Obituary: Ken Bodden / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014


Ken Bodden

8 April 1950 – 20 October 2013

Ken Bodden’s sudden death at the age of 63 was a shock to those who knew him as a resilient fighter against racism and injustice and as a force of life, music and fun. Ken was an outstanding practitioner at the highest level of song-writing and performance. He was an international competitor at the winter Paralympics, a piano tuner and sports masseur. He was also a member and supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Group for 30 years.

Ken was born in Panama and lost his eyesight at a very early age. As educational opportunities for blind children were severely limited in Panama, his family sent him to school in Jamaica, from where he moved to Britain at the age of 14.

Ken’s magnificent voice, excellent ear and memory for thousands of tunes, his gift of mimicry and excellent speaking abilities were all offered in the service of the struggles he engaged with. Thousands remember him leading the singing on the Non-Stop Picket against Apartheid in the 1980s when he taught hundreds of people South African liberation songs. And his signature tune for the picket – ‘We are here till Mandela’s free, on a non-stop picket of the Embassy’ – will still be buzzing round many memories. But Ken made music too for the Irish political prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, for the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign’s long march from Manchester to London, and for the miners’ 1984-85 strike against pit closures.

Ken’s physical courage went beyond the daring of cross-country skiing. As mourners at his funeral on 8 November were reminded, Ken participated in an FRFI delegation to Belfast in 1984 during which the RUC attacked marchers with plastic bullets. And for over two years he was one of the RCG comrades who regularly visited and supported the hundreds of defendants on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham which was locked down by the police following the 1985 uprisings against state racism.

During a sit-down occupation of the foyer of the Odeon cinema in Holloway, north London, to demand more space for wheelchair users, Ken was told he was causing an obstruction. ‘Yep’, he said ‘Let’s get in the way of the bosses all the time and in every place’.

Defend the right to protest! Defend the Gaza Demonstrators!

gazaThe British state has moved to marginalise those who want to resist imperialism in this country, and especially to criminalise those who take a militant stance against Zionism. In the course of 2009, 119 mostly young and predominantly Muslim people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations outside the London Israeli embassy in December 2008- January 2009 against Israel's murderous attack on the people of Gaza. 78 of them were charged; so far around 30 have received prison sentences and court cases continue. FRFI is participating in the campaign to defend and support all those facing the racist vengeance of the British state and joined the demonstration outside Isleworth Crown Court on 26 March, when the latest sentences were passed.

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The legacy of the Occupy movement /FRFI 226 Apr/May 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

Just after midnight on 28 February, police and bailiffs finally moved in to evict the Occupy LSX protest, which had been camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London for nearly five months. The legal battle to keep the camp going had been exhausted six days earlier, when the protesters’ appeal against attempts by the City of London Corporation to remove them was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Protesters were given just five minutes to clear their belongings before the encampment was dismantled – although not without some determined resistance. A makeshift barricade was built and used to hold off the police and bailiffs for a while before it was broken down and the protesters were arrested. St Paul’s Cathedral was complicit in the attack, giving the police permission to seize protesters who took refuge on the Cathedral steps – an area not covered by the court ruling. The same morning the School of Ideas, based in a derelict school in Islington, was also evicted.

Occupy London began on 15 October 2011, following the US Occupy Wall Street which had begun in September, itself inspired by the 15 May movement in Spain and the Arab Spring. The initial plan had been to occupy the London stock exchange, but when police prevented them the protesters decided to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral nearby, on land owned by the City of London Corporation. From this base camp, other occupations emerged such as the Bank of Ideas in a UBS office building in Hackney, Occupy Justice in a disused court in Old Street, The School of Ideas and Occupy Finsbury Square – the latter is still there, along with a new occupation in Limehouse and more expected in the future. These sites have been home to free education programmes, free food and General Assemblies, where anyone could take part and have a say on management and direction. Occupy has hosted events, orchestrated action in solidarity with other movements, and even printed their own newspaper.

The Occupy movement brought together many different forces calling for change within our current unethical system. The debate on what kind of change is needed and how it is to be brought about has been one of the most exciting aspects, as all sorts of different ideas and solutions that are ignored by mainstream politics or the media have been discussed. Everyone contributes different insights, ideas and information with a view to helping achieve real change. Many of these people will eventually be part of a new, global anti-imperialist struggle, unified against competitive exploitation. Those involved in Occupy are sick of the financial sector’s stranglehold on the economy and the corporations’ influence in politics. Most importantly, many of them are beginning to ask where the wealth of this country and the other western countries actually comes from. The reality of that unequal relationship is the most pressing issue in the world. Regardless of whether people have a political concept of anti-imperialist struggle, the very fact that they’ve got involved in a movement that not only fights for justice for people in this country but takes on the global struggle, means that they are engaging with anti-imperialism on a practical level and beginning to understand what imperialism is doing to the oppressed worldwide.

Nathan Robert

Timeline of the riots / FRFI 223 Oct/Nov 2011

FRFI 223 October/November 2011

Thursday 4 August

• Mark Duggan is shot dead by police in Tottenham Hale. Police claim that that there was an exchange of gunfire and one police officer was injured.

Saturday 6 August

• Mark Duggan’s family and friends hold a peaceful demonstration at Tottenham police station where senior police refuse to meet them and police assault a 16-year-old girl. Rioting follows. Police cars are attacked, a bus is set alight and shops are looted. Looting spreads to Tottenham Hale retail park and Wood Green shopping centre.

Sunday 7 August

• Disturbances erupt in Enfield and Ponders End. Shops looted and bricks thrown at police.

• Protesters in Brixton fight police, throwing rocks and bins. Shops are looted and set on fire. The tube line to Brixton is closed ‘due to civil unrest’.

• Rioting and looting spread to Wood Green and Dalston, where Turkish and Kurdish shop owners organise to protect their property; Woolwich; Leyton; Waltham Cross; Oxford Circus; Streatham.

• Clashes with police in Shepherd’s Bush, Islington and Hackney.

• Police launch Operation Withern to investigate the riots and police from other areas are drafted in.

Monday 8 August


• All 32 boroughs are placed on riot alert.

• By early evening rioting has erupted all over London, spreading to Kent and Essex. Shops are looted and in Bethnal Green, Walworth, Lewisham and Hackney youth fight the police, throwing missiles, bottles and petrol bombs. In Ealing, Richard Mannington Bowes is assaulted; he dies in hospital three days later.

• In Croydon bricks, bottles, stones and fireworks are thrown at police, shops and vehicles set alight and a large furniture shop burned down; a 26-year-old man is shot dead.

Rioting spreads across England

• Shop windows in Birmingham city centre are smashed and shops looted; a police station in Handsworth is set alight.

• Riots erupt in the Chapeltown area of Leeds, during which a young man is shot in the face; he later dies.

• Looting and fighting with police in Toxteth, Liverpool.

• A police station is attacked and car tyres set alight in St Ann’s, Nottingham.

• Protesters burn cars and confront police in Gillingham and Chatham, Kent.

• Other incidents are reported in Bristol, Epsom, Oxford, and Luton.

Tuesday 9 August

• In Winson Green, Birmingham, three men are killed in a hit-and-run while protecting a local petrol station.

• Manchester city centre is closed to all traffic after buildings are set alight. Looting begins and youth fight running battles with police.

• 80 people confront police at Salford Precinct.

• In Nottingham there is widespread rioting and attacks on police stations.

• Gloucester’s central shopping centre is looted and rioters set fire to cars and an

empty building.

• In Toxteth, Liverpool, youths hurl missiles at police, shops are looted and set on fire.

• Extensive looting in Wolverhampton, where rioters also confront police.

• Prime Minister David Cameron returns early from holiday in Italy to chair an emergency COBRA meeting. 16,000 police are deployed in London and all police leave is cancelled.

• The IPCC announces that there is no evidence that Mark Duggan fired at police.

Wednesday 10 August

• In London, vigilante groups are formed in Enfield, Eltham and Southall. Police clash with bottle-throwing vigilantes in Eltham, many of them English Defence League supporters.

• Disturbances in Liverpool, Nottingham, West Bromwich and Leicester.

• Cameron announces police can use plastic bullets and contingency plans are in place to make water cannon available.

Thursday 11 August

• Parliament is recalled to discuss the riots.

• Between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been arrested. Courts sit round-the-clock.

• An estimated £200 million worth of property has been damaged.

Occupy LSX: resistance sets up camp in the heart of British imperialism – Oct 2011


The occupation at St Paul’s, in the heart of the City of London, and the wave of similar protests across the UK and Europe, are a sign of the inevitable resistance that is to come, as more and more sections of the working class see their living standards being sacrificed to pay for the capitalist crisis.

Inspired by the ongoing occupation of Wall Street in the US, thousands of protestors, including many of those involved in last year’s student protests and university occupations, descended on the City on Saturday 15 October with the aim of occupying the London Stock Exchange headquarters, symbol of Britain’s parasitic capitalism.

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