PCS says ‘We will not manufacture a dispute’ against Atos

Public and Commercial Services Union

On Thursday 14 February, members of the expanding Glasgow Against Atos (GAA) campaign including an FRFI supporter met with representatives of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union to discuss how the PCS could help GAA fight against welfare cutbacks. GAA was set up in October 2012 as a broad-based campaign following successful pickets of Atos initiated by Glasgow FRFI.

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More victories against police repression for Glasgow activists / FRFI 225 Feb/Mar 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 225 February/March 2012

‘The law is simply and solely made for the exploitation of those who do not understand it or of those who, for naked need, cannot obey it.’ Bertolt Brecht

The last two months have again seen significant victories in Glasgow in the fight against police repression, vindicating the relentless political campaigning led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! members and the Glasgow Defence Campaign.

After a full year of protests and court pickets, on 12 December 2011 FRFI supporter Joey Simons was finally acquitted on all five charges issued against him following his arrest on a demonstration against student fees on 9 December 2010. Supporters packed the District Court over the four days of the trial as the shameless lies of five Strathclyde police officers were systematically exposed. The defence’s case was political throughout, underlining the consistent record of police harassment in the lead-up to the arrest.

Speaking outside the court, a GDC representative stated that the victory was ‘a significant setback for the attempts to criminalise political protest being led by the Crown Office and Strathclyde police. Throughout the past year we have stood firm inside and outside these court rooms in order to assert the right to protest and organise in the face of the cuts and attacks on the working class. The criminals in this case are all those officers who chose to perjure themselves – and yet none will face consequences for doing so. We would ask what type of justice system is this when such abuses of law go unpunished?’

The following day, the case against four activists from Unity – a group in solidarity with asylum seekers – was suddenly dropped by the Procurator Fiscal on their arrival at the Sheriff Court. The activists had been arrested after blockading the gates of the UK Border Agency reporting centre in Glasgow during a protest over the dawn raid and detention of single mother, Funke, and her five-year-old son Joseph. This was another important victory.

The most significant development involves the ongoing trial of another FRFI member, Dominic O’Hara, relating to his arrest in January 2010 at an anti-cuts demo. For the first time in Scotland, the use of kettling tactics by police is being challenged and a legal debate will take place on 1 March after Dominic’s defence asserted that his human rights had been breached on the day of his arrest. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland will be forced out of the shadows to justify its aggressive tactics.

The importance of waging a political defence is clear: between August 2010 and April 2011, 14 charges were issued against members of FRFI in Glasgow. So far, 12 of these have been fought and won, the single guilty verdict resulted in no sentence and the final charge has now embroiled the Crown Office and Strathclyde police in a major legal challenge.

No to political policing!

 

Joey Simons

‘Despite these verdicts, today is not a cause for celebration...How can I celebrate when I know that this day could have come 18 years ago if the police who were meant to find my son’s killers had not failed so miserably to do so...The fact is that racism and racist attacks are still happening in this country and the police should not use my son’s name to say that we can move on.’ Doreen Lawrence

On 3 January 2012, two white men were convicted of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in southeast London nearly 19 years ago. The convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris are, however, only a partial victory for all those, most notably Stephen’s parents, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, who campaigned so long for justice for their son. In doing so, they exposed entrenched police racism, culminating in the McPherson Report of 1999. Given the complete shambles of the original police investigation, marred from the very start by racist prejudice, corruption and sheer incompetence, it is extraordinary that there have been any convictions at all; the jailing of two of Stephen’s killers was made possible only by forensic advances since 1993 which allowed microscopic samples of blood, hair and fibres to link the two men to the scene of the crime and a 2003 change to the law that allowed Dobson, in the light of this new ‘compelling’ evidence, to be prosecuted again, having been cleared of the murder in 1996.

Racism and incompetence

But there is little cause for celebration. At least three other men involved in Stephen’s murder – James and Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, whose vicious racist fantasies were revealed on undercover video in 1994 – still walk free. That travesty is a direct result of the original, botched police investigation. From the moment police left Stephen lying in a pool of blood at an Eltham bus stop without attempting resuscitation – they were too busy asking his traumatised friend Duwayne Brooks if he and Stephen had provoked the attack – they had little interest in finding the suspects. Within 48 hours, nine different sources, including two police informants, had named five white suspects, a local gang of well-known racists with a record of violence. Four had been seen the night of the murder washing blood off themselves. A surveillance team failed to record the removal of bags potentially containing evidence from the suspects’ homes. Meanwhile, the police treated the Lawrence family as if it was they who were under suspicion. No arrests were made for two weeks until the Lawrences met Nelson Mandela on 6 May and he stated that, as in apartheid South Africa, ‘black lives are cheap’. By then it was too late. By July, the CPS had decided that there was not enough evidence to charge any of the men. An internal police inquiry in December 1993 concluded that the ‘investigation has been progressed satisfactorily and all lines of inquiry correctly pursued’.

But the campaign for justice, led by Stephen’s parents, had tremendous resonance, and over the years anger was growing that no-one had been convicted. At the inquest into his death in 1997 jurors took the unusual step of concluding that the black teenager was unlawfully killed ‘in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths’. That verdict emboldened the Daily Mail, of all papers, to publish the following day its iconic ‘Murderers!’ front page, naming the five suspects with the challenge: ‘If we are wrong, let them sue us’. Within months, the McPherson Inquiry into the failures surrounding the investigation into Stephen’s death was set up. At its first sessions in Elephant & Castle, south London in 1998, Doreen Lawrence stated that ‘no black person should ever trust the police’ – a point borne out when the Met used CS spray against the massive crowd of mainly black people who had thronged to the hearing. Over a year of investigation that included travelling around the country to ask people about their experience of the police, the Inquiry team concluded not only that the original police investigation had been deeply flawed, but that the police, as well as other areas such as housing and education, were deeply riven by ‘institutional racism’. The Inquiry made 70 recommendations for change.

But nothing changed

Nearly 13 years on, following the Dobson and Norris convictions, the police and government commented smugly that ‘institutional racism’ had been rooted out. But the anger that exploded on the streets of England in August 2011 gives the lie to their complacency. Young people cited police harassment and racism, and particularly the use of stop-and-search, as the main fuse for their frustration. In 1999-2000, a black person was five times more likely to be stopped than a white person; now the figure is seven times, and black people are four times more likely to have their DNA stored on the police database. Alongside this has gone a massive stepping up of harassment of Asian communities since 2001, under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’. 300 black people have died in police custody since 2000 – no police officer has ever faced any charges for these deaths. Around 96 racist murders have taken place since that of Stephen Lawrence; in at least 15 unsolved cases, family and friends blame police racism and indifference. These include the cases of Surjit Singh Chhokkar, stabbed to death in Scotland in 1998; Kamal Raza Butt, racially abused and called ‘Taliban’ before being beaten to death by a gang of youths in July 2005, and Lahkvinder ‘Ricky’ Reel, whose body was found in the Thames after he was racially abused in 1997.

The legacy of the Stephen Lawrence case must be, not McPherson’s well-meaning findings, but the lesson of Stephen Lawrence’s family that the only way to oppose and expose police racism is to organise, to fight back and to never give up.

Cat Wiener

See also: ‘Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: police racism exposed’, FRFI 143, June/July 1998;

‘The murder of Stephen Lawrence: a stinking shambles of police racism and corruption’, FRFI 144 August/September 1998

‘Ten years after McPherson: British police racist as ever and with more power’, FRFI 208, April/May 2009.

Scotland’s education crisis/ FRFI 224 December 2011/January 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 224 December 2011/January 2012

The crisis facing education in Scotland is deepening. According to the BBC, classroom teachers are now being forced to purchase basic education materials such as pens and paper out of their own money.

Strike action on 30 November against the attack on pensions is being taken by most Scottish teaching unions. This follows over a year of increasing animosity and frustration by members with the Education Institute of Scotland – Scotland’s main teachers’ union. The union has spent the past period agreeing voluntary redundancy agreements. The con-sequence of these is ever-growing unemployment among newly qualified teachers as posts disappear. According to the General Teaching Council for Scotland only one newly qualified teacher in five can expect to find a full-time, permanent teaching job on completion of their induction year.

The crisis in further education is even more severe. The sector suffered a 10% cut in its budget in 2010. The Scottish government has now announced that further cuts are to be made of 13.5%, or £74 million, reducing spending from £544.7m in 2011 to £470.7m in 2014-15. Scotland’s colleges estimate that the latest cuts will axe 20,000 student places, a 14% drop. Employment in the sector has also fallen: from 16,000 to 14,900 between the second quarter 2010 and the second quarter 2011.

In October the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disabilities revealed that college places for people with learning disabilities have been cut by over one third. Of those FE institutions who replied to their survey (17 out of over 40 in Scotland) the number of part-time places for students with learning disabilities has been reduced from 2,155 to 1,413, a 34% cut.

By contrast Scottish universities will see funding increase by £135.5m over the next three years, apparently to maintain a ‘world class reputation’. Class divisions which already exist are set to increase even further. The Office for National Statistics reported in October 2011 that the number of jobless 18 to 24-year-olds in Scotland has more than doubled in the past two years to 80,000.

Fight the cuts!

Paul Mallon

Oppose the criminalisation of progressive football fans!/ FRFI 224 Decr 2011/Jan 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

Over the past few months in Scotland, politicians and public figures, newspapers and the police have begun a war aimed at criminalising progressive football supporters. The Scottish Parliament is currently debating the Scottish National Party’s Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill. The Bill bans the singing of ‘offensive’ political songs and would give each police officer the power to arrest and charge people for acting in a way that the state deems offensive. Although the Bill will affect all football fans, there can be no doubt that it is aimed at, and will be used most against, supporters of Celtic Football Club because of their support for the Irish Republican movement and for the Palestinian struggle.

The recently-formed campaign Fans Against Criminalisation held a rally against the Bill in George Square, Glasgow on 29 October, which attracted thousands. Since then several fans have been arrested as the state goes on the offensive using existing legislation. At 6am on Friday 11 November, Strathclyde Police kicked down the door of a 17-year-old Celtic supporter, arrested him and held him in custody over the weekend. On the Monday afternoon he was charged with sectarian breach of the peace and was remanded in custody for seven weeks. At the same court sitting someone accused of attempted murder was granted bail. It required the intervention of Scotland’s chief law officer, the Lord Advocate, to see bail eventually granted. Compare this with the case of John Wilson, a 26-year-old Hearts fan who punched Celtic manager Neil Lennon and was heard shouting ‘you fenian bastard’: his charge of assault aggravated by sectarian hatred was dropped. Wilson was convicted only of breach of the peace.

At recent matches at Celtic Park police have waded into crowds to arrest fans in the Green Brigade’s section of the ground: they are now under constant police surveillance. It is quite clear that under the guise of fighting ‘sectarianism’ the state is trying to stamp on those who are against racism and sectarianism. The new Bill is anti-Irish racism: kill the Bill!

Connor Riley

Details of the campaign can be found at: fansagainstcriminalisation.blogspot.com

Glasgow Defence Campaign: a year fighting police repression in Scotland/ FRFI 224 Decr 2011/Jan 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 224 December 2011/January 2012

December 2011 marks one year since two members of FRFI were targeted, arrested and charged by police on a militant student demonstration in Glasgow. FRFI members were singled out following months of organising against police harassment through the Govanhill Defence Campaign, established after unsuccessful attempts by officers to shut down stalls and ban the sale of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in August 2010. It was clear state intimidation was set to intensify, and the Glasgow Defence Campaign was formed:

‘Having opposed political policing and intimidation on the streets of Govanhill in Glasgow, we will stand up for all our rights as we mobilise against the budget cuts and organise in defence of the working class...We call for maximum unity in defence of all those attacked and imprisoned by the British state in its attempts to silence dissent.’ (GDC statement, December 2010)

Scotland has not seen anything like the outbreaks of disorder, mass protest, civil disobedience and inner-city uprisings which have shaken the authorities in England over the past year. There has been no serious struggle as yet against the cuts in Glasgow. Trade unions continue to accept wage freezes and negotiate voluntary redundancies; genuine working class campaigns, such as that against the closure of the Accord centre, remain isolated; student occupations and direct actions have ebbed and flowed.

Nevertheless, Strathclyde police and the Crown Office have waged a targeted campaign against those activists and groups that have sought to organise effective opposition to the attacks on living standards and democratic rights. This open political policing is even more insidious than that in London given that no serious challenge to order has been posed. The maxim of General Sir Frank Kitson (one-time head of the British army of occupation in the north of Ireland), that the ‘genuinely subversive elements’ must be ruthlessly sought out before they become effective, has not been forgotten, even when ‘subversive’ activities remain firmly within the bounds of peaceful political protest. In Glasgow and across Scotland, the ground is being laid for widespread criminalisation; the police are training themselves in the control of dissent and containment of protest, compiling a mass of low-level intelligence on anti-cuts activists.

On 12 April 2011, after securing the conviction of FRFI member Dominic O’Hara the previous day, police carried out a series of co-ordinated raids which by the end of the week had seen Dominic and another two FRFI supporters arrested, as well as two young students involved with the Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University. Significantly, all were released only on condition of a unilaterally-imposed ‘undertaking’ which banned them from entering the city centre and ‘assembling with two or more people for the purposes of a demonstration’ – a clear breach of human rights. At the end of July, police conducted another series of violent raids on the pretext of charging those involved in ‘disorder’ at a party in Kelvingrove Park on the day of the Royal Wedding. Thousands of people were present that day; out of a dozen arrested and charged, all but one were known political activists.

Despite there not being a single outbreak in Scotland during the August riots, several teenagers from Glasgow and Dundee were remanded in custody for posts on Facebook allegedly inciting disorder. Police stated they were sending a message ‘to anyone who is thinking of causing trouble here’. In September, Palestine solidarity activist Paul Donnachie was found guilty on the charge of ‘racially aggravated conduct’ for disrespecting the Israeli flag in a dorm room, given community service and expelled from St Andrews University. Under new ‘anti-sectarian’ legislation which seeks to criminalise political songs, a 17-year-old Celtic fan appeared in court on 10 November charged with singing ‘Up the ’Ra!’ at a game, before being remanded in custody (see article below). It is clear that a campaign of political policing is being waged from within the very highest offices of Strathclyde police and the Procurator Fiscal.

Throughout this time, FRFI supporters have built the Glasgow Defence Campaign – combining street actions and militant organisation, creating an online blog, compiling legal briefings and a log of police harassment. Following the arrests in April 2011, the GDC, FRFI and Free Hetherington organised a militant rally in the city centre against political policing. All charges were dropped the following week. Arrests on protests in January and June led to spontaneous marches to police stations. Throughout dozens of court appearances, the GDC has organised solidarity pickets, subjecting the machinations of the District Court to a level of scrutiny clearly uncomfortable for the judges and prosecutors used to dealing out ‘justice’ without scrutiny.

Armed with a clear understanding of ruling class lawlessness, the campaign has withstood ongoing attempts to destroy its work through police harassment, surveillance, arrests, the use of undercover police and court cases. The success of this work was demonstrated on the Scottish TUC’s People First march in Glasgow on 1 October, when a member of the GDC’s contingent was dragged off the march by police. In previous instances such an attack would have gone unnoticed; now, GDC supporters were able to lead hundreds off the main route to stop and kettle the police, condemn the cops and secure the comrade’s release. Strathclyde police – the most radicalising force in Glasgow!

And yet throughout this period, the left in Glasgow has utterly failed in its duty to provide solidarity to those facing criminalisation, leaving others open to attack. Committed to providing a ‘radical’ cover for the trade union bureaucracy, almost the entire left – from the SWP and the International Socialist Group (ISG) to the Scottish Socialist Party and Communist Party – has failed to provide any support to the Glasgow Defence Campaign or attend a single court picket. On 1 October, the flags of the SSP and CP could be seen drifting into the distance as the arrest attempt took place. The left is clearly more comfortable negotiating with the police than organising against them. This is especially odious in connection with the ISG, with its empty rhetoric about defending protest in relation to one of its members, Bryan Simpson (among the few not to receive a custodial sentence after pleading guilty to disorder at Millbank in November 2010).

Alongside the Free Hetherington students, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities and individual members of the Scottish Socialist Youth who have been subject to police repression themselves, the GDC has built itself up from new and independent forces. In his address to the May Day rally in Glasgow, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey explicitly applauded the work of the GDC in defending young people, and the STUC passed a resolution condemning political policing. This welcome support now needs to be followed up with real action. It is those experiencing directly the brutal class nature of the state whose growing unity will be key. The GDC recently received messages of support from over 40 Irish political prisoners incarcerated in Portlaoise gaol, expressing their ‘support and solidarity with the work of the Glasgow Defence Campaign’ and anti-fascist prisoner Ravi Gill, currently serving 21 months in HMP Wayland.

The experience built by the GDC over the past year is crucial as the cuts begin to happen. We will challenge the liberalism which sees the police as part of the ‘99%’. The growth of state interference in political organisation should put us all on alert, and unity and solidarity must be fought for in the struggle to defend democratic rights and the vital interest of the working class.

Police hands off protest! An injury to one is an injury to all!

Joey Simons

glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.com