SAT 1ST MARCH 2014: A DAY FOR SOLIDARITY
With several rallies, a London march against government and corporate corruption and injustice, and Sydney’s Mardi Gras having a strong whistleblowing Chelsea Manning contingent, the weekend was especially about solidarity, and I was particularly reminded of what Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange supporter, Vivienne Westwood, is known for saying:
“everything is connected”
(SEE Vivienne’s climate revolution blog here and follow on twitter @climate_rev)
So begin here with the connections:
THE ARREST AND DETENTION OF MOAZZAM BEGG
Last week was overshadowed by the sudden arrest (albeit after constant harrassment, having his passport taken away etc) of Moazzam Begg, director of Cage, human rights advocate, and Guantanamo torture survivor who successfully (well, they settled out of court to avoid public scrutiny -any scrutiny – of the evidence) sued the British Govt for complicity in his torture.
Instead of keeping his head down and avoiding the spotlight after his 2005 release, he has not ceased to fight for justice for people caught up in the WoT, and to follow lines of investigation about further instances of British complicity in rendition and torture. And he has always been quite open about this.
For more info read this press report from Cage just after Moazzam was arrested. And this post from Yvonne Ridley for more on why it’s awful convenient for the authorities not to have Moazzam at large at the moment.
And here is Cage’s press release in response to the charges preferred on Friday.
Moazzam Begg has, of course, been remanded in custody…and we all know how long they can drag that out for…
So, to PREVENT. And more connections.
JULIAN ASSANGE DISCUSSING CAGE’S REPORT ON ‘PREVENT’
The video below is Julian Assange, speaking on 10th Feb about Cage’s recently released comprehensive report entitled The PREVENT Strategy: A Cradle to Grave Police State.
PREVENT is the counter terrorism policy or programme set in motion after 2005 to monitor, surveil and encourage informing from within, the Muslim community. It has undergone a number of revisions; in 2011, and the latest proposed revision was published in December 2013. Cage say it is
the ﬁrst all-encompassing social policy targeting almost every aspect of Muslim life.
which brings me in mind of this from @emptywheel, where she is discussing an American Judge’s ruling which says it was fine for NYPD to spy on Muslims in a girls’ school…and it wasn’t discrimination because
the motive for the Program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law–abiding Muslims.
like, err, in a girls school.
So, if you take in what that feels like, I guess you would understand something of what’s wrong with PREVENT.
IN IT TOGETHER
But as Julian points out in the talk, although it is, of course, specifically targeting Muslims, who have been singled out, the times they are a-changin. Think mass surveillance, Snowden etc, the assault on press freedom, whistleblowers, and the use of Schedule 7 (anti-terror) to hold David Miranda for 9 hours at the airport. The fact that Sarah Harrison can’t come back here.
Remember the Niemoller quote?
So Cage say
The framework that has been created presents a danger to the civil liberties of all members of British Society and a strategy is required by the whole of civil society to prevent a disproportionate interference with fundamental rights and freedoms
and Julian says
We’re all in this together…
Mass electronic surveillance, just like PREVENT, enables the manipulation of our social fabric and creates a culture of suspicion, fear and informing. 9/11 facilitated a ramping up of funding for, and and secrecy surrounding the regulation (such as it is) and operation of these programmes, and, as Julian points out in the video
PREVENT is operated almost entirely outside any court process and there is no meaningful way for those people adversely affected by it to understand how they might seek redress.
RALLY OUTSIDE W MIDLANDS POLICE HQ
Almost immediately in response to Moazzam’s arrest, a call went out to rally outside W Midlands Police HQ at 12 noon on Saturday. And, despite the short notice, it was very well attended.
And so tra la here comes PREVENT again…
It came to light that West Midlands counter terror officers had spent Friday trying to undermine the rally by visiting Mosques and attempting to discourage Muslims from attending in solidarity.
“Through credible sources we heard that West Midland Police’s Counter Terrorism Unit took to calling an emergency meeting with the Imams of our mosques with the agenda of asking them dissuade people from attending the protest.
Our mosques are scared that if they don’t comply they might be seen as radical…and some mosques have even accepted PREVENT money for activities. We know of PREVENT officers being placed in domestic violence meetings and paying for refreshments for youth projects as a means of accessing information.
Apart from this, they also went to bizarre lengths of fabrication in an attempt to disrupt coach transport by trying to get the person organising it to believe the postcode on the poster was wrong, then that there were major road works &c….please read more here
SUNDAY, OUTSIDE THE HOME OFFICE
Well, none of this was very successful, because, not only was the rally in the Midlands very well supported, but, as you can see from the photo below, there was a further inspiringly large show of solidarity in a demo outside the Home Office on Sunday, again called at extremely short notice (the day before!).
MOAZZAM IN COURT IN LONDON
The Saturday began with Moazzam, who was reportedly in good spirits and smiling, despite an ordeal that must have brought back horrific memories, being remanded in custody, after pleading not guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court to suspected *terrorist* offences connected to Syria.
THEN THE RALLY IN BIRMINGHAM
Then, from noon onwards, at the rally up in Brum, a crowd of around 500 called for Moazzam’s release outside West Midlands Police HQ (where he had been detained)..
Someone read a message from Moazzam Begg’s daughter, who with the rest of her family, had been ejected from their home on Monday and not allowed to return until her father was finally charged late on Friday night. In the short message she reminds us of the ordeal she faced at the age of 6, when her Dad was first seized and taken away from them.
Lots more photos in the Birmingham Mail here
And this photo, showing Moazzam Begg next to Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, was taken at the rally, and tweeted all round the world as a witness, surely, to the fact that we have to understand that we are ‘all in this together’. It was felt by many to be a telling and hopeful sign for unity in the fight against corruption.
which brings us on to:
THE ANTI GOVERNMENT-CORRUPTION MARCH
While the rally in Brum was in full swing, the London March against Government Corruption was gathering in Trafalgar Square, from where the participants planned to march to the Ecuadorian Embassy to show solidarity with Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning etc,
and then continue on to Parliament Square, for a final rally. Twas a lovely clear, sunny day (inspiring, though not warm) and issues that exercised (ha!) marchers were many and varied – austerity and anti cuts; welfare; surveillance; bankers’ bonuses; widening equality; warmongering; fracking; tax-dodging etc. (remember ‘everything is connected’)
Accompanied by the valiant livestreamers keeping those who could not attend in the loop, and stopping every so often to shout ‘Shame on you’ at shops like Harvey Nichols etc, the protesters made music, chanting and singing and blowing whistles, accompanied by a largish police presence.
Here’s the livestream at Harvey Nichols and marching to give you a taster - http://bambuser.com/v/4403205
And there’s also a great short video below with clips from the whole afternoon, courtesy of London FoWL @LonFowl
Some more pictures from the march
Some people went and had an Occupy Assembly on the steps of St Paul’s at 3pm – 2 years since the eviction.
And others walked to the Ecuadorian Embassy where people gathered to shout Free Julian Assange!, and a short message was read from Julian:
It is great to see such a strong anti-corruption rally in London. There is a saying in the financial world that, no matter where corruption starts, it ends in London banks. We know from our work this is true.
I’d love to have been able to join the rally at the start, and so I’m grateful that it came to me, so that I could be a part of it.
Solidarity from the WikiLeaks team, and keep fighting! There is a big year ahead.
Lovely to see such huge crowds chanting Free Assange! when the press have been such absolutely pathetic arseholes this past week. The vitreol is just ridiculous, embarrassing! And talk about not having anything better to do; it’s truly tragic, especially when there’s such a need. As greekemmy says: why don’t they do some real work with the docs? And while we’re on the subject, her beautifully written account of attending the lecture and her disappointment at what it turned out to be, is here.
The march stayed put there for a while, and people caught up with old friends, and then continued to Parliament Square. See links to more pictures below.
And watch this 9 minute video with clips from the march and interviews with some of the participants!
March against Corruption photos featured here from London FoWL @LonFoWL GreekEmmy @greekemmy and mem @MEMSTER1
Finally, to Oz for Mardi Gras
CHELSEA MANNING HONOURED AT SYDNEY’S MARDI GRAS
And last, but not least (and where it is in the time scale I can’t work out), Sydney’s Mardi Gras, where the rain failed to stop all having a great time. A special contingent of prison orange suited whistleblowing marchers were there for Chelsea!