Lets Save Govanhill! 22 March 2015

On Sunday 22 March over 200 people united to ‘save Govanhill’ from the failure of Glasgow city council and local agencies to deal with the problems of crime, rubbish and slum landlords. Marchers won support from the ethnically diverse community as they passed through the streets with pots and pans and chants sounding. During the march a petition calling for the Scottish Government to intervene was accepted by local MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. One of the march organisers Fiona summed up the feelings of marchers 'we have a vote of no confidence in Glasgow city council to make sure Govanhill is made clean and safe so we are asking the First Minister to step in and sort this out'. She said the mechanism by which these issues were to be addressed had failed. This included the Govanhill Action Plan, the Govanhill Partnership and the Govanhill Hub (which is made up of various agencies in the area including Govanhill Housing Association, Glasgow city council and Police Scotland).

Instead of increasing local services and amenities on 19 February Glasgow's Labour run city council (GCC) passed a budget of £29.5mn of service cuts. This will be felt across Glasgow's communities. We must unite and defend the services under attack and push for their expansion. Combating the divide and rule lies, distortions and racism of those in power, and challenging the influence these ideas hold in our communities, will be key to defending everyone's rights. Here are some of the views we heard on the march.

Local resident Billy said 'we want Govanhill cleaned up. The Commonwealth Games showcase is over and now the council is not interested in this area'. Billy also highlighted police stop and searches of youth in the area. In light of the Sunday Herald revelations that Police Scotland has been carrying out a record breaking number of stop and searches throughout Glasgow, without legal basis, and then storing peoples phone numbers in a database, without legal basis, the demand must be for Police Scotland to ‘“keep your sleazy hands off our kids!” as Unite union leader Len McCluskey stated in support of the Glasgow Defence Campaign in 2011. Reports that sports participation in Glasgow has fallen in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games confirms what we already knew; the Games were used as a shiny cover to hide the widening impoverishment and inequality between the rich and poor in Glasgow.

A steward on the march Beth said decaying structures, rubbish, rats, bed bugs and cockroaches had become common in areas of Govanhill where buildings were not maintained and cleaned. A resident of Bowman street said that bins needed more clean ups and that he had to contact three political parties in the area before some rubbish in his backcourt was finally dealt with. A young and older resident of Seath Street, who had stayed in Govanhill all their lives, described how local people didn't feel safe with fear of muggings and stabbings stopping residents from going out at night. They described poor and broken street lighting. In their view the council was using Govanhill as a 'dumping ground' for troublesome residents and had allowed private landlords to take over housing in parts of Govanhill. We must demand that GCC's £9.3mn to buy up four blocks in poor condition is the start and not the end of getting slum landlords out of our area. Slum landlords out! Good housing for all!

History tells us that poverty, unemployment and under resourcing of services and amenities is the chief cause of crime. The high turnover of residents – in private, poorly conditioned, overpriced and often short term housing provides for the constant stream of rubbish. One former resident of Dixon Avenue described how the letting agency took over £1,000 a month in rent from the five rooms rented out. ‘We kept asking the letting agency to properly repair a cracked window that looked like it could have fallen off into the backcourt and the kitchen ceiling looked like it was going to cave in but they didn't’. If the letting agencies don’t take action our communities will have to – against them.

The challenge for Govanhill is fundamentally no different to the challenges for all Glasgow's communities. That is to unite and fight to defend their collective interests. Given Govanhill's big mix of nationalities education and understanding will be needed to overcome language barriers and cultural differences in order to hold the powers in charge to account for their neglect and indifference.

Glasgow, Scotland: Solidarity with the Hares Boys! Free Palestine! (15 March 2015)

‘Say it loud, make some noise – free, free the Hares Boys!’

This was the chant echoing across Glasgow city centre as supporters of the organisation Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) took to the streets to demand the release of the Hares Boys and an end to British complicity with Israeli war crimes. Supporters gathered outside of BDS-target Marks and Spencer to mark the second anniversary of the kidnapping and imprisonment of the boys. With painted placards, leaflets, petitions, a megaphone and Palestine flags we were able to get the attention and support of the public, who stopped to learn about the campaign and express their outrage.

Our 'G4S - Go 2 Hell' placard was well placed for a passing G4S van, highlighting the global nature of this repressive British company. G4S provides the guards to staff the Israeli prisons where thousands of Palestinians, including the Hares boys, are jailed and tortured. 17 April marks Palestine prisoner’s day when we will again take to the streets of Glasgow to join world-wide protests for justice.

After our protest we gathered on the Buchanan Street steps to oppose Glasgow Labour council's decision to demolish them and to introduce Israeli developed CCTV in an effort to prevent and criminalise protests in Glasgow city centre.

Barclays bank – blood bank

The previous day, supporters of FRFI took part in a protest organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign aimed at ending British complicity in Israel’s war machine. Targeting the main branch of Barclays bank – which has millions of pounds of investments in the Israeli drone company Elbit Systems – the activists peacefully occupied the branch and successfully closed it down for the day. There’ll be no business as usual for any companies profiting from the oppression of Palestine!

Defend the right to defend Palestine

Not only is the British state intent on providing political and military support for Zionism, but it is increasingly criminalising those who express support for the Palestinian people. On Wednesday 18 March, members of Glasgow Palestine Action will appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court following their peaceful occupation of Thales UK, another British company supporting Elbit Systems. The same day, another FRFI supporter will appear in court for the ‘crime’ of using a megaphone to protest against cuts to welfare. The struggle in defence of Palestine and our own democratic rights is one and the same!

Free The Hares Boys!

Free Palestine!

Save the steps!


Who are the Hares Boys?

The Hares Boys are five Palestinian children who were abducted by Israeli soldiers, then tortured and framed for an event that never happened. They are now facing 20 years in prison for each stone they are claimed to have thrown at the passing car of an illegal settler. No evidence of stone throwing on the day has been presented never mind evidence that the five youths imprisoned were involved. The case is a reflection of the racist arrogance and inhumanity of Apartheid Israel and the unwillingness of imperialist powers such as Britain and the US to take action against them.

For up to date news and more background to this case facebook 'Free The Hares Boys' and see https://haresboys.wordpress.com/

Glasgow Labour council pass austerity budget for 2015/16

 

‘People make Glasgow’- aye right!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters joined the crowds gathered outside Glasgow city chambers on 19 February to protest against the £29.5m budget cuts being passed by the Labour led council.

Once again the cuts are aimed at the poor and vulnerable. They are the ones being made to pay for the capitalist crisis. £2m will be cut in education services for children in hospital and those with psychological or additional support needs. £1m will come from mental health services, including the controversial cut to third sector body the Glasgow Association for Mental Health (40% of GAMH's funding). A £1.5m cut from Glasgow Life will affect community and library services. A total of £2m will be cut from grants to voluntary organisations, while the closure of two of the remaining four day centres for learning disability will see the loss of 40 jobs.

Beyond rhetoric the leaderships of the two biggest trade unions in Britain Unison and Unite offer no resistance. They have proved in the last five years that they are content to stand by and watch as Glasgow’s Labour Party council – which they financially and politically support – hammers those in and out of work. According to Unison Glasgow branch secretary Brian Smith future cuts are "on top of over £200mn in cuts in the last five years and 4,000 job losses" (The National, 17 February, p4). They will not risk their millions of pounds of assets to defend workers by breaking the anti-trade union laws. New forces will have to re-emerge.

In the shadow of George square, which witnessed thousands mobilise for a yes vote in last year’s referendum in a clear rejection of austerity, the Labour Party council continue to turn the screw on Glasgow’s working class. The Yes to independence, No to austerity movement is sorely missed and must be rebuilt now. The only alternative to cuts is an independent socialist Scotland. Socialist Cuba has demonstrated to the world’s poor and oppressed that another way is possible but only when the class system is thrown into the dust bin of history!

Interesting fact -

In 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union Cuba lost its chief trade partner and overnight was thrown into economic chaos in what was called ‘The Special Period’. Despite this the Cuban revolution did not close down a single school, maternity ward, hospital or sports facility; quite the opposite.  As one Cuban we spoke to on the 2009 rock around the blockade solidarity brigade to Cuba stated ‘At all times the economy was to be subordinated to social objectives’. Read more at http://www.ratb.org.uk/

Dundee campaign against SNP school closure – Save Menzieshill High!

'THIS FEELS LIKE A POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE …'

SNP FACES WORKING CLASS CHALLENGE

'WE DID NOT VOTE YES FOR THE SNP TO CLOSE SCHOOLS!’

Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party Stewart Hosie wrote a column in 'The National' on Tuesday 3 February. He was cheerily noting the recent polls portending a wipe-out for the Labour Party in Scotland at the General Election. Hosie's headline was 'This feels like a political earthquake...'. As MP for Dundee East he is certainly close enough to know that there is indeed a political earthquake going on in the city but it is against the SNP! At a 100 strong meeting to oppose the closure of secondary school Menzieshill High there was a clear cry for militant opposition. An SNP councillor present was roasted by his own party members and Yes voters: 'We did not vote Yes for the SNP to close schools!'

RCG member Michael MacGregor spoke from the Save Menzieshill High platform and recalled the battle of Community Against School Closure 18 years ago to save another secondary school closed then by the Labour council. He urged the meeting to fight in every possible way to stop the closure and that they should not be held back by an SNP which thinks it cannot be criticised and opposed because of its association with the YES vote. He told the SNP councillor Jimmie Black that he had better get on the phone 'moy pronto'- awfy fest- and let Nicola Sturgeon know that the is an eruption taking place in Menzieshill and that the closure should stop right now!

Dundee is the only full majority SNP council in Scotland and have lined up cuts worth £7 million this year. 19 SNP councillors recently voted to approve consideration of school closures. There is a protest rally in Dundee City Square next 2pm Thursday 12 February when the council votes to approve its budget. The opposition in Menzieshill from parents, pupils, school workers, the churches and local community centre has been joined by RCG/ FRFI, Scottish Socialist Party and Socialist Party, Scotland and other activists. We are all determined that the SNP are forced to halt the closure and the cuts or stand exposed as no different from parties like the Tories and the Labour Party.

SAVE MENZIESHILL HIGH!

NO TO SNP CUTS!

Michael MacGregor

Police Hands Off Protest! Welfare activists challenge Abroath arrest

On Thursday 5 February 40 protestors converged on Arbroath's Job Centre to challenge the arrest of Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox. Tony had been supporting a vulnerable client in the Job Centre who was having difficulty in using computers to meet her Job Search target. Official Department of Work and Pensions guidelines state that reasonable support must be given to claimants in this position and reasonable adjustments made to Job Search targets.

Tony accompanied the claimant to say that Job Centre staff had not followed these guidelines and tried to advocate for a review of the case. It was feared that a welfare sanction might result from any perceived failure to meet arbitrary targets. Staff terminated the interview claiming intimidation and a new appointment was scheduled. Leaving the building Tony was approached by the police  investigating alleged 'threatening behaviour'. He refused to give his name and address and was suddenly cuffed and arrested. Bail conditions forbid him to enter the Job Centre  in Arbroath.

Defying this outrageous criminalisation of welfare advocates and activists, a protest was publicly announced for the following Thursday and an SUWN defence formed at a meeting. Tony explained at the meeting that he had been visited at home by police to warn him that he risked arrest for any breach of bail. He was determined to attend the protest and publicly announced this step which was taken up by local media.

40 people from Dundee, Edinburgh, Arbroath, Forfar and Kirriemuir stood united in solidarity outside Arbroath Job Centre and through placards, banners, speeches and chants the arrest was condemned and the right to support vulnerable claimants proclaimed. The abusive use of welfare sanctions was highlighted and speakers expressed defiance at any attempt to limit and criminalise protest. See footage of the lively march here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU_JLQUpV1A#t=41

The protest was supported by Scottish Unemployed Workers Network campaigners, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Class War and many other activists. Tony Cox spoke and Michael MacGregor of the Revolutionary Communist Group/ Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! chaired the lively street event. Such was the confident mood of the protest that it was decided we should march into the town centre. The three cops were then made to earn their wages by assisting in crossing roads as we marched up Arbroath High Street for a militant and popular street rally in the main shopping area. 

We are determined to resist criminalisation of protest and demand the immediate dropping of all charges.

POLICE HANDS OFF PROTEST!

END WELFARE SANCTIONS NOW!      

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