Defend our Right to Protest: The Olympics and Beyond
Tuesday Harmony Hall, Walthamstow 7-9:30pm.
About 85 people attended.
We watched abut 15 minutes of Ophelia Coutures film about the marsh “Beginning”.
The introduction by the chair was a brief history of the Save Leyton Marsh campaign and the legal and police repression experienced, as well as the repression suffered by students, trade unionists, activists and black and asian working class communities in recent years. She also mentioned the Olympic dispersal order zones in Stratford and in Leytonstone, as well as the use of injunctions in the run up to to the Olympics, against striking bus drivers and traveller families in Hackney.
Caroline Day spoke for Save Leyton Marsh. She spoke passionately about the history of the campaign and how the struggle there was a microcosm and macrocosm of the struggle against the Olympics. She spoke about the legal repression on anti-Olympic campaigners, how local councils/ODA etc aren’t accountable to anyone except the corporate interests and how they treat local people with contempt and the importance of protest and solidarity. Caroline spoke of her love of the marshes, how much people love and need the marshes and the importance of green space in urban areas. She also spoke out against the corporate sponsers of the Olympics, asking us not to forget the victims of the Bhopal disaster and urged solidarity with Simon Moore, as well as all those criminalised because of protest.
Defend the Right to Protest activist Alfie Meadows: spoke about his experiences of protest, the police and police violence at the tuition fees demonstrations last year and the extreme police violence he and many students and protesters experienced and ensuing legal repression that resulted in 20 students going to prison. He spoke of the importance of collective and practical support such as helping those arrested and defense campaigns and how people are more likely to get a positive outcome if they have strong support networks. He also spoke about the necessity of showing solidarity with families of those who have died in custody, such as Sean Rigg and also in support workers who take industrial action. He described the Olympics as a “Spectacle of Wealth and Privilege” which provides an opportunity to protest austerity, capitalism and its impact on everyday life.
Brian Richardson, solicitor and author of Tell It Like It Is: How Our Schools Fail Black Children, questioned why the Olympics was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to regenerate the East End and asked what the actual “Legacy” be: Westfield, full of shops no-one can afford and the migrant communites who had helped build the stadiums and who are a fundamental part of the fabric of the East End, being pushed out so that some rich people could come and watch some sport.? He also spoke about Olympic Myths, the myth that the Olympics is something pure, when actually it is an “orgy of nationalism, politics and commercialism”. He spoke of the importance of collective organisation and solidarity, as well as the importance of protest against the Olympics and its connection to Austerity, poverty and class divides.
Kevin Blowe spoke about Newham Monitoring Project, the Network for Police Monitoring and also the Save Wanstead Flats campaign. He spoke of the necessity of monitoring the police. Newham Monitoring Project has already trained 100 community legal observers for the Olympics and may be doing more trainings in July. He spoke about the Dispersal Order Zones in Stratford for the whole summer and its effect on young people. The Dispersal Order Zone will also be in place during Ramadan, meaning Muslim people moving around these areas breaking their fast could be vulnerable to dispersal. He desribed how often legal processes are intended to suck an individuals or group/campaigns energy and time, also plans for 24-hour fast-track courts for over the Olympic period and its possible implications for protesters and local people.
Simon Moore spoke about his 2 year Olympic ASBO, his experiences of the struggle to Save Leyton Marsh and in particular his very positive experiences of community there.
All present recognised ASBOs against protesting as a dangerous precendent and a tool of repression that we will probably be increasingly used in the crackdown against dissent. Caroline Day read out the Solidarity with Simon Moore Statement which she asked as many people as possible to sign and we all held up our “We are Simon Moore” signs in a simple but visible act of solidarity with Simon.
There were lots of great contributions from the floor from the wide range of people present, including experiences of arrest and the judicial processes, of holding sustained and successful strike action, as well as of police violence against striking workers, the experiences and lessons of the Save Leyton Marsh campaign, the importance of resistance in defense of community and against the cuts.
The key messages seemed to be the importance of community action, organisation and solidarity and collective action. Clear connections were made between the Olympics and Austerity, poverty, oppression, expolitation with the necessity to defend the right to protest and assemble freely a clear priority. Community responses to repression need to include legal observing and police monitoring, as well as practical support and solidarity to people facing arrest/trial/prison etc in the form of legal defence funds, defence campaigns and prisoner support.
£70 was raised for the Save Leyton Marsh campaign, lots of signatures went on the petition. People were told about the Save Leyton Marsh Comedy Fundraiser on the 31st July and also the plans for the reinstatement celebrations in October and a request for people to get involved doing workshops, music etc
Their was a call-out for support and solidarity at the Stop the Missiles demo on Saturday. (PROTEST: Called by Stop the Olympic Missiles – www.stoptheolympicmissiles.org .Saturday 30th June. Assemble 1pm at Wennington Green, Mile End Park, London E3 5SN)
Their was a call-out for support, solidarity and for lots of people to attend the Counter Olympic Network Demo on July 28th. (NO LIMOS! NO LOGOS! NO LAUNCHERS! 12 noon, Saturday 28 July. Assemble Mile End Park, East London. March to Victoria Park for People’s Games for All. A family-friendly protest)..
Their was a call-out for support and solidarity on the 18th of August, when the EDL plan to march through the borough. We are Waltham Forest are co-ordinating resistance against the fascist group promoting division and hatred in our community.
Thanks to everyone who came to the meeting, particularly the fantastic speakers and big thanks to Bill and all who contributed to making the meeting happen. We are hoping that we will be able to organise some legal observing training in the borough as soon as possible and also the distribution of basic legal information. Please get in touch if this is something that you would be interested in or are able to contribute too.