No to war! No attacks on democratic rights! / FRFI 190 Apr / May 2006

FRFI 190 April / May 2006

As Britain and the US become more bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst threatening Iran, the British government is clamping down on opposition in a myriad ways, ranging from anti-terror laws that criminalise dissent to increasing the powers of ‘street wardens’ to interfere with peaceful protest. FRFI supporters are undeterred and have been on the streets in support of the resistance in Iraq, the Palestinian Intifada, the Cuban Revolution and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Britain.

In the North West, pickets of Marks & Spencer have focused on the slogan ‘Sanctions on Israel not Palestine’ and calling for an end to the British state’s ban on Hamas and the PFLP. At Chester on 4 February police unsuccessfully attempted to deter the protest, pointing to the ‘sensitive’ situation in Palestine after the election. In Manchester on 25 February the regular M&S picket was again attacked by British and Israeli Zionists and fascists. One ex-Israeli army ‘counter-protester’ head-butted a picketer and other activists were threatened. A passer-by used the Zionists’ megaphone to shout ‘vote BNP’, which visibly embarrassed them into putting away the union flag they’d been waving up until then. On this occasion the police were conspicuous by their absence.

On 11 March despite snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures, a successful picket took place in Sheffield, attracting big support for Palestinian democracy.

On 18 March Manchester FRFI joined a militant demonstration called by the General Union of Palestinian Students in response to Israel’s raid on Jericho prison and arrest of PFLP General Secretary Ahmed Sa’adat and over 100 other Palestinian freedom fighters. A large crowd joined in the chanting and Palestinian students gave excellent speeches denouncing the reactionary collaborationist role played by Britain and the US.

FRFI activists in Manchester also continue to work with the Defend Eucharia and Timeyi Campaign (DETC) and on 18 February took part in a well-attended public meeting of the Justina and Yonre Must Stay campaign. Eucharia, who like Justina is from the oil-rich, British-exploited Niger Delta region of Nigeria and has been denied asylum, spoke passionately about Britain’s brutal involvement in Nigeria.

On 10 March DETC and FRFI joined a picket of Home Office Minister Hazel Blears’ Salford surgery, called by the Altaf family, who fled domestic abuse in Pakistan, and have been rejected for asylum and evicted from their home, despite suffering physical disabilities.

FRFI supporters in the North East have also been active in defence of asylum seekers (see page 16). Regular pickets of Newcastle M&S have also continued, and on 18 March FRFI supporters protested against the continuing occupation of Iraq, staging a colourful street theatre under the slogan ‘The rich keep lying, the poor keep dying’.

In Glasgow FRFI have continued to support the weekly pickets of the Home Office Immigration Reporting Centre and is building for the forthcoming march and rally against deportations. On the international day of action against war on 18 March, RCG comrades held the only anti-war protest in Scotland – a lively event joined by local youths and the Hands off Iran Campaign. It was agreed to make this a regular rally point for anti-war activity in Glasgow.

In London on 18 March a lively contingent of FRFI supporters and comrades from the Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Turkey and the International League of Peoples’ Struggles took part in the national anti-war demonstration, chanting slogans against the warmongering racist Labour government. At Parliament Square, claiming to be using the new legislation on protests outside Parliament, the police seized a megaphone from an Iranian group, despite the march clearly being a permitted event.

Locally, policing of campaigners in London is also becoming increasingly vicious. Following run-ins with various types of street warden and police officer in Brixton and Camden, in Wood Green on 25 February plain-clothed council officials attacked an SWP stall, and then rounded on FRFI’s stall when we showed our solidarity with the group being attacked. Campaign material was confiscated and a stall was smashed up and removed by the council’s Heavy Enforcement Team (HET), as the police watched. About 30 people gathered, expressing outrage at this blatant infringement of civil liberties.

FRFI immediately wrote to the council leader and local MP in protest and liaised with other groups to defend our rights by calling for a unified presence. On 11 March the thuggish behaviour of HET towards FRFI, the SWP and the Haringey No to ID Cards campaign was no different but the threats were empty and they didn’t call the police. We will continue to stand up for the democratic right to protest.


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