Friday, 23 October 2009

Pigs and fascists share a flag!

I'm writing this a bit late - 2 weeks after the event - but (I'd like to think) the important thing is that it gets written.

The first thing to say about the clash with the EDL in Manchester is that they were thoroughly outnumbered, and thoroughly routed. The main priority on the day, of course, was to prevent the fascists from having free reign to terrorise and assault bystanders in the city centre. Allowing them to do so would have far wider implications than a lot of people shaken up, plenty of bruises and some victims who may have been hospitalised (which of course is bad enough) - but it would have allowed them to gain in confidence, and as such gain in strength and ambition; if today we allow our streets to be infested with fascists one day in a decade, then maybe a year from now ordinary people are too intimidated to venture into their path, two years from now some areas might be permanently under fascist control, three years from now ordinary people are afraid to leave the home and a month after that fascist death squads are breaking down people's doors. In that sense, the day was a complete success - instead of running rampant throughout the city, they were forced to hide behind the police and the worst thing they were able to do was take pictures for Redwatch, even if their truncheon-toting vanguard was more assertive. They were humiliated. They might think twice about trying to spread fear in Manchester again.

There were numerous examples of obvious police collusion with the fash, two in particular come to mind. Not only did they refuse to prevent the fash from filming for Redwatch, but when I attempted to block the camera view of a photographer directly behind the police line, the response of one of the pigs was to shove me this to how when revolutionary activists take pictures of pigs at demonstrations for the purpose of holding them to account if they step over the line - or sometimes, when tourists take pictures of red London buses - their reaction is to confiscate the camera, and occasionally even to arrest the photographer. The sole purpose of Redwatch, as is well-known, being to provide intel to fascist thugs who want to track down anti-fascist activists later when they're alone and attack them as a pack - one of the most high-profile Redwatch-related incidents was when the well-known trade union organiser Alec McFadden was hospitalised after being stabbed in the face outside his home by a fascist coward who pretended to be hurt and needing medical attention himself. The other example was when we were about as passive as we had been at all since the EDL showed up, when we were completely non-belligerent, just stood there chanting which apparently the pigs decided was enough of a 'threat' to warrant setting the dogs on us... and at least one person was bitten.

It was these events which inspired me to an original chant, which I was later arrested for chanting (either these particular pigs somehow took offence at the word 'pig' which I'm sure they hear every day, or the riot squad have a political threshold for speech they will tolerate - the typical UAF 'Nazi scum, off our streets' falls far short of that threshold for the obvious reason that it holds almost no political content and therefore no threat to the status quo): "pigs and fascists share a flag - we march under none".

It was inspired by these events, but it is evident by an analysis of fascism anyway. The purpose of fascism - whose chief representative in this country I would say was not in fact the BNP but the Daily Mail (or Heil) and the Murdoch media - is to preserve the rule of the ruling class by using prejudice-based division, created by deception, to undermine working class organisation, and by using that prejudice to create unofficial 'shock troops' who can be used against the organised working class if it becomes too much of a threat to the hegemony (some of the best examples of the latter include the retaliation by fascist paramilitaries in Greece following the December insurrection, the suppression of the 1919 Spartacist rising in Germany, and - controversially, but at least in my analysis - the Stalinist repression of the revolution in north-eastern Spain in 1937); it is undisputed that the primary purpose of the police force as an institution is also to defend the ruling class.

Incidentally, another original chant which I led that day was concieved as a not-quite-subtle rejection of the quasi-nationalism of the Respect placards which said something along the lines of 'one country, many cultures' - "one world, one humanity".

About half an hour after the dogs were let out, the EDL started to slink away - at the time I assumed they'd given up; I later discovered they were regrouping on the other side of Piccadilly Gardens - and our column moved back across the central walkway (apparently to cut them off, although as far as I was concerned at that time it was a victory march), which was lined with pigs. There was a scuffle partway along when one cop threatened to arrest people criticising him for hiding his shoulder tab numbers - my own words were something like "Show your number, bloody hypocrite - it's your own law you're breaking, not ours", which I believe I followed with "PIGS AND FASCISTS SHARE A FLAG - WE MARCH UNDER NONE!" at which point his colleague at the end of the 'railed' section of the walkway grabbed my shirt saying - I believe - "Come here mate, you're coming with us." I was initially able to pull away from him, until another pig joined in, and together they dragged me to the grass - by the bike helmet I had worn as a precaution, effectively throttling me with the strap to the point that I felt on the verge of blacking out before they let go - and forced me to the ground, after which one of them knelt on me while the other forced me into handcuffs behind my back.

After they dragged me back to my feet, one of the two informed me that I was under arrest for very vague 'public order offences' (which he later elaborated on as a violation Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 'behaving in a way likely to cause alarm or distress' to 'members of the public', and claimed to have been deeply offended by the use of the word 'pigs' and the association to the fash) and bullshit allegations of 'incitement to racial hatred', to which I responded with something along the lines of "I'm white, how can I be racist against fucking white people!?" (since the logical conclusion was that he could only have been referring to my agitation against the EDL... in fact, once at the police station 'incitement to racial hatred' never came up again, so it seems he was just trying to provoke a reaction which could be taken out of context). They then marched me back onto the walkway, now deserted of everyone but pigs, and held me up against the railing for the next hour or so, twisting the handcuffs (the sort designed to cause pain and injury, including potential broken bones, if 'you struggle') continuously, while they traded jibes with me. At one point two comrades who I won't name spotted me in trouble and did what they could to help - they told the pigs that I had Asperger's Syndrome, in order to help ease matters at least once I got to the police station (it does seem to have had the desired effect), and I later discovered they also stayed with me for as long as they could in order to prevent the pigs from being able to be too obviously abusive (I now understand why they were so adamant not to let me turn round, so that I wouldn't get a morale booster from seeing that my comrades were still there as I did when they first arrived at the scene). It was the only thing they could have done - after they got the handcuffs on me, I saw no reason to resist myself, either, since even had I somehow escaped from the pigs' clutch without the use of my arms, having no way to remove the handcuffs I would have been stuck that way indefinately

Eventually, they marched me off to a van. Along the way, we were intercepted by another comrade (who will also remain anonymous) who was apparently acting as a legal advisor on the demo, who they made sure would not be able to send me a sympathetic solicitor by refusing to tell her or me which police station they were taking me to (which, I believe, is illegal, like many other things the pigs did that day). They got rid of her by shoving me into the van and closing the doors, thereby cutting off contact, and left me there for about another half hour before actually setting off.

Once at the police station (Longsight, as it turns out...they didn't tell me where I was until much later, but I spotted certain signs on the way such as 192 buses) they swapped the handcuffs from my back to my front, but locked me back in the van for another hour or so. The silver lining of that cloud is that, with my hands now in front, I could reach my phone, and in the time alone I was able to send messages to several comrades letting them know what had happened (although once in the police station, my phone was confiscated along with everything else I had including my jacket and my shoelaces, so I didn't recieve their replies until much later after I was released).

When I was finally taken into the station, the officers on duty there were less directly abusive, and saw fit to finally release me from the handcuffs, but also took away everything I was carrying except my shirt and pants (apparently procedure). They told me that, among other things, I had a legal right to have someone informed of my arrest (but, apparently, not to talk to that person directly) - the person I told them to contact was my mum, whose phone I later discovered was unusable at the time...but they failed to inform me that they had been unable to contact her so that I could have them contact someone else instead, capitalising on the opportunity to deny me even my legal rights.

After this, I was taken to a room where my iris prints, fingerprints and a saliva sample were taken, which I was told would be wiped from the record if I wasn't convicted of anything but which almost certainly remain. To the credit of the clerks who did this, they gave me a cup of water when I asked, and I was able to watch while it was poured so I know nothing was put in it. After this I was taken to see the station doctor, who was interested in any medical conditions I might have; I told him I was allergic to bananas, although in hindsight maybe I shouldn't have in case it was used against me - the doctor himself seemed nice enough, but of course he had colleagues.

After this I was marched off to the cells, where I was left for about three hours. It became obvious that the key reason for confiscating
everything on processing is to make your time in the cell as boring as possible in order to encourage you to sleep, possibly so that they could come in and rough you up, or stick something unwanted in you like compliance drugs or a chip. Instead I occupied myself by reading the graffiti kindly left on the bed-bench by previous residents (mostly not particularly interesting, but still something to read) and scratching my own contribution ("one world - one humanity"). Incidentally, the "matress" was lopsided (which may or may not have been a deliberate measure to make you more uncomfortable) and there was what appeared to be a camera in the corner of the cell, angled to cover most of the cell including the toilet (illegal, surely!?) - another thing I occupied myself with while I was waiting in the cell was figuring out how I might be able to block the camera in case I had to use the toilet; I came up with piling scrunched-up toilet roll in the recess that the camera was set into. Fortunately I never needed to use the toilet while I was in the cell.

Eventually, one of the guards arrived to take me to interview. I was initially taken to meet my solicitor - the state duty solicitor, since the legal advisor mentioned earlier from the demonstration was unable to send me an activist solicitor as she had initially said she would, not knowing where I was being taken - who I went into a room alone with to discuss my case. He wasn't entirely sympathetic, but he wasn't hostile either and I'd like to think I had some influence on him. This was the first time I saw the police testimony - I'd been misquoted as saying "pigs and fucking fascists are all the fucking same" (more or less the same meaning I suppose, but the court looks down on swearing) and "I'm white, how can I be racist?" (they didn't just fail to provide any context, they also omitted 'against white people', so they even removed the context that was otherwise already there in the quote). The solicitor told me that because of my Asperger's, he'd been able to argue the police to an offer of a settlement of a 'Fixed-Penalty Notice' (fine) as an alternative to going to court if I confessed. He told me the charges against me were 'disorderly conduct' and 'behaved in a disorderly manner in a public place in a way likely to cause alarm or distress to members of the public'. He didn't know how large the fine would be, but his advice would be to take it because he believed the 'evidence' against me was 'strong'. I argued that point with him for about half an hour, the sole 'evidence' I had seen being police testimony consisting of misquotes, but I knew that as far as the police or the court was concerned, 'admitting' to having attended a demonstration (which I neither could nor would deny) would be the same as 'admitting' to 'disorderly conduct', and having sat on a jury I also knew how corrupt the court system was, how ready the court was to accept police testimony as more valuable than the testimony of ordinary people and for that matter as the bulk of the prosecuting evidence, how much the judge controls the jury and how much pressure the jurors are under to follow the instructions of the judge, including what testimony to accept and what testimony to reject. As such, I decided he was right - it was in my interests to take the fine rather than going through a court case, which is gruelling enough as a juror and must be several times worse as a defendant, would disrupt many things (in the long term, probably most importantly uni), and would likely lead to a conviction. I have since started to have second thoughts, having run into financial difficulties and having spoken to several people including those with legal expertise who believe the case can be thrown out without even going to court.

After wrapping up the discussion with the solicitor, we went to the interview room - a cold room containing a table with a tape recorder, three chairs and nothing else. I have to be fair, and to the credit of the police it turns out that the cold is no longer part of the interrogation procedure, and we moved to a warmer room containing a table with a tape recorder, three chairs and nothing else. The interviewer asked me to give my account of the day's events - I believe I told him more or less what I wrote here regarding the demo, my arrest and my treatment by the pigs who arrested me (minus the criticism of UAF and Respect - no reason to show division directly to the enemy, after all). I also spent quite a while arguing the political case behind the chant which I was arrested for, which I'm sure didn't make him feel particularly comfortable, and when asked to 'confess' to having acted 'in a way likely to cause alarm or distress to members of the public' I told him blankly that a police officer on duty is
not a 'member of the public' and that most 'members of the public' are likely to share my distaste for and distrust of the state and its organs of enforcement even if they don't share my analysis. I did 'confess' to 'disorderly conduct'... making no bones about the fact that I was doing so not because I believed I had done wrong but because I saw it as being in my best interests to cooperate. After that, the interview was wound up, and the interviewer informed me that after my fine had been processed I would be released (I believe his words were 'disposed of', but I trusted that he didn't mean it maliciously only because he was still being recorded at the time and the record could be used against the police if I disappeared - I said as much to his face, still on record).

After the interview, I was taken back to the lobby where my stuff had been confiscated and told to wait for my fine, and that I'd get my stuff back (yes, including my shoelaces!) once the fine was processed and I was officially released (again, the phrase used was 'disposed of'). I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. Then I was finally given back my stuff, all dumped in a plastic bag, and told to take it outside to sort it out (including my shoelaces).


K2323 said...

How interesting. I'll be reading your continuation of this segment. I'm quite enthralled, actually. I salute you on your political activism..
I'm in awe that there's so much public fascism today. Has the human race come no further after the events that it participated in seventy years ago? It's appalling that such a political view can be exercised in such a violent - and opposing (by nature, of course, fascism is opposing) way to modern society.

Kaze no Kae said...
Video "Arrested for asking a policeman for his badge number"

I thought this had strong echoes of my own experience, particularly the pigs' denial that they were subjecting Swain to physical torment even while it was happening

Allie Cat said...

The legal observer mentioned in the post who at the time I left anonymous has since passed away, early this year, so while re-reading the post this evening it occurred to me that the concerns contributing to my decision to leave her and the other two anonymous - not wanting to attract avoidable police or fascist attention to them - are no longer valid in her case even to the extent that they ever were, while her legacy might benefit from being named in a mention that's clearly expressing gratitude.

She was Gayle O'Donovan, in the time I knew her a Green Left member and a Hulme community activist, and in the years since the events described here became a close friend. Rest in peace.