The Bristol NUJ has sent out ‘advice’ to local journalists regarding the ‘Kill the Bill 2’ protest meeting at the Bearpit this Tuesday (21 March) from 5.30pm. And there’s some very interesting framing and attitudes in it indeed:
Our observations and comments on this email are in italics:
Some of you will be covering what’s billed as KilltheBill2, a demonstration on Tuesday next week which marks the second anniversary of the notorious disturbances in which Bridewell police station was attacked and many arrests made.
No mention of police attacking protestors first as plenty of eye-witness statements claim?
We can expect this event to be well attended and it may be the most antagonistic public order event in Bristol since the attack on Bridewell.
Surely the most anatagonistic protest since Avon and Somerset Police assaulted protestors outside Bridewell?
There may also be hostility towards the media from a minority of protesters.
Really? Surely the hostility towards journalists came from police, with at least one local editor being arrestedlast time?If protestors are ‘hostile’ to journalists it’s usually because they’re being filmed for clickbait articles. This film can be and is seized to use as evidence to lock protestors in Bristol up for a long time through abuse of the Riot Act. The kind of miscarriages of justice those same local journalists won’t bother reporting. Regardless of who you are or who you think you are, film people at protests and you’re asking for trouble.
The mood may be heightened by the release on Tuesday of the Casey report, expected to show endemic racism, sexism and homophobia in the Met.
Turns out that those of us who have said for years that the cops are a violent racist misogynist gang are correct.
Hence we thought it was worth reminding those attending of some advice to keep safe (not that most of you need it) and to assure you that the union is on hand if you have any concerns.
We have a good working relationship with Avon & Somerset Police and I spoke to Zoe Hebden, force head of comms, today.
They have a relationship with the city’s most violent gang. How cosy.You have been warned.
She’s promised to update me on Monday evening after the police have held a meeting in advance of the event, and if there’s any new information you need to know I’ll email you all again.
For the moment, I’ll reiterate the advice we gave originally.
1. Be very aware of your surroundings. Don’t get into an isolated situation where you could be in danger. Also, don’t inadvertently put yourself in the path of a police charge, or get swept up in moving disorder.
In danger from who?
2. If you want to identify yourself to the senior police officers present they will welcome this. TV crews often stay close to police lines and any journalist can choose to do this if it helps their safety. However, police understand and accept that many journalists will not choose to stand near the police, and many will not want to be identifiable as journalists.
Don’t identify yourselves to senior cops you fools. They’re dodgy and will only try and play you.
3. Police know what a real Press card looks like – thanks to the NUJ, this is now part of their training. They also know that there are fake cards out there, and others of dubious validity. Always carry your card and identify yourself as Press to the police if necessary.
A piece of plastic won’t protect you from a baton in the hands of a certifiable psycho.
4. We hope there won’t be any problems on the night. I thought we had an emergency legal hotline if people did find themselves in difficulty, but on checking I don’t think it’s always active. I will try on Monday to get a hotline set up so people have someone to call for legal advice in an emergency.
5. Here are some more points from the NUJ guidance on covering protests:
• Where possible, buddy up with another NUJ member and watch each other’s backs.
• Make sure that you distinguish yourself from those who are there to demonstrate as much as possible, seeking to make it clear that the only purpose of your presence at the event concerned is to act as a bona-fide, professional, newsgatherer. Professional journalists on assignment as an observer should never take part in a protest.
• If taunted by protestors or demonstrators do not respond to provocation.
What about provocation from the cops, which is far more likely to happen?
• Tell your employer if you’re uncomfortable being sent into a dangerous situation. Ask for a risk assessment. If you’re still unhappy, contact the NUJ.
• If you have concerns about the use of your byline or photo credit raise the issue with your commissioning editor or line manager in advance.
• This is not an environment to send inexperienced, untrained, journalists – certainly not if they are alone.
In that case we suggest 99.9% of the city’s journalists stay away then. Especially if you believe this pro-cop; anti-protestor shite.
Since July last year an NHS Integrated Care Board has been established across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester but not BANES. Because why use the existing West of England administrative area when you can make up another new area instead?
This latest NHS reform, according to their PR, will “bring the NHS together locally to improve population health and establish shared strategic priorities within the NHS”.
Six people, with no explanation of how or why they were appointed or what they’re being paid by us, are serving as non-executive directors on this board to “act in the best interests of patients and the public”.
Those secretly selected to act in our best interests include a Merchant Venturer, UWE boss and overpromoted chiropodist Steve West; Business West bigwig Jaya “Cha-cha-cha” Chakrabarti and a random woman from Wales, Ellen Donovan, who explains she has a “good track record as a Senior Executive in product development”. Neglecting to explain that a lot of that experience was at Debenhams, which went into, er, liquidation for the second and last time in 2020.
Little surprise, then, that this board stuffed with private sector cheerleaders has selected a private sector solution funded by international venture capital for their first initiative to support our local NHS.
Welcome to ‘NHS@Home’, a so-say ‘hospital at home’ scheme where the elderly are discharged from hospital to free up bed space and left to fend for themselves with the aid of a magic box of tech courtesy of leading ‘virtual ward providers’, private firm Doccla.
Far from working in the best interests of patients and the public, however, Doccla are working for profit and to pay back the large capital investment they’ve received from venture capital and private equity firms. What could possibly go wrong?
Conveniently, our Integrated Care Board has deemed trials of their tech solution a success and are now throwing millions at it across the region they’ve invented.
Shame, then, that word on the ground from NHS workers implementing the tech is that it was far from a success. They say that the elderly, unsurprisingly, struggled to understand how to work the Doccla box of tricks and require a huge level of in-person support that simply isn’t there.
In the brave new world of private equity involvement in the NHS, do we just have to cross our fingers and hope no one dies as public money turns to private profit?
Yesterday saw another poorly attended march around Broadmead as part of a “global day of action for climate justice.”
The usual liberal suspects bearing ‘witty’ homemade placards were joined by unions, the Labour Party and the Green Party, all touting a version of “the Green New Deal”. Where large sums of commercially confidential public money will be handed over to struggling corporations with no questions allowed to provide profitable market solutions to the climate crisis.
Under the ubiquitous straplines “net zero” and “just transition”, some of the most unjust organisations and institutions on the planet – that created climate change in the first place – are now going to solve it for us (for a fee)!
The BRISTOLIAN’s position on this hasn’t altered on this since 2014 when there was also a “a global day of climate change action” during a UN conference in New York City to organise a climate conference. We said then:
Any response to climate change requires a new mass social movement and the dismantling of existing elites and their interests, not some crude rearrangement betweeen these elites (who have already trashed the planet) backed up with a novelty global PR campaign aimed at GUILT TRIPPING US.
If we want to protect humanity from climate change, we have to TAKE CONTROL of business and industry ourselves, not leave it to profit-hungry corporations or a bunch of rich hippy clowns. We don’t want a nicer shinier ‘green capitalism’, we want to DESTROY it, their class system and protect our future in one shot. You know it makes sense
While MPs and the media wring their hands and weep over a stabbed tory, it was not lost on us that during the same week it was reported in The Guardian that “[a] University of York study found that there had been 57,550 deaths due to austerity in the four years following 2010.”
This is slightly less than the British Medical Journal reported in 2017. They linked an extra 120,00 extra deaths to austerity cuts. These are not the only studies and the figures differ slightly but they all show a lot of deaths of the poor and ill.
This MP, who everybody said was a good bloke and cared deeply for his constituents, voted time and time again for cuts to welfare and services. But there’s hardly a word in the mainstream press about any deaths due to this. Not a single crocodile tear was shed in Parliament. No one minute silence for any human being lost to their families early due to decisions in Parliament.
What this one death means, at the hands of a lone nutter, is more security measures and less opportunity to engage directly with your MP. Not that that achieves much anyway.
The eagle-eyed might have noticed that the Tories are also trying to curtail our rights to judicial review. Even David Davies – remember that old twat? – calls it “an assault on the legal system” and “an attempt to avoid accountability”. But why the need to hold our leaders to account?
Well, deaths from austerity might be one reason. Another is that the Tories have just voted not to stop pumping raw sewage into our rivers. Apparently, it’s too expensive for the poor companies in charge of our water supplies who have already paid out billions in dividends to wealthy shareholders.
This vote came after our new-found freedoms thanks to BREXIT and the end of European environmental protections. Now we are free to swim and fish in our own shite. Not that we could have known because the government are refusing to allow access and scrutiny of any legal advice relating to BREXIT.
How has BREXIT gone so far? We have Northern Ireland, labour shortages, empty shelves, increase in prices, businesses going bust and disputes about fishing. We also have the £350m per week for the NHS but the Tories forgot to tell us that we would be paying that with National Insurance increases, which hits the low-waged worse. So that’s alright then.
And who needs scrutiny over the government’s response to COVID, the worse pandemic in living memory? That all started with the lack of PPE in care homes and the overstretched NHS releasing COVID positive patients into care homes.
The contract to oversee test and trace was given to Dildo Harding. The app did not work. They did not employ enough tracers but did spend £22 billion on consultants. Some racking up more than £6k a day, while Dildo Harding didn’t do too bad in her pocket either. I wonder how many of these twats vote Tory? In the meantime we have the highest death rate per head in Europe.
All through the pandemic the Tories handed their mates and donors contracts for millions of public money. Mainly to do stuff that they couldn’t do while ignoring the underfunded NHS who had the skills and resources to complete the tasks the private sector fatcats couldn’t.
Like testing. We have all heard about the 43,000 wrong results given for PCR tests in the South West. But then we are told that this has nothing to do with the sudden surge in cases. Really?
Who suffers? Us. Again. If they bring back a lockdown, it will not affect those in their country piles, fancy townhouses and gated communities. It will be us, in our tower blocks, terraced houses and apartments with a lack of living space. All watched over by state sponsored muggers, better known as the old bill, trotting about giving out fines.
There’ll be no chance of public scrutiny and don’t think public protest will be welcomed. Instead, the Crime and Policing Bill is curtailing your rights to peaceful protest. Not that the old bill ever lets you have a peaceful protest. They wade in as soon as it’s dark.
Like the recent Kill the Bill protests in Bristol. Remember how cops claimed to the press that they were provoked and injured by the violent protesters? Then later they had to admit that there were no significant injuries among the coppers on duty that night? A fact which received considerably less press.
Although the press did manage lots of outrage against anyone caught up in the police attack. Some have received serious prison time, including two women, who were kettled and needed a piss. Nine months each. Needless to say they were not granted Legal Aid and, like most working class people now, they had to defend themselves in court against a criminal charge.
It’s all a right mess and we are the victims. At the beginning of COVID, a leaked after dinner speech by a chinless Tory spoke of “useless eaters” in the care homes. They mean you and your family.
Around two-hundred Bristol City council staff will be transferring to the Teckal company Bristol Waste on 1 June (Bristolian Passim). UNISON remains wholly against it.
After failing to persuade the Labour administration not to go ahead with this, UNISON and the trades unions Unite and GMB have tried to persuade the two employers to adopt a position colloquially known as TUPE++. That is TUPE with further protections based on the protections they had previously enjoyed.
The employers have refused all our requests. The decision to not meet us half way or make any concessions at all pretty much sums up not just UNISON’s relationship with the employers but the other unions’ as well.
In previous statements we pointed out that ‘Terms and Conditions’ are only some of the rights held by staff and that other rights written into policies will not transfer. So we have just been told that the rights within the ‘Code of Practice on Investigations’ (if you remember the Greens tabled a question to full council about it recently) will not transfer to Bristol Waste. So the right (in black-and-white) to see evidence against you in an investigation before you are interviewed is removed.
The matrix for what you will and won’t receive is quite complicated and although we are not saying you won’t receive fairness at Bristol Waste, we can’t see any compensatory policy for our staff for the removal of such a right.
Nor will the sickness policy transfer. How many absences someone can have before being dismissed will be based on Bristol Waste and not BCC policy. The Bristol Waste policy is based on the’ Bradford Factor‘ which we don’t think has a very good reputation.
We have been accused of not knowing what we are talking about (even by the press) and we will take no pleasure in saying ‘we told you so’, which we expect to be saying often in the months to come.
We discussed ‘measures’ transferring to Bristol Waste and we failed to persuade them to make any changes at all. We agreed that Bristol Waste is ACAS compliant. but we see ACAS compliancy as an absolute minimum a civilised society should tolerate. We are dismayed to find that the powers-that-be find ACAS minimums to be satisfactory.
Our call to our members in cleaning to contact us has had very little response. We can’t go forward without consulting with you, so please get in touch if you want us to take action. Our response from security has been pretty good and we will be organising further action with you – if you give us your consent – in the future.
The violence which surrounded the ‘Kill the Bill’ protest on Sunday 21 March catapulted Bristol into national headlines. The predictable outrage and condemnation by politicians and business leaders was magnified by gruesome statements (now unmasked as lies) coming from Avon & Somerset Police of officers with ‘punctured lungs’ and ‘compound fractures’. Meanwhile, the reason for the demonstration, a Tory Bill to repress protests, and the numbers of protestors injured by police in full public order kit, armed with shields, clubs and pepper spray was usefully obscured
After the initial ‘outrage’ news items, journalists began focusing on feature articles which attempted to contextualise the ‘Bridewell riot’. One well-read article ‘A city of protest: Bristol’s history of resistance’ on the BBC website began with the questionable premise that the city was somehow historically exceptional. It claimed that “The city’s counter-culture identity reaches back through the centuries”. This somewhat ludicrous claim was followed by some of the worst historical analysis we have seen for a while. Claiming dubious validity by referencing Mayor Marvin Rees’s controversial History Commission, the article continued by quoting a University of Bristol academic who was “investigating the city’s heritage of protest”. They stated:
There is a long history of protest in Bristol and a radical self-identify is more prevalent here, but why Bristol and not other cities is a difficult point. Bristol has always been a city of protest with an alternative identity that pushes back on those mainstream or established narratives. Protest is very richly woven into the city’s history and I think the people of Bristol today are influenced by that narrative of protest.
Apart from not making much sense (radical self-identify?), failing to explain what period they were referring to and vaguely talking about ‘narratives’ they also claimed that Bristol had “always been a city of protest with an alternative identity”. This begged some questions. What is this so-called alternative identity that Bristol has had for centuries? And isn’t protest woven into the fabric of many cities? Ok…give them a break you might say…let them get into some detail. They did and it got worse.
Centres of protest like Stokes Croft or St Paul’s are a stone’s throw away from more affluent areas like Clifton, where you also have a high student population where people are very interested in a different way of living.
This statement tells us more about the bubble where this academic hangs out than making much sense. Bristol’s centuries long ‘alternative identity’ is reduced temporally and spatially to the last 15 years and to Stokes Croft (which most Bristolians regard as a street rather than an area) with the added bonus of ‘edgy’ St Pauls. A different way of living? Bristol University? Yes, maybe a route to top jobs and wealth for public school and middle-class kids, but hardly a hotbed of counterculture.
Rounding off their contribution, the ‘expert on protest’ jumped to the late eighteenth century claiming “the Bristol Bridge riots in 1793 as the first notable clash with the establishment in the city”. Writing off almost all the 1700s in Bristol suggests social peace in the supposed ‘deferent century’. In reality, as most local historians know, Bristol was riddled with confrontations between crowds and the ‘establishment’ in the ‘riotous century’. From ‘moral economy’ food riots led by women who reduced prices by force, to turnpike riots and wage riots led by the Kingswood colliers and East Bristol Weavers, ‘collective bargaining by riot’ was a fairly normal method of direct action in a deeply undemocratic society.
At this point the article began to really lose its way, Exposing more about the current politics of the BBC and some of the contributing historians than teaching us any coherent history. The following timeline was offered as a guideline to the exceptionalism of protests in Bristol:
(BBC) Timeline of protests in Bristol
1793: The Bristol Bridge riots
1831: Queens Square Reform riots
1963: The Bristol bus boycotts
1980: St Paul’s riots
2011: Stokes Croft Tesco protests and riots
2019: Extinction Rebellion protests
February 2020: Greta Thunberg climate change rally
June 2020: Black Lives Matter protests
As anyone knows who has looked at the history of protest in any city, anywhere in the world, deciding what to include and exclude in a timeline is very difficult as there is so much protest, in so many different forms. Even if we concentrated on one form, say riots, the list would fill several pages and that would be unfinished. Looking at the above timeline, there are huge glaring gaps and massive omissions. So nothing happened over the 132 years between the 1831 ‘reform riots’ and the Bristol Bus boycotts of the 1960s? Really? The number of struggles connected to protest wiped out by the timeline in this period alone is truly remarkable: labour history, women’s history, enfranchisement, education, housing, healthcare, socialism, poor laws, anti-fascism, LGBT history, unemployed marches, communists, soldiers strikes, anti-war demonstrations, prisons etc etc.
As for riots, clearly only those that ‘count’ are to be counted. If the one-day event in St Pauls in April 1980 is alright, why not the two nights of rioting in Southmead that followed immediately after? Or the three nights of rioting in Hartcliffe in 1992 in response to the killing of two residents by police? Or perhaps the Sidney Cooke paedophile riot at Broadbury Road police station in 1998 led by local women? And the Poll tax riots of 1990? If the so-called Tesco’s riot of 2011 gets a tick, why not the massive wave of rioting and looting that occurred a few months later in August 2011 across England?
Is the history of protest being sanitised on the basis of social class and to some extent ethnicity? When St Pauls rioted in 1980 it is justified, when Hartcliffe did, it must be condemned, ignored or belittled. After all, what have working class people got to get angry about? This stinks of liberal politicos and academics with a social-democratic narrative trying to control the historical agenda of what is acceptable protest and what isn’t. This becomes clearer later in the article when we are informed:
Protests like the Bristol Bus Boycott were organised with clear aims and strategies which minimises demonstrations turning into something different.
I guess the ‘something different’ was a reference to the Bridewell ‘riot’ on the previous Sunday. A pattern is beginning to emerge, sensible, peaceful, organised, Bus Boycott campaign good….Anti-police bill demonstration bad. This assumes, of course, that peaceful protest works? Does anyone remember the massive CND demonstrations of the 1970s and 80s when millions marched legally, sensibly and peacefully to try and stop the introduction of first-strike nuclear weapons and the potential for mass destruction? Failure. Or the Stop the War marches of 2003 when millions marched legally, sensibly and peacefully to stop the invasion of Iraq? Failure. Compare that with hundreds of thousands breaking the law by refusing to pay the Poll Tax, storming city councils and famously rioting in London in 1990 which finished off the ‘Community Charge’ and led to the fall of the Thatcher cabal of right-wing nutters. Or thousands of miners going on strike, shutting power stations down and physically confronting the police in the 1970s which brought the anti-Union Tory government down. Or the Black Lives Matter protestors solving a century-long festering sore by pulling down the Colston statue after years of failed petitioning and peaceful protests.
If you think the historical debate is irrelevant to the protests around the Police Bill then fair enough. However, Bristol’s elected Mayor disagrees with you. In a Facebook video addressed to the city the day after the first protest at Bridewell Marvin Rees stated:
I absolutely condemn the violence we saw in Bristol last night. It was a display of selfish, self-indulgent, self-centred violence by a group of people who were looking for any opportunity to enter into physical confrontation….We have a history of politically significant protest, like Chartists and Suffragettes protesting for emancipation, trade unions striking and campaigning for jobs and rights at work. This was not that. Last night’s action was politically illiterate and increases the likelihood of the policing bill passing. The riot is not worthy of being mentioned alongside the very legitimate debate about the bill…..We won’t allow these people to hijack our city’s story.
Despite the obvious fact that the violence outside Bridewell meant that the ‘legitimate debate’ about the ‘Policing Bill’, which had been hardly publicised, was suddenly all over the media and forced politicians to start commenting on it, there were some more worrying signs in Rees’s statement. Odd as it seems, Rees appears to have appointed himself judge of what is ‘acceptable’ protest both now and in the past, and guardian of the ‘city’s story’ (whatever that is). Several commentators have noticed this Orwellian turn from the present to the past (and we suppose to mapping out the future) and the contradictions inherent in his statement. My advice is if you are going to set yourself up as the judge of ‘acceptable protest’ then at least read some history.
If the Suffragettes are ‘good’ then is Rees suggesting that mass campaigns of criminal damage, arson and bombing are the way forward for the Anti-Policing Bill protesters? If the Chartists are ‘good’ then would planning for an armed Republican insurrection and forming your own organised and armed force to deal with the Police on demonstrations be useful strategy and tactics for the protestors? If Trade Unions are good then would Rees support mass strikes over Bristol City Council redundancies due to austerity measures?…. Like fuck he would. It looks to me like Rees has either swallowed a sanitised, social-democratic historical narrative or that he really doesn’t know what he is talking about.
There may be an explanation to Rees’ turn to the historical and that is his flagship committee. The ‘We are Bristol (University)’ History Commission set up in the wake of the pulling down of the statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June last year. Perhaps this has spurred him to learn about some ‘radical history’. The irony, of course, is that it was a ‘bad protest’ that forced the Mayor to take the issue of the city’s contested history seriously after years of ignoring it. Will the ‘We are Bristol (University)’ History Commission try to become the arbiter of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protest history whilst itself being the product of what it would call a ‘bad’ protest?
For many of us who spent years challenging the sanitisation of the history of Edward Colston by City elites the move by Rees and his ‘academics in tow’ to now sanitise and ring-fence the history of protest in Bristol when faced by a real and vital protest movement is both ironic and dumb, but also boringly predictable.
Green party Mayoral candidate re-writing history! See his tweet – some hilarious comments
The Bristol 24/7 article demonstrates how desperate the bosses, state & middle class are to de-escalate the situation so we’re all peaceful –
– quote “Teams of officers with riot gear were poised well out of the way…”. Yeah like 75m away hiding in the NCP carpark next to Bridewell (with spotters on the roof), also 6 vanloads nearby in Deep St.
People gathered at College Green last week to protest a part of the ‘Police Crackdown Bill’ that targets the Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma community. The bill gives the Police new powers to fine and imprison people, simply for residing in a vehicle at the side of the road. It also gives Police the power to confiscate the homes of people they ‘suspect’ will commit trespass at some point in the future. The bill effectively bans and criminalises anyone who lives nomadically – whether through culture, choice, or necessity.
The protest began peacefully with people sat on the grass around tents and placards. The atmosphere was relaxed and calm as speeches were made, people danced, and others laid flowers and lit candles for Sarah Everard at the memorial to her. From here, ‘Chloe’ takes up the story. This is her full statement:
My name is Chloe. I was at the ‘Kill the Bill’ peaceful protest on College Green last Tuesday. My grandad was part of the Traveller community. I wanted to go along to show my support for the Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma communities threatened by the bill. I also wanted to take flowers to the Sarah Everard memorial. I have been working so much lately, I haven’t had the chance to go. I went with my friend Sophie. We are both shop workers from Knowle, Bristol. I am 25, Sophie is 22.
We placed our flowers and stood there reading the messages. Although it was sad, I felt so moved by the memorial and all the flowers and messages people had left there.
We had been there for about 20 minutes when a gang of riot Police ran up to us from behind. They started smashing up the memorial. They were kicking and stomping on the flowers and teddy bears. They were so angry. It looked like they were trying to make a point.
My friend Sophie took a step towards them and said: ‘Please don’t… this is a memorial for Sarah Everard’. The Police Officer said: ‘F*ck Sarah Everard’, and hit her over the head with his baton. The force knocked her off her feet, and her head hit the ground with a thud. As she was laying on the ground, he kicked her in the stomach. I started screaming and a second Police Officer hit me in the face with his riot shield and I fell to the ground. Blood was pouring from my nose.
I couldn’t see Sophie at this point, there were too many legs in the way. I struggled to get to my feet. The last thing I saw was Sophie being dragged off by her hair – completely unresponsive.
I was hysterical and crying at this point. Everything seemed a blur. I eventually found Sophie and she was conscious, but very confused about where we were and what we were doing there.
The next day, we phoned the Police to report what happened. The Officer told us we were lying, and said: ”You’re lucky we’re not arresting you for criminal damage”.
My view of the Police has completely changed. They acted like terrorists. The Officers should be punished for what they did to us, but I don’t think they will”. [Statement Ends]
We showed this statement to Bristol Mayor – Marvin Rees. He has refused to condemn the violence meted out to Chloe and Sophie, and said in a statement: ‘Police in Bristol have shown they are capable of managing protests well and with sensitivity’.
We also sent Chloe’s statement to all four Labour MP’s in Bristol; Kerry McCarthy, Thangam Debbonaire, Karin Smyth, and Darren Jones. Each one refused to criticise or condemn the actions of the Police. Not one of them offered any kind of sympathy or regret at the way Chloe and Sophie were treated.
An unelected, unaccountable group of corporate chancers calling themselves the ‘Bristol City Leaders group’ have heaped praise on the Police saying: ‘We have complete confidence in the way Police have acted’. Despite many not actually living in Bristol, they have taken it upon themselves to speak for all of Bristol, as they proclaim: ‘The protestors are nothing but thugs who demean us all’.
We showed Chloe’s statement to five members of the shady ‘Bristol City Leaders group’, who some say is just a rebrand of the Merchant Venturers. These include: Ben Lowndes (Social – Communications Consultancy), Oona Goldsworthy (Brunel Care), Professor Steve West (Vice Chancellor – UWE), the Bishop of Bristol – Vivienne Faull, and Andy Forbes (Principal of City of Bristol College). We asked if they would consider retracting and disowning the group statement. They all declined. They also refused to add their names to growing calls for an independent inquiry.
Bristol City Council’s ‘Women’s Commission’ recently led a campaign called ‘Bristol, a zero-tolerance city’ which encouraged bystanders to ‘report violence against women, and raise awareness of gender-based violence through staff training’. We showed Chloe’s statement to several members including Vice-Chair Anna Smith, who is also CEO of women’s charity ‘One25’. Shockingly, Anna Smith declined to condemn the Police, and refused to include ‘One25’ in a list of organisations calling for an independent inquiry.
We showed Chloe’s statement to a serving Police officer in the Avon & Somerset Police. This is his reply:
”I can honestly say, in over 30 years service I have never witnessed such violence and brutality as this week. The total lack of professionalism and disregard for rules and procedure is astounding. Chloe’s statement is sickening to read. I am amazed she isn’t seriously injured. Their actions were deplorable. I watched the footage from that night. I saw a Police officer punch a woman in the face without any provocation. He was twice her size and strength. There is no justification in the way she was hit. Just mindless thuggery.
I watched the footage of a man taking repeated blows to the head. Even as he lay on the ground dazed, the officer continued to reign down blows of his riot shield. That is what would be classed as inappropriate use of the shield. He was out of control.
It sounds hard to believe right now, but there are some good people in the Police. Our job is extremely difficult at the best of times. We rely on the consent of the public. It’s not just a phrase, our job would be impossible without it. What makes me angry, is the fact that in the 80’s, the Police had a very toxic relationship with some parts, and some communities in this city. Since then we have worked bloody hard to repair that relationship and gain the trust and good will of those communities. Now it seems all that hard work has gone down the drain in the space of 7 days. I think there needs to be a proper inquiry, and Superintendent Mark Runacres needs to go.
The Police officers responsible for violent conduct should be sacked and prosecuted for assault. Some serving officers are a danger to the public. They should not have been recruited in the first place. Senior Police at the A&S are well aware of this”. [Reply ends]
Cleo Lake – Candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, led calls for an independent inquiry into Police conduct. Via social media she said: ”I advocate the need for an urgent meeting & dialogue between Police and protestors to find a way forward if possible, in addition to the independent inquiry into the latest Bristol Protest. We must absolutely condemn the level of unnecessary Police violence witnessed in our city. We must have policing by consent. To all those peaceful protesters battered, I’m sorry this has happened to you. It is not, and will never be ok”. A link to Cleo Lake and Sandy Hore-Ruthven’s official statement is below.
Bristol Lib Dems defended the right to peaceful protest, and called for an inquiry into how the policing was handled. Their statement reads: ”We have seen violence from a minority of protestors. However, the response by Police officers was disproportionate and excessive, which is also unacceptable”. This is an excerpt. Link to full statement below.
A group of 16 Labour council candidates published an open letter saying: ”We are deeply concerned about the videos circulating on social media which appear to show police using excessive force against protestors. Of particular concern are the reports of multiple journalists being intimidated and in some cases assaulted by the police. We condemn all violence. We absolutely condemn uses of excessive force. These incidents need to be fully, independently investigated and those responsible held to account”. This is an excerpt. Link to full statement below.
Bristol Women’s Voice have added their name to calls for an independent inquiry, saying in a statement: ”BWV are deeply concerned by the images of violence at the protests over the last week and horrified by the experiences of aggression we have heard about from women who have contacted us directly.
We condemn all violence – this is never the way – and we support the call for an independent inquiry into police behaviour”.
Discrimination and prejudice experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities has been called ‘the last acceptable form of racism’. Possibly the most sinister part of the ‘Police Crackdown Bill’ empowers the Police to confiscate GRT homes at the mere suspicion of future wrong doing. If GRT families are suddenly made homeless, the state has a legal obligation to remove their children and place them into care. People who remember ‘Dale Farm’ know it is not simply a case of buying some land and setting up camp. England has some of the strictest planning laws in the world. With GRT people unlikely to satisfy Local Authority criteria to get a Council house – they could be in for a long wait for housing and the return of their children.
Cleo Lake and Sandy Hore-Ruthven’s official statement:
“We should never have been in the energy business,” is the Reverend Rees’s mantra regarding Bristol Energy. The deranged energy reselling wheeze delivered courtesy of a pair of hapless elected mayors and a supporting cast of idiot senior council bosses and greedy private sector troughers that has cost the city an estimated £50 MILLION during a long period of austerity and public service cuts.
But why, if we should never have been in the energy business, is the Reverend now setting up ‘CITY LEAP‘, a “billion pound” public-private vehicle to decarbonise the city? Or is “the delivery of a local interconnected, low carbon, smart energy system in Bristol that provides long-term social, environmental and economic benefits for its residents, communities and businesses” not “the energy business”? If not, what is it?
This latest Bristol City Council energy project, which, like the last one, is promising social, environmental and economic benefits to the city is also, like the last one, shrouded in mystery. Albeit an even more EXPENSIVE mystery with the best part of £10million already shifted to the private sector to pay for legal and procurement consultants who have finally delivered a shortlist of three multinational corporate ‘partners’ for the project.
But what is this project? So far, we understand, the council will be handing over their limited number of ENERGY ASSETS – mainly some half-finished city centre heat networks and wind turbines to a multinational company to “implement competitive heat retail and competitive heat generation across the heat network”.
In English that means the multinational will be making A PROFIT from public assets by charging the competitive rate they choose to supply energy from our public infrastructure. However, this is nowhere near a “billion pound” project, which makes some recent announcements from the council’s housing department rather interesting.
They say, “Housing recently assisted the City Leap team with updating and revising documentation for the City Leap project, which included the INFORMATION ON OUR STOCK and the potential OPPORTUNITY for improvements to net zero. Housing will continue its liaison with the City Leap team and notes the significant benefits that having a pre-procured partner for project delivery and, potentially, investment could have on the rapid roll out of carbon reduction programmes.”
In other words Bristol City Council Housing Service intend to sign A CONTRACT IN ADVANCE with a multinational to retrofit all their council homes. Then should any large government grants for retrofitting council homes roll in to the council – such as through a ‘GREEN NEW DEAL‘ – they’ll roll straight out again and offshore to a corporation who can charge whatever they want and do whatever they want.
They’ll be no competitive tendering; no local opportunities; no local profit and little democratic control over any housing improvements or the public funds for them. This could, potentially, amount to tens, if not hundreds, of MILLIONS in grants.
Of further concern is another missive from the council’s housing department, “it is anticipated that the retrofit of domestic properties will be included in the program of works delivered by the City Leap Energy Partnership. The REQUIREMENT to retrofit domestic properties is essential to the decarbonisation of heat and to achieving carbon neutrality.”
Is this a reference to privately owned homes? And what is this “REQUIREMENT to retrofit domestic properties”? A project that might well cost that magic “billion pounds”. But how will home owners be “required” to retrofit their homes? Will this have to happen through the council’s multinational partner? Do homeowners pay or do the government pay? Can homeowners be FORCED in to debt to meet this new “requirement”?
Will households in the city end up INDENTURED to some faceless multinational corporation so that the council can live the green dream while delivering an extravagant pay day to a lucky corporate? Is the plan, this time, that the council’s foray into the energy business dumps the inevitable huge losses directly on to us?
Unlike our own pathetic version of a ‘socialist’ Mayor here in Bristol, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo of the tiny town of Marinaleda (population of less than 3000) in Andalusia, Spain, gets up every morning to take control of yet another piece of privately-owned but idle property with his fellow townsfolk, or redistributes produce to those in need by immediate requisition from city supermarket chains. And he also succeeds, simply by using the principle of “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs”, relentlessly using militant direct action and leading by example from the front.
In a poverty-stricken region of Spain with 35% unemployment – the people of Marinaleda have only 5% due to local initiatives. The once idle, privately owned land is now owned communally (seized originally through land occupation) and farmed collectively. They also now have their own democratically-run primary and secondary schools for the kids, their own community radio station, and best of all, the hated local police force are not allowed into town.
Now compare and contrast with the wealthy metropolitan city of Bristol where you can’t get a council house for love nor money: but in Marinaleda you get a full grant to build your own high quality council house to any specs you like, getting expert help and the building materials for free, and then afterwards you pay onlythe equivalent of £13.50 a month! ___________________________________________________________________
IN FEBRUARY of this year, two activists from Bristol (Y and Z) travelled to Marinaleda on spec, hoping to interview this inspiring character. “We were starting to despair of the mayor having any time for us,” said Activist Y, “as he was so busy with his work for the community”. However, the day before their arrival they finally managed to contact him on the phone, where according to Activist Z, “he said only two words: ‘Diga me’ (tell me), and once he’d heard what we were about, he boomed out just one extra word: ‘Venga!’ (come!)”.
Below is the transcript of their interview with a very different sort of Mayor:
Activist Y – How did the Marinaleda socialist project start?
Mayor Gordillo – It started with a struggle against unemployment. Fighting land ownership was the best way forward for solving unemployment, because in rural Andalusia just 2% own 50% of the cultivatable land and we realised that we were not going to get anything through charity. We had to seize the initiative by taking direct control of the land and the means of production. So we fought continuously for 12 years and did many things from hunger strike to occupation to get the land back. King Juan Carlos and those other rich scum haven’t forgiven us, because for the first time in the history of Andalusia we managed to get back our land and to keep it. So there we were, the forgotten poor, facing off against the government, the judges, the police and the landowners, and we got our land back.
Activist Y – What approach was in your opinion the most successful?
Mayor Gordillo – The success came from fighting; each struggle never stopped until we got a victory no matter how small it was. That made people motivated enough to struggle on for the following success and then the one after that. It helped people to forget what they hadn’t been able to get, and to remember what they had gained.
Activist Y – What problems have the community encountered, and how have they resolved them?
Mayor Gordillo – The problem is that when people start getting land and the government or the landowner concedes a few crumbs from the table, they start feeling like masters – without actually being masters. Peasants who didn’t have anything before now have some rights, but it can breed complacency. Another problem is the concept of work. If one person has a wage and another hasn’t one at all, this creates division. The other problem is maintaining people’s unity amidst a constant barrage of consumer culture. We have been gaining ground slowly, recently discussing with people for example how we can possibly pay the [central government] taxes, or whether we could even stop paying them at all, so this is how the battle continues. But the capitalist system is always a thief, and is exploiting us more than ever before.
Activist Y – Have the ideas of Marinaleda had any influence across the region, or even into any other parts of Spain?
Mayor Gordillo – In some places yes, but I wish we had more influence across Spain and in the world, and that people paid proper attention to what we say instead of seeing us as a freak show. It’s terrible how the public is deceived – they don’t seem to realise that by buying things, they get bought. But people like us who don’t buy this con and who’d rather spend our lives fighting don’t have to follow that life. Through struggle, you learn not to be afraid of anything.
Activist Y – How do you plan out the allocation of land and housing in Marinaleda?
Mayor Gordillo – Those who don’t have a home receive the materials to build them. 350 houses have been built in this way in the town centre. They are each 90 metres square, and each has a further 100 square metres of courtyard. A typical council house here has three bedrooms. Except that they cannot sell it, the house is effectively owned by its residential household, who pay 15 euros a month into the community housing fund.
Activist Z – In my city we have many homeless people, so if someone became homeless here, how would you support that person?
Mayor Gordillo – There should not be anyone without housing or food, but if somebody ever needs it, they’ll get it. We can provide all of our people with economic assistance – I don’t think there’s anyone homeless in Marinaleda.
Activist Y – How does wages and money work here?
Mayor Gordillo – Same as everywhere in the world. The ideal was to have our own currency and our own bank, but money works the same as in any other country. What we earn here is more than the standard [over double the Spanish minimal wage], and way over what people generally earn for labouring in the countryside of Andalusia. There are no poor people, but there are no very rich people either. In terms of indirect taxes for sustaining what we have, everyone pays the same. There are no direct taxes that are charged on wealth, as everyone in the village is more or less on the same level economically.
Activist Y – Do you have a TV station for the town?
Mayor Gordillo – We had one, but we had to close it in the end. TV is only good in that it gives you a voice, and that’s very important because mainstream media is run by big capital. Most Spanish channels serve as the voice of the rich. There is no public TV in Spain. We do still have a radio station.
Activist Y – In Bristol, our mayor pretends to be a socialist but he is really just another self-serving careerist and blind follower of the market ideology. For a ‘wealthy’ city, there are many homeless people and much poverty, while the council hires inefficient private companies and high-fee charging consultants to make things worse. The council runs along happily under the model of ‘austerity’.
Mayor Gordillo – There are far too many people who call themselves socialists, but in reality they are capitalists. These things do not sit well together, or at all. Energy, water and housing should be expropriated and turned into public assets. Small businesses can be kept private, but large businesses and the means of production must always be made public, run directly by the workers. TV and radio too. Austerity is driven by the endless search for low production costs. The cheapest labour costs for capitalism currently come from Africa and Asia. Take Amancio Ortega – the richest man in Spain – his textile companies are in Bangladesh and India. There he pays a euro and a half for 10 hours labour without paying any taxes, then he sells on at a huge profit in the US and Europe. Austerity is just a tool to drive the working class everywhere down to the same level of total exploitation and misery. Ortega is a multi-millionaire. If a person gets very rich, then he is a thief. He does not get rich through his own work, but by stealing. Under capitalism the workers always fail, while the idle rich always succeed.
Activist Z – What solutions do you think we could achieve in Bristol? Is there a message we can take back to our own council, or even better to the people they are supposed to represent?
Mayor Gordillo – You won’t get socialism by accepting how things are. You can only achieve what they always tell you is impossible through direct action – by struggling for it, just as we are doing here. Every single city, town or village in the world has the land and resources that can sustain it. Get out there and take back control!
This transcript was translated from the original Spanish recording by two Bristolians: Activist Z (see above), and Activist X, a native speaker.