The Grey Matter

April 2011 edition, printable

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on April 23, 2011

For a printable edition of our fabulous new edition (below), click here, and please feel free to print, copy and distribute!

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The Grey Matter April 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on April 23, 2011

Footage from London protest 26th March

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on March 30, 2011

By Ewan Brown:

“In this video I montaged the footage and photos I took from the march on the 26th.

Also I tried to explain clearly to an outsider point of view the situation about the youth and this country. Also how the direct action is justified in an unbiased way.”

Why we don’t want a Tesco in Fenham

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on February 28, 2011

By Roger of the Stop Fenham Tesco Campaign

Tesco are hell bent on building a supermarket in the middle of our hospital. We do have quite a lot of supermarkets and lots of grocers already. Many fenham residents are against it and some have been active in campaigning. The off licenses have been asking customers to sign a petition against it & petitions have also been distributed round the area. There have been lots of objections lodged with the council online.

Now that moral force strategies have been exhausted; we tried asking the council nicely and legally not to make this imposition on our community; the strategy of direct action remains on the table. Tesco have been defeated by direct action in Bristol and by the Imagine a Garden project in Brighton; by occupying the land; by making it fun and useful people exercised their power. Tesco have bought lots of land around the UK and the world and lots of councilors and politicians too. They use their purchasing power to pay the food producers less. They survey the competition and work out which ones they can put out of business then they charge as much as they can get away with. They all pay as little as they can get away with as well. A friend works there and is in the union who meet regularly but don’t exercise much power. Tesco are now a powerful grocer. I think the struggles for cheap food, for good quality food, for better pay, for more power to the workers and for the boycott of apartheid will be easier the less powerful the grocers are. These struggles build the self confidence of working class communities and build the conciousness that we can govern ourselves better than being governed by any council. The Zapatistas Councils of Good Government are an interesting example, as are the CNT systems during the Spanish Revolution. For more infromation, visit The Canny Little Library, Sundays 3 to 7, at the Star & Shadow, Byker!

The Canny Little Library is a small collectively run library stocking radical, informative, alternative books, including sections on politics, global struggles, film, DIY, info for action, Queer, anarchism, art, feminism, workers’ struggles and more.

Do you work at Tesco? Is it horrible? Visit Very Little Helps for support.

“Frankly, the protesters were treated like animals”- the police should reconsider their tactics

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on February 15, 2011

A view from the 29th January Manchester student protest by Patrick McCluskey

After the disastrously policed march in Manchester on Saturday 29th January, many protesters have been left demoralised at their victimisation by both the Police and the media alike. Peaceful protestors were indiscriminately arrested or beaten for simply voicing their opinions; one man was even arrested for taking a photo of a police horse. Reports of protestors’ desires to incite violence and possession of knives were, quite simply, lies. One man was arrested carrying a razor within an overnight bag, and after numerous searches within kettles, this was the only ‘weapon’ seized. This shambolic day could very easily have been a triumph for democracy, had not the protestors been let down both by the march’s organisers, and by Greater Manchester Police.

There was no ‘plan’ amongst the protesters to break away from the main march as ‘Intelligence’ so wrongfully suggests; in fact, with more solidarity from the march’s organisers, the break-off would have been unnecessary and probably would not have happened. Reasoning for the chosen route and rally was unclear and senseless. The route began at Manchester University and proceeded down the ‘Curry Mile’, away from the City Centre. The route then detoured through a suburban area and into Platt Fields Park, for a rally. This field was more than a mile from the City Centre, prompting dismay and disbelief amongst protesters; chants of “why are we in a field?” circulated frequently, but were ignored. The rally itself was a shockingly bad. Aaron Porter ‘spinelessly’ declined to speak as scheduled after being jeered by protesters, despite increasing cries of “Aaron Porter, show your face!” Mr. Porter in stead allowed his deputy, Shane Chowan, to face the crowd in his place; Chowan was rightfully booed off stage after stuttering the same feeble jargon that Porter often displays. Even amongst the other speakers there was little to be gained for the crowd: a representative of the Fire Brigades Union and a speaker from Edinburgh Occupation provided sole relief amidst this bureaucratic sham of a rally. Many of the speakers were the very people who had continuously failed to hold up the left’s views in Government, in Trade Unions and in the NUS, and the crowd well knew it. For these reasons, it was evident to the crowd as a whole that this march was not as it should be, kept quietly out of the way in the suburbs of Manchester. If our views were to be brought before the general public, we knew we had to bring it to them ourselves. It was for this reason that the ‘breakaway group’ marched to the centre; had the organisers of the march been truly on-side, there would have been no need to do so.

The worst was still to come, however, for these peaceful protestors intent on securing their futures. As they marched quickly but peacefully towards the city centre, there were many attempts by Greater Manchester Police to stifle their plight, by force if necessary, or as it turned out, if unnecessary. Police van after police van drove swiftly through the crowd, and many found themselves at a road block which became the first of the day’s numerous police Kettles. Kettling is a police tactic that has suitably been seen as controversial; Kettles induce fear and claustrophobia, cut off access to basic needs such as food and toilet facilities, and, as seen in London, can last for nine hours or more. Above all, however, they are indiscriminate. With their freedom of speech in jeopardy, the crowd saw it necessary to link arms and move forwards as best they could. They did not punch the police. They did not kick the police. They did not draw knives or wield feeble sticks from broken NUS banners. The police reaction to this motion, however, was barbaric. As the line was broken, protesters were apparently unselectively rugby tackled to the floor and beaten.

One protester, a sixth form student named Ben (not his real name), had walked into the kettle unawares; “it was so peaceful”, Ben explained later, “that lots of us had walked into the kettle without realizing that it was one; there was no apparent reason for them to have done it”. When the protesters attempted to avoid this kettle, Ben was one of those unfortunately singled out by the police. In his own words: “One ran at me- I hadn’t got round the police line, and grabbed my face, pulled my hat off, grabbed my bag, and threw me to the floor (I have some grazes, bruises and whiplash in my neck and back from that). He knelt on me twisted one of my arms behind my back, told me I was being arrested and handcuffed me” (…) “He searched me, told me I was being arrested for section 5 public order and asked for my name, address and date of birth. I had been advised not to answer questions before I had spoken to a solicitor, so I didn’t tell him. About 2.45 I as taken to the police station, but just before I was taken the officer who had arrested me said , as if he were doing me a favour, that he had decided to de-arrest me for public order and re-arrest me for obstructing a police officer, which he told me was less serious. I found out later that the opposite is true.” Ben was then kept for nine hours, until quarter part midnight, with no offer of water until 7.30, no visit with a solicitor (until after he was let out) and no phonecall, the latter two of which are in breach of legal requirements. As there was rightfully no evidence against Ben, and therefore no chance of a court case, he was ‘offered’ a fine of £80 to strike the incident from his record.

Ben’s account is sadly one of the many cases which highlight Greater Manchester Police’s failings on this day. Twenty arrests were made, six of them for ‘breach of the peace’, and few of those arrested were charged. Why? Because these arrests were unfounded, indiscriminate, and used as a device to divide and demoralise the attendees of the march.

After Ben was arrested, the protestors marched together as best they could towards the Town Hall, closely trailed by Police in vans and on horses. Horses were used to charge and intimidate people, and ‘Tactical Aid Units’ were used en masse in the City Centre, resulting in a group of around eighty protestors being Kettled on the street near the Hilton Hotel whilst their friends looked on from the other side of the street. This particular Kettle was constricted into a very small space outside a restaurant, with protestors kept in a block around four people wide. (It was outside this kettle that a man was arrested for taking a picture of a police horse.) To prove their lack of ‘violent intent’, the protestors proceeded to sing and dance, and do the hokey-cokey, reflecting the bizarre and unnecessary nature of the Kettle. Notwithstanding, they were kept for at least two hours in temperatures approaching freezing, then let out slowly in twos, upon the condition that their name, address and photograph be taken and that they should undergo a search, presumably for ‘weapons’. What was the need for this gathering of information? These people were not even arrested, and it is apparent that on that day, not much needed to be done to warrant arrest in Manchester. It was simply used a method of intimidation and demoralisation; frankly, the protesters were treated like animals. This treatment is presumably intended to stop protesters from wishing to express their freedom of speech again; in other words, an attempt to control by fear. It was also evident to many protesters that Greater Manchester Police did not have a tangible plan; protesters watching this Kettle outside the Hilton Hotel were shunted one way, then back again, and told to do contradicting things by different Police Officers. This resulted in confusion, but when asked to clarify their desires, many Police Officers declined to explain reasons, or became aggressive. This environment of confusion is not a good way to police any event; as displayed, it can lead to injustices of a very high degree, which are all too often simply swept under the carpet.

We the protestors call upon Greater Manchester Police, and to all other police forces, not to use such grisly tactics in future demonstrations of any nature. In my personal experience, and in the experience of others I have spoken to, I have found that protesters with every intention of being peaceful can be driven by ill treatment to reconsider. I cite the Kettling and Police brutality displayed outside the Houses of Parliament on December 9th, 2010, which resulted in ‘vandalism’ which again could have been avoided, or at the very least scaled down tenfold. To victimise protestors is not legal. To victimise protesters is not practical. To victimise protesters is not democratic, and for these reasons I sincerely hope that the Greater Manchester Police, and other Police forces, will carefully reconsider their tactics when dealing with marches, and avoid further horrendous Police fiascos such as displayed on 29th January by Greater Manchester Police.

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Policing the protest movement

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on February 10, 2011

By Beth Staunton

If you’ve been keeping track of the wave of student protests that have swept the UK in recent months in a defiant resistance to the government’s education cuts, or perhaps if you’ve been on them yourselves, you’ll have certainly come across the term ‘kettling’. For those completely nonplussed by this word, it refers to a police tactic on protests that involves forming tight police lines, surrounding a group of protesters, and hemming them in until they are allowed to leave. Although early examples of kittling exist, it has only become a regular approach in the last decade, and only developed into something considered normal and expected in the past two years.

The stated intent of ‘kettling’, or ‘containment’, according to the Met, is to keep protesters to the designated route, and to contain any people who may be intent on violence. It has become the usual tactic on student marches of the past few months, to the extent where demonstrators now recognise when it is about to take place, shouting ‘Scatter!’ before they can be trapped. Kettling is in fact a form of imprisonment; this was most evident on the London protests of 9th December, when demonstrators were kettled until around 11.30pm in freezing temperatures, without food, water or access to toilet facilities. Is this imprisonment necessary? Is it acceptable that thousands of people peacefully protesting for what they believe in are treated as potential criminals?

The argument that kettling prevents violence is highly contentious. Firstly, because the conviction that many student protesters are violent is unfounded. Examples such as the occupation of Millbank Tower are cast forth to prove such a claim, ignoring the fact that this event was an example of vandalism and not of violence. Secondly, speaking from personal experience of recent demonstrations, kettling seems to be designed to actually provoke violence. Nothing is more likely to inflame tempers and incite physical reaction than being unjustly confined for hours and treated with contempt and suspicion by officers of the law, with the constant threat of arrest looming over.

Ultimately, kettling is not about the protection and safety of ordinary civilians from ‘riotous’ youths. It is a politically motivated tactic that is designed to intimidate those on demonstrations, and to ideally defer people from demonstrating again, because any expansion of political activism is more likely to engender success, and consequently force the government to submit to its pressure. Furthermore, kettling allows police to employ more extreme tactics when students attempt to break out, or even for far lesser offences.

There have been shameful displays of unprovoked police violence and brutality, often caught on people’s cameras and mobile phones, and yet very rarely leading to any form of prosecution of those police officers who are far too enthusiastic with their batons. Several times, this has lead to the death of an innocent person, such as Ian Tomlinson in 2009 who was struck by a police officer merely for walking past a demonstration. We live in a society where the car of a royal couple being shaken a little gains more media coverage than the brutal infringement of peaceful demonstrator’s human rights by those who claim to be keeping the peace. That idea of peace is not my idea of democracy.

Originally at the Courier

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Protest as Bank of England boss makes speech in Newcastle

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on February 9, 2011

Newcastle Civic Centre was the scene of a lively protest on 25 January as local bigwigs, including Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor Chris Brink, paid £55 each for a banquet with a keynote speech from Bank of England Governor Mervyn King.

The protest was hastily organised after a local activist found out about King’s visit just three hours before the attendees started to arrive at the centre.

Unison, the trade union who represents the council workers were not informed of the visit. This echoed Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Newcastle’s Life Centre just over a fortnight before, which was kept secret even from Newcastle Central’s MP, Chi Onwurah, in a breach of Parliamentary protocol.

Guests were met by around forty noisy protesters chanting “banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” and “no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts!”

The demonstrators sought an audience with Mervyn King but were rejected.

Some of those at the protest were Newcastle students and members of Newcastle Free Education Network (NFEN), an organisation that was heavily involved in the 19 day occupation of Newcastle University’s Fine Art building before Christmas.

David Manasse, a 3rd year philosophy student at Newcastle University who was at the protest, commented;  “it’s shocking that the Mervyn King can come to one the areas of the country most deeply affected by these cuts, and deliver the message that our economy is shrinking, without speaking to anyone not prepared to pay £55 a head. We are losing a vast section of our largest employer, the civil service, and Mervyn King thinks it is appropriate to make a speech without telling many of the council workers in this very building, who stand to lose their jobs, it is happening, let alone talking to them.”

Mr. King used his speech to warn of “uncomfortably high” inflation rates, and real terms wage cuts. He described the “squeeze in living standards” as “the inevitable price to pay for the financial crisis and subsequent rebalancing of the world and UK economies.”

Kings’ words would have been cold comfort to the 650 council workers who are facing redundancy due to a squeeze on the council’s budget as part of national austerity measures.

Squeezed living standards, however, were not in evidence for the attendees of the speech, who were treated to a grand banquet. This irony was not lost on the protesters outside; “Bankers wined and dined while council workers are put on the bread line”, read one placard.

Number crunching:

£55

One ticket to see have dinner and listen to Mervyn King’s speech.

£51.85

One week’s Job Seekers Allowance money for people under 25 (£65.45 for over 25s)

650

Approximate number of council workers’ jobs to be cut, forcing many of them on to Job Seekers Allowance

By Simon Childs

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Fenham Tesco application controversially approved

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on January 19, 2011

From the Stop Fenham Tesco Campaign:

Planning officers from Newcastle City Council recommend approval of the controversial planning application for the Newcastle General Hospital site in a report published last Friday. The proposals, which include a giant 24 hour Tesco store, are to be discussed at the planning meeting on Friday 21 January.  Members of the Stop Fenham Tesco campaign are surprised and disappointed by the report’s conclusions and urge the planning committee to reject the proposal at the meeting next week. Given that very similar proposals were rejected two years ago, local residents question why the proposals are recommended for approval this time.  The supermarket is slightly smaller and the petrol station has gone, but otherwise the plans have changed very little.
The full agenda and reports for the meeting can be found on the council’s website:

Development Control Committee – Friday 21 January 2011
The planning meeting next Friday is open to the public and anyone who is concerned about this development is encouraged to attend.  It will be held at 9.30am on Friday 21 January in one of the committee rooms at the Civic Centre (ask at reception for directions).

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PEACEFUL PROTESTOR ARRESTED IN NEWCASTLE

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on January 14, 2011
This from the Newcastle University Occupation blog (http://ncluniocc.blogspot.com/):

Newcastle Occupation offers a message of support to Ewan Brown, who was arrested during a peaceful protest outside the Life Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne and to express our outrage that the police feel this is an appropriate response.

David Cameron had been giving a talk at the Life Centre when a group of protestors gathered outside in response to the Coalition governments catastrophic cuts to Higher and Further Education and other public services.

Ewan has been taken to Etal Lane Police Station, Westerhope, Newcastle. Currently people are gathering outside the police station to protest at the arrest.

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Newcastle students are revolting

Posted in Uncategorized by the grey matter newsletter on October 28, 2010

Newcastle Free Education Network, a group of students opposed to education cuts and tuition fees, staged a protest today outside the offices of Chris Bink, Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University.

The students’ outrage was provoked by Bink’s statement of support for the recent Browne Review into higher education. The report suggests the cap on tuition fees should be lifted, meaning students would have to pay upwards of £6,000 per year for their education, as well as overall cuts to education of 40%, with some departments expected to make 80% cuts.

Chants of “No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!” rang out as leaflets were handed out and placards were waved. This gained the attention of university security guards, but all that they could do was demand that the protesters not smoke (outside).

The protest was one of many upcoming actions against the cuts including a public speaker meeting on the 3rd of November in lecture room 3 of the Hershel Building, Newcastle University and a national protest in London on the 10th November. For more info go to http://newcastlefreeeducationnetwork.tumblr.com/

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