

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 1:10pm in

    Violence erupted in response to the amendment bill in France's National Assembly

    Originally published on Global Voices

    New Caledonia unrest

    Violence erupted in New Caledonia in response to the constitutional bill amendment proposed in France's National Assembly. Screenshot from YouTube video of Al Jazeera English, fair use.

    Protests turned into riots in New Caledonia as pro-independence youth activists clashed with the police in response to a proposed constitutional reform in the French National Assembly which would allow residents who have lived there for 10 years to vote in local elections. Activists say the move further dilutes Indigenous peoples’ power on the island and will ensure New Caledonia remains an “overseas territory” of France.

    New Caledonia is a South Pacific territory that was colonized by France in 1853. Despite longstanding independence demands by local Indigenous groups, it remains a French territory. It has been on the United Nations’ list for decolonization since 1986. The landmark Noumea Peace Accord in 1998 instituted a three-part independence referendum to determine the political future of New Caledonia.

    The first referendum took place in November 2018 while the second vote was held in October 2020. Both results delivered only a small margin in favor of France which reflected a solid constituency pushing for the self-determination of the Indigenous Kanak population. The third referendum in December 2021 was controversial because the Paris government decided to continue with it despite appeals from the Kanak community to postpone the voting during the pandemic. As expected, it delivered an overwhelming victory for France because pro-independence groups boycotted the referendum. The voter turnout was also less than 50 percent.

    Instead of addressing the concern of Pacific groups about the credibility of the third referendum, France pushed forward with a constitutional bill that would “unfreeze” New Caledonia’s electoral roll. This means residents who arrived or settled in the territory over the past decade will be eligible to vote. This would further dilute the voting representation of the Kanak people who make up 42 percent of the 270,000 population.

    Violence erupted in New Caledonia while France’s National Assembly was deliberating the amendment bill on May 13. Almost 5,000 people were involved in the riots that also led to looting and burning of properties. A state of emergency was declared in the territory and France deployed troops to restore order. Some apps like TikTok were banned which raised concern about the suppression of free speech. As violence continued for several days, Pacific groups called for peace as they expressed solidarity with the Kanak community.

    Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and Prime Minister of Vanuatu, attributed the crisis to the indifference of French leaders.

    These events could have been avoided if the French Government had listened and not proceeded to bulldoze the Constitutional Bill aimed at unfreezing the electoral roll, modifying the citizen’s electorate, and changing the distribution of seats in Congress.

    But he also warned that “the indiscriminate destruction of property will affect New Caledonia’s economy in a very big way and that will have a debilitating cascading effect on the welfare and lives of all New Caledonians, including the Kanaks.”

    He is proposing the establishment of a “dialogue and mediation mission to be led by a mutually agreed high-personality” to resolve the crisis. This is also the recommendation of the Pacific Islands Forum which stated that it “stands ready to facilitate and provide a supported and neutral space for all parties to come together in the spirit of the Pacific Way.”

    Reverend James Shri Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, reminded French leaders about the supposed “impartial role” of the French state in the decolonization process. He also underscored the historic roots of the crisis.

    It cannot be ignored that eruption of violence is the manifestation of the pain, trauma and frustration of a community who have consistently had their indigenous and political rights undermined, by a French government whose rhetoric of being a “Pacific nation” is exposed by its actions.

    Pastor Var Kaemo, president of the Protestant Church in Kanaky New Caledonia, lamented the violent turn of events. “We must not be accomplices to these volcanic eruptions that spread disaster and misery in the land of our ancestors. The island closest to paradise has become the island closest to hell.”

    New Caledonia is the world's third-largest producer of nickel — a crucial component in the EV energy transition — and jobs in the nickel-mining industry make up 25 percent of employment opportunities. The price of nickel has spiked since the unrest began last week.

    Nicole George, associate professor in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, interviewed women leaders who pointed out the active role of frustrated young people who were protesting wealth disparities and lack of meaningful opportunities in the territory. “These fuel resentment and the profound racial inequalities that deprive Kanak youths of opportunity and contribute to their alienation,” she wrote.

    This is the same analysis made by Victor Gogny, president of the Sénat coutumier, the Kanak Customary Senate, an advisory body to Congress and government made up of 16 Indigenous chiefs.

    The statement issued by the Pacific Regional Non-Governmental Organisations on April 30, two weeks before the debate in the French assembly which triggered the unrest, reflected the sentiments of the Indigenous Kanak community.

    The evil of colonialism can continue unchecked in this manner, and in this 21st Century is not only an insult to the Pacific Region but to the international system.

    The Pacific is not distracted by French false narratives. The Kanak, as people, are the rightful inhabitants of what is present day New Caledonia still under enduring French colonial rule.

    The Kanak people and New Caledonias destiny should not be decided in Europe, they are Pacific people who are rightfully asking for their freedom.

    As of Tuesday, May 21, French President Emmanuel Macron plans to make a surprise visit to the island state to attempt to quell the protest.

    Sunak’s ‘Anti-Extremism’ Adviser Demands Protest Bans to Protect Defence and Energy Firms While Working as Lobbyist for Arms and Fossil Fuel Industry Groups

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 10:52pm in

    The Government’s so-called ‘independent’ adviser on domestic extremism has singled out defence companies and energy providers for protections through draconian new anti-protest measures – while himself being a paid lobbyist for organisations representing arms and fossil fuel giants.

    John Woodcock – now known as Lord Walney – states in a new Government commissioned review of protest groups that “Defence companies and energy providers that are vital to local economies, national security and resilience are being particularly targeted by extreme protest groups" adding that "they are fringe groups with few supporters yet are causing significant damage. "Far too little is in place to support businesses and industries that are impacted by disruption or targeted by extreme activists blocking their premises and causing criminal damage.”

    He calls for the Government to consider bringing in new measures allowing businesses to sue protest organisers for damages on the grounds of 'disruption' caused to their business.

    “Defence companies and energy providers that are vital to local economies, national security and resilience are being particularly targeted by extreme protest groups. They are fringe groups with few supporters yet are causing significant damage", he states.

    “The Government should consider ways to ensure increased resilience of supply for defence manufacturers and energy providers whose operations are being disrupted by illegal protest. This could include setting a protective buffer zone around certain sites or expediting injunctions on certain protestors not to enter such a Zone,” the former Labour MP writes. 

    As reported by Byline Times last week, Woodcock’s own House of Lords register interest declarations reveals 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. Leonardo has been targeted by Palestine Action, which is mentioned over 100 times in the report
  • 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. Leonardo has been targeted by Palestine Action, which is mentioned over 100 times in the report
  • 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 even mentions BP by name in his review, critically writing: "Since the submission of this report, a new UK-based protest group identifying itself as Energy Embargo for Palestine forced the British Museum to close. Its leadership published a statement on the leftwing Jacobin website demanding the museum sever ties with BP after Israel granted the company gas exploration licences off the coast of Gaza. A banner displayed by the group read ‘Sponsored by BP=Sponsored by Colonial Genocide’."

    The former Labour MP does not mention his business interests in the report.

    The Conservative Government adviser 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”.

    Walney also calls for new powers to force protest groups to pay towards policing of their own protests and for police forces to be able to restrict the "frequency" of protests on the grounds of costs.

    Tim Crosland, director of the climate group Plan B, told Byline Times: “This is not an independent report. Lord Walney is a paid lobbyist for the defence and energy industries. He is recommending more protection for defense and energy companies and more repression for those exposing the immense harm they are causing to the public, not just in terms of health but also in twisting the discourse.

    “The commentary has focused on Lord Walney, but no one has questioned why he is presenting this as an independent report to the public. The Home Secretary must have done due diligence, but he is still a paid lobbyist. The report was commissioned by James Cleverley and sponsored by the Home Office.

    “The right to protest is a universal right, and charging for policing would be the privatization of our basic rights. Many people are not in a position to take those risks and would be unable to participate in our politics.

    “This approach seems to stem from the perceived success of some of the injunctions around Insulate Britain taken out by e.g. Transport for London, which have been extremely harsh, costing tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases. 

    “This seems to be a way to silence people, but it doesn't seem very practical. How would it work in practice? This idea makes rights and justice inaccessible, allowing those with deeper pockets to dominate.”

    Following our report, the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas raised a point of order with the House of Commons Speaker on Tuesday.

    "This morning the Home Office commissioned report from Lord Walney was presented in Parliament using the motion for unopposed return procedure, effectively protecting it from any kind of legal challenge", Lucas said.

    "However, the report reads as a highly political document and it includes proposals, for example, for very serious restrictions on civil liberties and human rights...

    "I understand... Lord Walney's interests as a paid advisor for the arms and oil industry are registered in the Register of Lords interests. But could you advise the House... whether it would be at least healthy for scrutiny for that to be an additional requirement for any relevant interests by report's author to be specifically flagged for this house as well?"

    In the same official review of protest groups, Woodcock argues: “Brute force must not be allowed to win the argument." But he backs tougher enforcement by police that would in many cases prevent public displays of disagreement taking plays.  

    The crossbench peer calls on the Government to "expand the grounds on which a police force can recommend a march is not permitted to go ahead on a particular date beyond the narrow grounds that it risks serious public disorder," representing a major additional restriction on the right to protest.

    Walney also supports a "broadening" of the definition of "encouraging terrorism" to include anyone who praises a terrorist group, likely meaning anyone sporting logos or espousing slogans shared by groups like Hamas would face prison. 

    And he backs shifting the balance of resource requirements of policing the public's right to protest “with other frontline priorities" – in order to reduce the "frequency" of some protests, effectively banning or limiting the weekly Palestinian solidarity protests that have taken place in London since October. 

    The lobbyist and Government adviser proposes exclusion orders around Parliament, effectively making it illegal to protest outside the Palace of Westminster. 

    Woodcock's review criticises the “extreme left” for allegedly “systematically” seeking to undermine faith in parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. He cited polling claiming it shows public dissatisfaction with the current legal balance, between maintaining order and supporting the right to protest. However, he appears to have ignored other polling data indicating that many believe the Conservatives’ clampdowns on protests have gone too far

    Woodcock also calls for his own role to be made permanent and “properly resourced” to monitor so-called extreme protest movements.

    He proposes new mechanisms to restrict activities of non-violent direct action groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, and Palestine Action. 

    One method proposed is to restrict these groups' ability to organise or fundraise if they engage in activities that could lead to imprisonment or cause serious disruption or injury. This would, in effect, be a ban, as movements require funds to operate. 

    He also wants the police to have the power to apply to the Home Secretary to prohibit processions if they believe they will likely result in “intimidation”. This broad remit could effectively allow the police to ban any protest in advance, if they think it could intimidate someone. 

    And his call for protest groups to pay for policing marches is viewed by critics as an indirect ban on protest. 

    A spokesperson for the left-wing group Momentum, which is mentioned in Walney's report, said: "This blatant conflict of interest further discredits the Walney Review. Lord Walney has well-documented financial ties to the defence and energy industries – it is absurd and wholly improper for him to be proposing Government policy which benefits these industries at the expense of the right to protest. His 'review' should be left to gather dust – and Lord Walney removed from his position."

    Lord Walney and the Home Office have been contacted for comment.

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

    The Problem Isn’t Civil Disobedience, It’s Civil Obedience

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 10:23pm in

    Tags 

    Israel, USA, Gaza, Protest

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

    https://medium.com/media/96a75142cf45b66c16a3258c0c6a73b8/href

    Our society does not have an antisemitism crisis. It doesn’t have a crisis of far left radicalism, Islamist extremism, support for terrorism, or fomenting of dissent by foreign powers.

    Our society has a moral crisis. A cruelty crisis. An imperialism crisis. A militarism crisis. A propaganda crisis. An insincerity crisis. A stupidity crisis. An obedience crisis.

    Empire managers and imperial spinmeisters try to pretend there’s some horrifying existential emergency involving hatred of Jews or love of Hamas or some other ridiculous nonsense in our society, because the empire too is in a state of crisis. People are waking up from its lullaby of propaganda and are rejecting its narrative manipulation like never before, which is why instead of relenting and accepting the empire’s destruction of Gaza, opposition to it is only growing stronger.

    So the authorized custodians of imperial narratives flail around desperately trying to regain some control by spinning all the civil disobedience we are seeing in a way that makes it seem like some sort of problem which needs to be fixed. But as Howard Zinn said, “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.”

    Our problem is not that more and more people are opposing Israel’s empire-backed atrocities in Gaza with more and more aggression, our problem is that people are not opposing it aggressively enough. Our problem is that too many people still have their minds jacked into the mainstream worldview and ignore the most urgent matter of our time, letting their thoughts be preoccupied with frivolous garbage and trusting that our leaders are doing what’s best for us.

    Mainstream culture is so shallow, vapid and idiotic that when an artist rapped about this issue of unparalleled urgency, he included the line “I want a ceasefire, fuck a response from Drake” — and everyone knew what he meant. He meant mainstream culture is fixated on phony public spats between millionaire pop stars while the US empire funnels weapons of annihilation into Israel to be dropped on a giant concentration camp full of children. It says so much about this fraudulent dystopia we live in that such a thing would need to be said. But it did.

    The problem isn’t that people are becoming too disobedient, the problem is that people remain too obedient. The problem isn’t that people are becoming too radicalized against their government, the problem is that people aren’t radicalized enough. The problem is that the freaks who rule over us are not sufficiently afraid of us. The problem is that we have not yet come to the collective realization that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them, and that we don’t actually need to put up with them doing crazy and evil things right in front of our faces.

    Instead people sit around drooling with their eyes fixed on screens full of endless diversion while children are ripped to shreds by western-supplied military explosives for no other reason than because they happen to belong to the wrong ethnic group.

    That is the real crisis of our society. Not an imaginary antisemitism epidemic. Not college kids disobeying authority figures. Not leftists. Not anarchists. Not Islam. Not Hamas.

    The real crisis in our society is that too many people are still blindly obedient to a murderous and tyrannical empire which should be hacked to pieces and scattered to the winds.

    _____________________

    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.

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    Featured image via Joe Piette (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED)

    High Court rules government’s anti-protest law enabling more police action is unlawful

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 9:48pm in

    Legal challenge to government’s lowered threshold to classify inconvenient protest to allow police to intervene succeeds

    A legal challenge by rights group Liberty has won its court case against the government over its change to the definition of protests this morning.

    The government had used ‘secondary legislation’ to push through a change to the definition of serious – avoiding proper parliamentary scrutiny – that meant anything more than ‘minor’ was ‘serious’, allowing police to lower the bar to escalating their actions to break up protests. The proposed changes had already been rejected in the Lords, so the government was using the move to bypass usual parliamentary process. Liberty said the government had no legal power to do this and the High Court has agreed that it acted unlawfully.

    Liberty has demanded that police forces immediately cease the use of the new definition. The government has said it will appeal the ruling.

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

    ‘Huge Victory for Democracy’ as Rishi Sunak’s Protest Crackdown Found Unlawful by High Court

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 8:33pm in

    Rishi Sunak's anti-protest regulations have unlawfully put peaceful protesters at serious and unfair risk of prosecution, the High Court has ruled, in a major victory for civil liberties campaigners.

    The High Court agreed with a challenge by the campaign group Liberty claiming that the Government had unlawfully extended the definition of protests which cause “serious disruption” in the legislation to cover protests which had merely caused normal levels of disruption.

    The court agreed that this had led a “a substantially increased exposure to criminal sanctions on the part of protestors exercising their civil rights”.

    They also found that the Home Office under the leadership of Suella Braverman had also failed to properly consult with those likely to be affected by their anti-protest legislation and regulations.

    Campaigners welcomed the finding as a “huge victory for democracy”.

    “This ruling is a huge victory for democracy, and sets down an important marker to show that the Government cannot step outside of the law to do whatever it wants”, Akiko Hart, Liberty’s director, said in a statement.

    Legislation passed by Sunak’s Government in 2022 gave ministers the power to alter the definition of “serious disruption” without full parliamentary scrutiny, under so-called Henry VIII powers.

    This decision led to ministers being able to hand power to the police to intervene to limit protests, even when no such serious disruption was occurring.

    “We all have the right to speak out on the issues we believe in, and it’s vital that the Government respects that” Hart said.

    "These dangerous powers were rejected by Parliament yet still sneaked through the back door with the clear intention of stopping protesters that the Government did not personally agree with, and were so vaguely worded that it meant that the police were given almost unlimited powers to shut down any other protest too.

    “This judgment sends a clear message that accountability matters, and that those in power must make decisions that respect our rights.” 

    The finding came shortly before the Government’s ‘anti-extremism’ adviser unveiled a report recommending further draconian restrictions on the right to protest.

    As this paper has previously reported, Lord Walney was commissioned to write the report, despite his own links to defence and business lobbyists, set to be affected by his recommendations. 

    Among the measures recommended by Walney are effective bans on certain protest groups, plus new powers for the police to outlaw protests on the grounds of cost, or frequency.

    The proposals could lead to several leading protest groups being effectively banned from operating, while outlawing the regular Palestinian solidarity marches that take place in London.

    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.

    Exclusive: key Unite committee walks out, says will start legal action against union

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 11:27pm in

    Elected representatives walk out accusing Sharon Graham of stifling democracy and destroying the union, with Unite’s employed officers on the verge of industrial action against the union

    Protesters holding a demo outside a meeting of Unite’s executive committee in March. Insert: general secretary Sharon Graham

    In dramatic news that will further hit the management of the Unite union, which has been blighted by complaints of abuse, destruction of evidence and the betrayal of the oppressed people of Gaza despite the union’s democratic position in full support of them, members of a key Unite committee have today walked out and have said they are initiating legal action against the union over general secretary Sharon Graham’s ‘stifling’ of its democracy and what they say is her destruction of the union.

    In a statement issued after the walk-out, the members of the ‘Finance and General Purpose Committee‘ of elected executive representatives, explained their action:

    Today the members of the Unite Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GPC), the most important committee of the Unite Executive Council, took the unprecedented step of walking out of the meeting and will be commencing legal action with the Certification Officer.

    As members of the F&GPC we have not taken this decision lightly, but we are determined not to let our union’s democracy be subverted by a Chair who has lost the confidence of the committee and a General Secretary who is determined to stifle democratic decision making.

    The background to this decision is the refusal of the Chair and General Secretary to allow representatives of Unite’s Officers committee to address the meeting and explain why they are on the verge of balloting for industrial action.

    At the previous meeting the members of the F&GPC were told by Unite Executive Head of Operations, Sarah Carpenter, that there was no unrest at all with the officers and no issues to be addressed.

    But this flies totally in the face of the letter that all F&GPC members received this week in which the Officers National Committee asked to urgently meet and address the F&GPC, in order to discuss matters with a view to resolving major problems before moving towards industrial action.

    Under rule, the ultimate employer of Unite officers and staff is the Unite Executive Council, and as members of the key subcommittee of the Executive Council, we take that responsibility very seriously. The idea that officers of Unite are so angry and frustrated as to want to take industrial action is totally unprecedented and is a situation that warrants immediate attention.

    For the Chair and General Secretary to use every possible bureaucratic means to prevent that discussion is an insult to the F&GPC, an insult to the wider Executive Council, and most of all an insult to our members who need their officers motivated and working hard to protect their jobs, pay and conditions.

    Our decision comes on the back of months of the F&GPC’s growing concern about poor management of the organisation and deep concern about financial reporting and accountability. We also thoroughly object to the General Secretary using threats against members of the wider EC when raising and challenging her handling of our money.

    As members of the Unite F&GPC we will not stand idly by and allow the Chair and General Secretary to destroy our great union. We will be considering commencing legal action with the Certification Officer before any more damage is done and will be calling on the Unite EC and all Unite members and activists to help restore the democratic control and accountability of our union.

    Graham’s tenure at Unite has also been marked by a string of other serious allegations, which neither she nor the union has ever denied – of abuse, cover-up and failure to protect women:

    In addition, she has been exposed behind the union’s decision to ban showings in Unite’s buildings of a film exposing racism, smears, rigging and abuse by the Labour right and has appeared to grow increasingly cosy with red-Tory Labour ‘leader’ Keir Starmer, despite Starmer’s lies, his contempt for democracy, his u-turns on promises to Unite members and his regime’s repeated blocking of Unite-backed parliamentary candidates.

    Unite has been contacted for comment.

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

    The Fear and the Fix

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/05/2024 - 9:59pm in

    How mainstream environmentalism fell under the sway of benign reformism

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