Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Time for a New Magna Carta

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

Police stop a man entering the Eco-Village

Six years ago I went to the start of an event being held to mark 800 years since the Barons forced King Young to sign Magna Carta which placed important limitations on the power of the king and state and set in law important freedoms – at least for Barons. It was followed not long after by other charters which made those freedoms apply more widely.

Police watched me as I took pictures at the Runnymede entrance earlier in the day

The signing took place somewhere at Runnemede, though there seems to be no agreement at exactly where on this relatively wide are of flood plain between Staines where the barons stayed the previous night and Windsor where the king had his castle, though my own choice (on no historical basis) would be Ankerwyke, a little east of Magna Carta Island and to the north of the River Thames which I think back in those days proabably made most of that flat plain the National Trust calls Runnemede uncomfortably muddy.

16 June 2012

Back on 16th June 2012 I’d sat in a circle of Diggers camped nearby on Cooper’s Hill next to the Magna Carta Memorial erected by the US Bar Association listening to a lecturer from Royal Holloway about both Magna Carta and the ‘Charter of the Forest’ issued shortly after, and discussing their plans for the future. A friendly police officer and a man from the National Trust came along to see what was happening and gave us some information about the area

One of the well-organised public areas of the eco-village

There are pretty large areas of unused land in Surrey and the Diggers had come out from a community allotment in Syon Lane in Brentford to make a widely publicised occupation of a small neglected area of Windsor Great Park. Local residents assured them that nothing had been done on this land for many years, but they were served with injunctions and the Crown Estate produced someone to say he was shortly to crop the dense growth of nettles for silage. They moved on, camped overnight at Runnymede and then occupied a piece of land owned by Royal Holloway College. RHUL were fast to serve injunctions though I think 9 years later the land is still not used, but the diggers found a better site a short distance away in the grounds of the former Shoreditch College, which had been sold to a developer in 2007, who had not yet been able to find the cash or get planning permission.

The 2012 meeting decided enthusastically they would hold a people’s celebration of the popular celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta on their site and had done a great deal of planning for it as I saw when I arrived on 12 June 2015. There was also a general agreement that something needed to be done to reclaim civil liberties that have been eroded over recent years with various suggestions for action and perhaps a new people’s charter. The events of 2015 made this very clear – and things including the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill now make this far more urgent.

Vinny’s badge says ‘Who Protects Us From the Police’

What we saw on Friday 12 June 2015 was a completely politically motivated operation against the community and its many friends to prevent their long-planned celebrations of Magna Carta, a charter supposed to represent freedom under the law but here at its very source 800 years ago it was being suppressed in an unfair and arbitrary manner by the forces of the Law.

Another meeting area with a piano

Police or state security had put about fake rumours about a planned ‘rave’ on the football field next to their camp, and claimed to be ‘protecting people’ but I’d seen them clearly refusing entry to visitors to the fenced-off Eco-Village which was a clearly safe place. I listened to one of the officers in charge talking with Phoenix, one of the event organisers and it was very clear not only that he was lying but that he knew he was lying. Reading the Surrey police web site later that evening it made it clear that the police action was a deliberate attempt to prevent the planned festival from going ahead. Together with Surrey County Council they had made an order under Section 63 of the The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which allows police power to restrict access, remove people and issue exclusion orders. It seemed a clear abuse of a law intended for quite different purposes, of stopping illegal raves, and though a number of people were arrested after having been given exclusion orders banning them from coming within five miles of the village, I don’t think any of their cases came to court.

Luke, a trained forester tells me the woods have been neglected

As I left, despite my press card I was also handed a notice of exclusion, though it would have banned me from my home for three days. At the time I wrote:

It would indeed seem a travesty if at a time when we are celebrating 800 years of freedom under the law against the arbitrary power of the state achieved at Runnymede, the authorities should abuse the law by using those arbitrary powers to prevent a people’s celebration of freedom

Although police stopped many and arrested some, others found ways in over the fence and the festival continued though on a reduced scale. The Eco Village residents were summoned to court on the Monday of their festival, when the Queen was attending official celebrations at Runnymede. Few attended and the court refused to listen to their case, simply making an order for eviction, apparently on the basis that the right of private property trumps all other rights. But again the state acted clumsily, and a a few days later Mr Justice Knowles in the High Court ordered a stay of execution accepting that many matters raised by the applicants might not of been dealt with adequately by the lower Court. Interestingly their case included the assertion of rights granted by Magna Carta and its 1217 companion Charter of the Forest as well as the rather more recent European Convention on Human Rights. But they failed to convince the courts that these were a part of our Law, and three months later the High Court issued an order for eviction , which was carried out rather brutally. The site is now a luxury gated village with prices starting around £1.2 million for a 1-bed flat. Some of the residents came to Staines and occupied a former adult education centre which had been empty for some years. They were evicted after around six weeks despite considerable local support for their plans to make the building a local community hub – six years later it remains boarded up and unused.

More at Police threaten Runnymede Magna Carta festival

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Schools Climate Strike

Monday, March 15th, 2021

A bill is currently being introduced into the UK parliament which will severely restrict our ability to protest, giving police new powers to control both static protests and marches. Many of us see it as a major attempt to limit democratic and human rights and a major step in our movement towards a police state. Even the police are worried about some aspects of it. I think there are some aspects which the House of Lords may seek to alter or remove, but given the large Tory majority it seems likely to be passed more or less intact.

The proposals by Home Secretary Priti Patel are widely seen as a knee-jerk right-wing reaction to protests by Extinction Rebellion and the Black Lives Matter movement, and come at a time when Covid restrictions are being widely used by police to prevent protests, even where these seem to present little danger of spreading the virus.

XR promoted a policy of encouraging its supporters to be arrested, and were widely criticised on the left for doing so. In its earlier protests, relatively few of those arrested came to trial and many charges were found to be unlawful – as was the London-wide ban on protests the police later enforced. In later XR protests the Home Office clearly put pressure on police and CPS to ensure that charges were brought and the new bill reflects that much tougher attitude.

We already have a criminal justice system that is failing under extreme pressures, and was even before the extra constraints of Covid. Police are failing to pursue many types of crime and the chances of criminals being caught – always the most effective deterrent – are rapidly falling. In the 12 months up to March 2019, only 7.8% of reported offences in England and Wales led to someone being charged or summonsed – roughly on in every 13 – and unless a crime number is needed for insurance many now think it isn’t worth reporting most crimes. It’s a figure that halved since records were first published only four years previously.

I doubt if this bill will actually have the intended effect of reducing protests, but it will increase the number of arrests and further clog up the justice system – probably leading to the introduction of yet more draconian measures including the loss of civil rights.

Quite how the Old Bill will react in future at protests like the London Schools Climate Strike on Friday 15th March 2019 is a matter for conjecture. If the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill comes into law will they be prepared to undertake mass arrests of minors who refuse to accept direction? Clearly the police (and military) revelled in the freedom and encouragement from Thatcher to wade into the miners, but I hope they will still have sufficient human decency to draw the line when Patel’s orders come to attack children.

Of course what we really need is not to attack climate protesters but to take urgent actions to avoid climate disaster – as the several thousand school students who took part in the Big School Strike for the Future were demanding.

More about the protest at London Schools Climate Strike

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

On the Third Day

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

The rather tense stand-off between police and Extinction Rebellion protesters who were still blocking much of Westminster continued, with the police at times adopting rather rougher tactics, including the deliberate destruction of tents and other property as well as making arrests.

XR’s protest continued to be rather remarkable, with street performers, music and mimes including Charlie X as well as XR’s red and green robed troupes.

People were still determined to continue their protest and it was clear that the police were coming under increasing political pressure to end them, though quite a few officers seemed rather unhappy at what they were being ordered to do.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had attacked the protesters, insulting them as ‘crusties’ but was still failing to take any action. XR’s demands remain, calling for the government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, act to halt biodiversity loss, reduced emissions to net zero and create and be led by a Citizens Assembly.

There were many arrests during the day, with XR’s non-violent approach being maintained, and police succeeded in clearing some of the areas.

Extinction Rebellion Day 3

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Rebellion continues

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The second day of Extinction Rebellion’s shutdown of Westminster was in some respects a disturbing one for those of us who believe in civil liberties and the rule of law, with the police moving in at times like a group of thugs and deliberately destroying the property of the protesters.

XR have a dedication to non-violence and made no attempt to stop the police or to resist the arrests that took place, and the use of force seemed quite uncalled for. Of course large scale acts of civil disobedience do cause inconvenience and annoyance to others, but the response of a civilised society should be to try and resolve the issues rather than to attack the protesters.

Those who break laws can and in the case of XR do expect to be arrested but should not be assaulted and too many arrests that I saw seemed to involve an unnecessary use of violence and deliberate infliction of pain.

One new banner read ‘CLIMATE STRUGGLE = CLASS STRUGGLE’ and it is perhaps hard not to see the police as a force being used by the small group of those who are rich and powerful to protect their own narrow interests at the expense of the rest of the people. Their more vigorous response on this second day of protest can only have been a result of considerable political pressure on them to subdue the protests. They clearly came not to keep the peace but to try and win a battle.

As you can see from my pictures, the protests were still continuing at various sites around Westminster and the general atmosphere was something of a festival. But a festival with a great deal of commitment by people desperate that our government take effective action against the most serious problem faced by the country and the world. We are just beginning to see a government forced into taking belated action against the threat posed by COVID-19, but we need a similar level of action against climate change that otherwise will be even more catastrophic.

‘Everything Will Change’ whether we like it or not, but we have a choice to make changes which may avert the extinction of our species. But our government continues to fiddle while the planet burns.

More at Extinction Rebellion continues.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Boycott Puma

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Back in 1924 the two Dassler brothers founded a shoe factory in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, Germany, the first company in the world to specialise in sports footwear, working together until 1948 when they decided to split the company into two, forming Adidas and Puma, becoming bitter rivals, both still based in Herzogenaurach and producing sports and leisure footwear and clothing. Adidas is now the second largest sportswear manufacturer in the world, and Puma is number three.

Puma sponsors many athletes and clubs in different sports around the world, including Manchester City. InMinds Islamic human rights group protest outside the Puma Carnaby Street store because they say Puma whitewashes Israel’s war crimes by sponsoring the apartheid Israel Football Association which includes clubs from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

The protesters say these settlements constitute a war crime under international law and 215 Palestinian sports clubs have asked Puma to respect human rights and cut its ties with the IFA. Puma has failed to do so.

Inminds supports the human and civil rights of the Palestinian people and campaigns for people to oppose the cruel treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state and by some Israeli citizens, particularly those from some of the settlements who attack Palestinians. It points out the different treatment of Palestinians which amount to an Apartheid system. One of the banners reminds people that on average Israel imprisons a Palestinian child every 12 hours and kills one every 60 hours, and it destroys a Palestinian home every 9 hours. Another poster points to the 221 Palestinian prisoners who have been killed in Israeli jails, either by torture or medical neglect.

Many of those passing the protest were shocked to hear these statistics and others on the leaflets that were handed out, and some stopped to take photographs with the protesters. One man stopped briefly to shout insults at the protesters, and similar protests have often been opposed by Zionist protesters, at times violently as video taken by the group and posted online shows.

A similar protest here in October 2018 came under attack by two well-known anti-Palestinian activists, who in June 2019 pleaded guilty to charges of harassment and threatening behaviour after the prosecution agreed to drop more serious charges of assault. As well as fining one and imposing a community curfew on the other, Hendon Magistrates Court imposed an “indefinite” restraining order on both, barring them from coming within ten metres of three of the pro-Palestinian activists.  

Inminds take pains to avoid anti-Semitic attitudes and comments in their posters and literature and their protests often include Jewish supporters, but they robustly support the human rights of Palestinians and oppose the oppressive restraints of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.

A few more pictures at Carnaby St Puma Boycott.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.