Occupy Glasgow! Eye Witness Report - 19 Oct 2011

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On Saturday 15 October at 11am the occupy movement spread to Glasgow as tents were erected, anti-cuts banners hung and progressive messages chalked on the red surface of George Square, in Glasgow’s City Centre. Opposite the occupation sits Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) chambers of corruption which are controlled by the Labour party. Below is an eye witness report and observations of a Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporter who has attended the occupation in solidarity on Tuesday 18 and 19 October;

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Glasgow FRFI supporters stand up to political courts and cops – October 2011

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On 13 October 2011, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporter Dominic O´Hara appeared once again in front of a judge at Glasgow District Court, the latest in a long line of court appearances for FRFI activists over the past year of political harassment, arrests and trials. 15 supporters held a protest outside the court, standing with the banner of the Glasgow Defence Campaign (Don´t panic – organize!) and distributing leaflets to the many working class people coming and going through the revolving doors of sham Scottish justice.

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Strathclyde Police - Back Off! - 02 Oct 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! condemns the open political policing that was employed on Saturday's Scottish Trades Union Council march from Glasgow Green to Kelvingrove Park. Throughout the march people were harassed and stalked by lines of officers intent on provoking a response from the peaceful protestors. Coalition of Resistance supporters were taken aside by officers and warned to behave, IRSP Alba and John Brady Society followers were questioned for flying a Starry Plough flag and a Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC) supporter, who has been targeted on previous protests, was detained by officers for condemning political policing as the march passed Cranstonhill Police Station, 945 Argyle St.

The following video captures the scenes as the arrest took place only for him to be de-arrested due to the popular will of the protestors.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! sends its solidarity to the people who left the march and successfully secured our supporters release. As the targeted comrade said after re-joining the march 'a victory for one is a victory for all!' FRFI will continue our role in the Glasgow Defence Campaign to make sure the actions of Strathclyde Police are recorded, publicised and organised against.

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Fighting the cuts in Glasgow / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

In Glasgow, campaigns against the cuts have been successful in getting increased support from working class people. However, in a significant development, these campaigns have encountered undisguised hostility from those whose support they might have taken for granted – the trade unions and the main organisations on the Scottish left.

On 22 June Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Glasgow joined a successful occupation of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offices on Cochrane Street in the city centre. The direct action had been organised by the Black Triangle disability rights group and the Citizens United campaign, with the support of carers from the Save the Accord Centre campaign. The action had been called to highlight and oppose corporate tax evasion which is estimated to be worth £120 billion a year.

In an attempt to block the action, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the recently-formed Scottish Coalition of Resistance (COR) not only withdrew their earlier support for the action the night before, but demanded that the action be called off on the grounds that it would be intimidating for HMRC staff. At a COR meeting following the occupation, Derek Thompson, PCS national executive committee member and Scottish PCS Chair, and a supporter of the socialist organisation Solidarity in Scotland, argued that direct actions against HMRC offices should be run past the PCS in future on the grounds that the union could organise its members to show support; in reality he meant so that the PCS could stop them.

A perfect opportunity to organise this support came on the 30 June when the PCS held a one-day national strike to preserve working conditions and pension rights with a rally in George Square. However, exposing his real intent, Thompson opposed a call to join with disabled activists on a march to a nearby Atos Origin health care centre, where sickness benefit claimants receive punitive and degrading assessments which have forced many off Employment Support Allowance onto the lower Jobseeker’s Allowance. He claimed that the PCS demonstration was purely about pensions and should not be ‘manipulated’ by other struggles! ‘The focus of our dispute cannot be diluted’ he added.

It was not only that the PCS leadership opposed supporting the Atos protest. It also denied supporters of the Black Triangle group and carers from the Save The Accord Centre campaign speaking rights at its strike rally. Finally, both the PCS and COR boycotted a picket of Vodaphone after the rally as well as the demonstration outside Atos Origin, choosing instead to drink away the rest of the day in a nearby pub.

These differences represent the real divisions that exist within the British working class between better-off workers particularly in the public sector trade unions, and poorer sections such as the low-paid, migrant workers, the unemployed and disability benefit claimants. There is no excuse or justification for the stand that the PCS, Derek Thompson or the COR took. They resent any independent movement of the poorer sections of the working class. Given that the trade unions have failed to do anything of significance in opposing the cuts, the PCS and COR have become complicit in the attack on the living standards of the poorest and most vulnerable. It is no coincidence that the deepest cuts are aimed at the groups who are seen as least able to defend themselves. However, the determination of Black Triangle supporters is showing that they will not be trampled over.

Despite this trade union sectarianism, working class people continue to build their struggle against the cuts. On the 4 July the Save the Accord Campaign held a successful rally in the east end of Glasgow with speakers from a range of campaigns including members of the Jaconelli family who were unfairly evicted from their home to make way for an athletes village for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Supporters of FRFI and COR also spoke. The courage and example of ordinary working class people standing up against the ConDem and SNP governments and Labour councils must be the guide to building a movement which fights for the interests of all sections of the working class against all cuts!

Dominic O’Hara

Glasgow - Fighting political policing / FRFI 221 Jun/Jul 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 221 June/July 2011

The fight against the cuts in Glasgow has also become a fight against police repression. FRFI supporters have been harassed, arrested and face court trials for their role in protests last December against tax-evading monopolies and student fees. To oppose this political policing, they have set up the Glasgow Defence Campaign (GDC, http://glasgowdefencecampaign. blogspot.com/), now supported by John Pilger and Ken Loach.

The Save the Accord Centre campaign has now become the most significant struggle against council cuts in Glasgow. The Labour council is demolishing the learning disabilities day centre to build a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Carers, parents and service users from the working class community of Dalmarnock have been fighting for a like-for-like replacement. The council is refusing to build one, citing the ‘economic climate’ while handing over millions to private developers and land speculators. At a protest outside the City Council Chambers on 31 March, 20 police faced 15 demonstrators. As the protest ended, two FRFI supporters were seized by the police and dumped in the back of a police van. One was questioned by a police officer who was due to appear as a witness in a court case against him. The second was threatened with a charge of ‘breach of the peace’.

On 11 April, the GDC organised a protest outside the trial of FRFI activist Dominic O’Hara, who was found guilty of a fitted-up charge of police assault at a student protest on 9 December 2010. During the three days following the trial, two 17-year old activists and three FRFI supporters, including Dominic and his 14 year-old brother, were arrested after police visited their homes. They were charged with breach of the peace at the December protest and released with draconian bail conditions, prohibiting entry into the city centre and the right to assembly. In response, FRFI, the GDC and the Free Hetherington occupation at Glasgow University organised a rally in Glasgow city centre on 16 April. Over 60 people gathered to explicitly condemn the actions of Strathclyde police and the attack on anti-cuts organisation. On 21 April, the Procurator Fiscal dropped charges against seven activists including the O’Hara brothers.

To raise the profile of the fight against political policing, FRFI supporters joined the annual May Day march through Glasgow and ap­proached Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, to support the GDC. To his credit, Mc­Cluskey agreed, and gave special mention of the work of the GDC in his speech at the end. He sent the message to Strathclyde police – ‘Keep your sleazy hands off our kids!’ It shows that principled, public campaigning can achieve widespread support. For the moment at least, Strathclyde police have backed off.

A few days later, on 12 May, FRFI joined the Accord campaigners once again outside Glasgow City Chambers, disrupting a meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee. Protesters stood with masks over their mouths and placards demanding ‘Break the media silence!’ and ‘Glasgow Labour council – shame on you!’ Grace Harrigan, whose son uses the centre, told FRFI ‘Every Labour councillor in the East end and Glasgow city council are responsible, they refuse to return our calls.’ Mary McArthur, whose daughter is also a centre user, spoke about press hostility: ‘The papers called us hecklers – that we were a rent a mob – they made no mention of who we are or what is going on.’ FRFI has established a new blog to detail and oppose the cuts: http://nocutsfullstop.blogspot.com

Paul Mallon and Joey Simons