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Behind the Rent Strike – Nick Broomfield (1974)

2 May

I saw this wonderful film the other day as part of the Bread and Roses film festival – Nick Broomfield was there to answer questions afterwards so we learnt a little more about the making of the film. I enjoyed the film so much I wanted to write a short piece to encourage others to watch it. 

The film opens with a middle aged woman putting Nick Broomfield firmly in his place. As a middle class film-maker he can never understand the lives of the working class and will never produce films that will reflect their realities. Ethel was certainly right to bring this young arrogant film maker down to earth, and his inclusion of scenes like this perhaps reflect his willingness to acknowledge and interrogate these limitations, of both himself and his medium. Yet, despite his privileged position, Broomfield’s documentary of life in Kirkby, Liverpool during the rent strike of 1972/3 does succeed in vividly portraying the difficulties and determination of the community.

There are many wonderful scenes which subtly, and sometimes a lot more explicitly with Ethel, get to the root causes of the issues faced by community. Broomfield takes his camera into the local school, where the emphasis on discipline acts as a cover for the real issues of poverty and unemployment. As Ethel notes, when the school send in the careers advisor, they might as well send along someone from the dole office as well. He also films in the local Birdseye chicken factory where an incredible scene of lines of women dismembering chickens was filmed with Broomfield being pushed on one of the factories trolleys around the room. Broomfield and the trolley pusher had failed to communicate beforehand when his assistant would stop pushing the trolley, and so they ended up doing the entire length of the factory.

Broomfield described in a Q&A how the women were the ones who were more active in the day to day organising of the strike, although in the meetings it was the men who tended to dominate. He conveys this well in the film through his interviews with Ethel and another woman whose thoughtful observations and reflections on the strike very much show that they were at the forefront and how significantly the struggle impacted on their lives. Broomfield lamented slightly that he hadn’t filmed more of the daily conversations held by the women – with a set amount of film that he could use, he saved it for the set pieces such as the strike meetings. He states that he would make a ‘less direct film now’.

Despite what it could have been had more film been available, Behind the Rent Strike is a beautiful and important film. Although exactly 40 years ago, the words of the residents of Tower Hill Estate strongly resonate today. They faced increasing rents for their poor housing conditions whilst their wages stagnated. The situation was intolerable. As one resident described, ‘the law doesn’t work for us, we have to take it into our own hands’.

Central London shut down of workfare stores

4 Mar

Running is one of my worst things. But yesterday afternoon I found myself running up and down Oxford Street with one hundred other workfare protesters. We’d gathered in Central London to take action against high street stores profiting from forced unpaid labour for benefits. After two weeks of online and street protest, this Saturday was our National Day of Action Against Workfare with actions happening all over the country.

We weren’t convinced by the government’s ‘concessions’ this week – and were also clear that this was not the end of workfare as there were four other workfare schemes that had been overlooked by the media. We wanted to remind people of these and to show the high street stores that our campaign had not ended with the weak government response. If they continued to participate in workfare schemes, we would be outside and inside their stores raising this issue until they stopped.

We met outside BHS which had since pulled out of workfare schemes, reflecting the impact of the last two weeks of public pressure. From here we would head to our secret location. In the quickest example of consensus decision making ever we decided there and then that we would shut down a workfare store and set off following two Boycott Workfare flags that were held above the crowds. In a wonderful police radio conversation reported by @thinktyler one was heard saying ‘they don’t seem to have a leader’.

We passed Topshop which was heavily guarded by gigantic security guards – they’d clearly got this action confused with UK Uncut. We left them be and headed further on. Our group surged along the streets with the police jogging to keep up to form a moving kettle around us. We ran around them trying to get in front of them so that we’d be able to enter the high street store to fully shut it down. But they seemed to have done some research because when we approached Pizza Hut, two police officers had managed to get in front of us and block the doors.

Pizza Hut was our first target because it is part of the Work Programme – the government’s much lauded workfare scheme that is costing billions of pounds of tax payers money but will do absolutely nothing to alter the unemplopyment figures and is basically about bullying unemployed people and pushing them onto workfare. The Work Programme gives billions of pounds to companies such as A4e who are being investigated for fraud and G4S which was involved in the murder of Jimmy Mubenga.

We stood outside Pizza Hut and unfurled our huge banner declaring ‘If you exploit us – we will shut you down’. From here it was put to the group whether we deemed the Work Experience scheme to be workfare still, in the light to the government’s ‘concessions’. Considering the direct and indirect sanctions that are still in place in the Work Experience scheme there was immediate agreement that companies involved in Work Experience were still fair game. We passed out maps of the area which had helpfully marked all these companies and encouraged people to decide where we wanted to go next. The flags were raised and we were off. The police joining in too trying to get to the stores before us but not knowing which one it would be. Everywhere we looked seemed to be a company involved in workfare.

All of a sudden I was in McDonalds – looking behind me I could see police blocking the doors and pushing protesters away, in front of me were surprised looking customers and staff. I explained we were there because of workfare that was forcing people to work unpaid and was undermining people’s jobs before being bundled out by the police. It was a shame that the encounter in McDonalds was so short as we were unable to have meaningful discussions about why we were there and to hand out leaflets.

Another splinter group had managed to get into Pizza Hut but were quickly removed. The action was so fast paced and fluid. It was very effective as we were able to target stores and get into them to effectively shut them down. Perhaps it sounds a little silly – dodging the police, getting into stores, getting chucked out. But I genuinely believe that this sort of direct action is one of few effective actions that we can take. Ideally we would stay in one store and shut it down for a couple of hours, using it to hold discussions on workfare. But the police were under strict orders to not let this happen – and also we wouldn’t want all the other workfare stores to get let off.

We were off again – this time rushing along the back streets of Oxford Street. People had got into the Holiday Inn, which is involved in the Work Programme, and also, one woman informed us, used to employ illegal immigrants for very very low wages, before this new flow of free labour from the Job Centre. The police removed the protesters and lined the steps of the Holiday Inn looking like a rather strange football team photo.

Our tour came to an end here as we were exhausted from all the running. But we reminded the Holiday Inn that we would be back until workfare was scrapped. Workfare is a punitive policy which exacerbates issues of unemployment and poverty – there is strong public feeling against it and yet the government are still trying to roll it out. However, yesterday, actions took place all over the country against workfare. And will continue to do so until it is ended with living wages and welfare rights secured for all.

Be sure to check out other reports, tweets etc. from other actions across the country. The media have done an appalling job on reporting workfare (just watch Jeremy Paxman’s inept chairing of a workfare debate on Newsnight) and particularly the National Day of Action. It’s up to us to report the news ourselves.

A Simple Act…

15 Feb

Lambeth council have taken away free bus passes for the mentally ill. To them this may seem like a simple act to help make the cuts forced on them by national government. But this seemingly simple act reveals the callous and bullying approach that Lambeth council have taken in implementing these unnecessary and unjust cuts. They are choosing what they see to be an easy target to make pay for the cuts; for this isn’t the first attack on the mentally ill in Lambeth – the council have already closed down a centre providing vital services for the mentally ill.

The cuts to those suffering from mental illness are sickening acts and if we do not stand up against these, I strongly fear for what sort of society we have become – that we would deny something as small as a bus pass to the most vulnerable people, for whom this provides a lifeline. Lambeth council see this as a small cut, they do not see the tremendous pain that it will cause to those who depend on it as people’s homes become their prisons.

Lambeth council attempt to justify their abhorrent actions by claiming that their provision of free bus passes will remain one of the most generous of the London boroughs – but this simply reflects the high level of people suffering from mental health issues in the borough and actually supports the argument that we need to be doing more to address mental health in the borough rather than less. Lambeth’s high rates of people suffering from mental ill health, which is 12 times the national average, will no doubt increase as the cuts plunge more people into poverty and desperation. We should be investing money into running more mental health services for the entire community to promote mental well being and to support those dealing with mental illnesses.

But instead Lambeth council have chosen what they see to be the easy route – picking on a group who may find it more difficult to organise and speak out. They don’t appear to have predicted that this small act would enrage the rest of the community who refuse to be a part of a society which targets the most vulnerable with such bullying behaviour.

For me, the withdrawal of the bus pass has brought home to me the horrific realities of these cuts – both national and local – and the sinister ways in which they are falling on the most vulnerable.  I am disgusted by those who claim to represent us and urge everyone to resist these in the myriad ways that have and are being demonstrated. Following UK Uncut and Occupy London’s tactics, a particular emphasis on civil disobedience is necessary, as it seems now that only by taking direct action will we stop the cuts and ensure the simple and dignified act of providing bus passes for those who need them.

Join Lambeth Save Our Services demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall on February 29th and keep in contact for further actions.

Stopping the Welfare Reform Bill

28 Jan

DPAC and UK Uncut protesters block busy West End road in action against the Welfare Reform Bill

Disabled People Against Cuts with the support of UK Uncut had called for this afternoon to be one of direct action against the welfare reform bill – an incredibly punitive bill which seeks to make the poorest and most vulnerable members of society pay for a crisis which they had no role in. Whenever I think about this bill, I am always absolutely horrified by it – that a government could ever seriously think that this is an acceptable thing to do – to actively cause harm to the people in our society who deserve additional support. I am baffled sometimes why the whole of the country is not out in the streets protesting against what the government are doing. Whilst the Lords are kicking up a fuss against the bill which is warmly welcomed- it is important that the rest of us take to the streets to show our opposition. The consequences of this bill are so serious that direct action is absolutely necessary.

We were to meet at Holborn Station at 11.30am to travel to a secret location. We piled into the tube station and emerged at Oxford Circus to join a group of protesters who had chained their wheelchairs together to form a road block across the top of Regent Street. This was a truly incredible act of direct action. As DPAC and UK Uncut noted, today the invisible would become unmissable as they confronted, and befriended, thousands of west end shoppers and brought the busy traffic to a halt. Hundreds of people moved in behind the road block and took over the street for the afternoon to come together in solidarity against the government’s welfare reform bill – demanding that this bill be stopped. Seeing these people chained together in a determination to have their voices heard was inspiring – I’m a complete wimp of an activist and it was incredibly poignant to see people show such courage. But, as a woman points out in John Domokos’ wonderful video of the day (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2012/jan/28/welfare-reforms-protest-oxford-circus ), it was also sad and shameful that they had to take to the streets in the first place.

There was a brilliant atmosphere on our people-filled road – a samba band played, people danced, people chanted, people talked together. Whilst the atmosphere was upbeat and determined, the space was full of lots emotions – for some, this was their first protest and so understandably it was quite a scary experience for them. In John’s video, one woman described how she had had to prepare all week in order to come to the action. To be amongst such determined and friendly people was a wonderful experience – even the police seemed won over – we overheard them saying ‘let’s just leave them’. (Although later on they did attempt to move our group on – they spoke through a megaphone, which as one protester pointed out made them sound like a duck, furthermore, as another protester pointed out, they did not communicate the message in sign language.) A community megaphone was passed around and one man started chanting ‘we’re all together’ – it was incredibly moving because this was exactly what our action was showing. In the middle of a space dedicated to pointless consumption, we were demonstrating the other values which we hold in society – caring, friendship, and community – these are our tools that we will use to stop the cuts.

This incredible direct action is a strong message to the government that we will not accept their welfare reform bill – they cannot ignore us. And if they do, well, we’ll be out on the streets again, and with growing numbers.

Harry Potter protest signs

20 Jan

We may be the generation that was given the boy wizard, but that doesn’t mean that you can fuck us over with cuts. Here are some Harry Potter protest signs that I’ve come across on various protests over the last year.

‘How the fuck can I afford Hogwarts now?!?’ Leeds student march 2011

‘Dobby Dies – Now this!’ March 26th 2011, Fortnum and Mason. Sorry the sign isn’t very clear, it was chaotic so I couldn’t get any nearer!

‘What would Dumbledore do?’ November 30th 2011 public sector strike

 

 

‘House elves against workfare!’ March 3rd 2012 National Day of Action Against Workfare

Cuts cafe – Brixton

20 Jan

Cuts Cafe – Brixton

The idea is to set up a community space where people can come together and make themselves free teas, coffee, or whatever else they’d like to drink, and sit and talk with the people around them. Conversation on the cuts, how they are affecting us and our community, and how we can organise around them is welcome, but this is not to say that this is all we talk about! The important thing is that we have a warm, welcoming, safe space where we can make friends and talk with each other without the involvement of money.

The idea for this project came one afternoon when I was sitting in a corporate cafe – I was thinking about how much I enjoyed getting out of the house and being in a different environment, watching the people around me, and sipping a warm drink. However, this experience demands money, which we do not always have. Furthermore, I feel uncomfortable being served by people who are being paid low wages for all their hard work when I’m perfectly able to make my own tea. I thought up a space where we can meet as equals, so that one person is not ‘serving’ another, make our own drinks, and do so without the pressure of money. A place where we can come together and talk with each other, in the face of the government’s alienating cuts, is incredibly important. My mum taught me, from a very early age, that coffee is key to a good life. I would love for this to emerge somewhere in central Brixton.

If anyone is up for turning this into a reality, please do get in touch.

A distressing morning at the Job Centre – witnessing the Work Programme

13 Jan

Brixton Job Centre has a ridiculous amount of security guards – they are standing all around the building as if we are some high security prison. When I last visited they confiscated my bike helmet without giving a reason. Perhaps they thought I might throw it at someone in anger. It’s a shame really that I didn’t have my bike helmet this morning (although I believe in non-violent direct action most of the time!)  I walked my way past these guys to the bit where we all sit around waiting to be called to sign on. The sofas are placed in an awkward square shape so we all sit inwards avoiding each others eyes, whilst around this square of sofas the advisors sit around at their desks – it as if we job seekers are in a panopticon – our every move being watched, lest we deviate from the dejected figures that we are – and this set up does hinder conversation between us. Despite this awkward set up, I have been trying to strike up conversation with my fellow job seekers, with varying success due to my shyness. Today, I’d come armed with Boycott Workfare leaflets ready to hand out and discuss our situation and to warn people to reject any work experience offered. I sat down on one of the sofas and looked across at the woman on the sofa opposite me. She was a small white woman with dreads. She sat there looking despondent and exhausted – she kept on closing her eyes, perhaps sleeping, and would occasionally open her heavy eyelids. She looked in a bad way.  She looked really familiar to me. I kept on staring at her wondering where I knew her from. And then I got it. She’d body searched me at Brixton Academy back when I was a teenager. I had struggled to remember her, back then, about 6 years ago, she had been lively and funny and friendly, making jokes as she patted me down. She was utterly transformed now. I sat there watching her, absorbing all of this and desperately wanting to talk with her. I was angry that we live in such a society – where people are struggling. To see the transformation in someone in such a drastic way really brought it home to me – how can we allow this to happen? How can we tolerate people living in poverty? To clearly feel absolutely terrible without offering any support?

I wanted to talk with her, I really did. I kept on hoping to catch her eye, and then I’d break the awkward silence in the stuffy and stale air. But she closed her eyes, and when she did open them she only scanned the ground. I couldn’t meet her eyes, and she clearly did not look in the mood for conversation, and so I just sat there. I placed a stack of leaflets on the space next to me for people to pick up. She was called to see an advisor and they were sitting just behind me so I listened in. Her advisor had a squeaky, grating voice, and seemed to be telling my dreaded friend off. Not telling off exactly, just stating things but in quite an annoying way that did not recognise the difficulty the woman was in. The woman responded saying that she felt very unwell. The woman went on at her – you haven’t filled this out right, we’re going to send for an interview, you need to take these jobs. The woman responded that she couldn’t take those jobs because they only paid six pounds an hour and that wouldn’t cover her rent. She explained that she was really struggling to pay her rent. The woman then said ‘we’re going to put you on the Work Programme’ – alarm bells went off in my head. This was bad. But I couldn’t remember what the Work Programme entailed – the government are very good at making everything to do with JSA very unclear so you don’t know where you stand. Maybe the Work Programme was apprenticeships or extra jobs? Should I intervene? I quickly googled Work Programme on my phone and scanned a Guardian article. But this didn’t explain what it meant for the job seeker, it was just from the point of view of charities. (you’re probably crying out – read the leaflets that you took with you, and I did eventually, and it informed me that Work Programme does indeed = workfare) I wanted to step in and say, don’t go on the Work Programme, it’s forced labour. But I felt I didn’t know enough about it. I also felt wary that my friend clearly wanted this meeting over with and I didn’t want to prolong it or cause trouble for her. And so I sat there helpless. I heard the woman say ‘can you work in a charity shop? Or a boutique shop’ what the fuck is a boutique shop?? Their meeting went on, I was called to the desk next to them, so I carried on trying to listen, horrified at what was unfolding. After my meeting, I rushed out, sick of the place. I couldn’t see the woman to see if she was OK. As I left, I noticed two people were reading the leaflets I’d left out. That felt like a small victory. But it was horrifying to see how the Work Programme is being rolled out – when these people need support, not demoralising, degrading, tedious, no waged work.

Protest against the welfare ‘reform’ bill

12 Jan

Yesterday, a large group of people gathered opposite Parliament to lobby the Lords and protest against the welfare ‘reform’ bill that is currently being looked at in the House of Lords (there’s quite a nice webpage here that illustrates the progress of the bill which is quite useful http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/welfarereform.html). People from Single Mothers Self Defence, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Mad Pride, Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare, the Right to Work, and other concerned individuals went along to highlight the extremely negative effects that the welfare ‘reform’ bill will have on the most vulnerable members of society, and to demand the bills defeat. The bill is an attempt to dramatically alter welfare as we know it – which in its present state is still highly inadequate – and to scrape together millions of pounds from the poorest in society to pay for the bankers’ crisis. The proposals in the bill, including capping housing benefits resulting in people being unable to afford their rents, scrapping the discretionary social fund which provides no-interest loans for the poor and for those who find themselves in crisis, and making changes to disability benefits so that those who are given money in recognition for the additional difficulties that they face in life are interrogated about their illness and given less money to support themselves. The proposals go on and on and are almost difficult to believe – that anybody could come up with such punitive measures that literally are an attack on the most vulnerable people in society is outrageous. Thankfully, some of the Lords have a fair bit of sense and are giving this bill the scrutiny it deserves – overthrowing vast swathes of it yesterday afternoon. As Lord Patel, a crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, described “If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality”.

Whilst it was uplifting to be amongst passionate, determined, and admirable people yesterday afternoon, I was also a little disappointed at the lack of support from other groups and the rest of London. In my opinion, the whole of London should have been outside Parliament voicing their disgust at perhaps the nastiest cuts. Perhaps people were working so couldn’t make it down. But what about those idealist students who stormed Millbank last year against tuition fee increases and who have a more flexible timetable – why weren’t they supporting us yesterday? I am all for free education, but these cuts are a matter between life and death.

Touring London on N30 – Inspiration and police repression

9 Dec

My absolute hatred for everything this government is inflicting upon our society is perhaps one of the only things that would see me wake up at 6am as we did on N30 and spend the next 12 hours out on the streets. We were heading to Liverpool Street Station to join Occupy London’s secret action. On our cycle ride toLiverpool Streetwe saw street cleaners out on the streets in the darkness which filled me for immense respect for them. These would have been traditionally public sector jobs, however, these workers were not out on strike today because much of our street cleaning services have been outsourced. The previous day I had been at the hospital where the staff looked after me with incredible care. My mum is absolutely dedicated to her work at Brixton library for which she receives very little recognition. It is fair to say that I have a lot of love for the public sector and am outraged at the government’s action to make these hard working people pay for a crisis that they did not cause.

At Liverpool Street Station we found the gaggle of fellow protestors which built up – Rhythms of Resistance were playing, bringing samba sounds to the dreariness of the station. We danced on the spot and people unfurled banners from the balcony. I love the spectacle of something ‘unordinary’ happening in City spaces which often have strictly prescribed uses – e.g. transit space, shopping space, work space, and nothing else, no fun, no interaction or meaningful engagement, no assisting each other. We followed the samba band and danced through the streets of the City of London, which sadly looked as if it had been unaffected by the strike – people were carrying on as normal as if all the things vital to our lives – health, education, a clean environment – were of no concern or use to them as they went about trading their invisible monies. As we walked the streets ofLondon, the police, rather than facilitating peaceful protest, seemed to think that their job was to ensure the free flow of roads, and attempted to restrict our movements to the pavement. On the south side ofSouthwarkBridgethey formed a sort of kettle around protestors on the street. At this point, after watching in solidarity with our fellow protestors for a while, we decided to cycle off as we had a picket to support outside Brixton library.

Our cycle ride from the City to Brixton saw us pass pickets outside South Bank University, as well as a few along Brixton Road. We cheered, dinged our bells, and shouted our love for public sector workers as we passed. OnBrixton Roadanother cyclist joined our cheering to the pickets. We joined my mum on her picket outside Brixton library where they were chanting ‘What do we want?’ ‘Pensions’ ‘When do we want them?’ ‘Before we die!’ Because of my age, I don’t have much experience of strikes, but seeing the workers and their supporters joining together for a common cause, made me realise their significance. In a society which constantly promotes a hyper individualist and consumerist culture, coming together and acting collectively is a unique act. In front of the library on the large square, many more people were gathering for a rally – people from other picket lines came and congregated along with members of the community. At 11.30 we marched together down Brixton Road. A man on the street approached me and said ‘Thank you for striking’ which was lovely of him. I love those moments of unexpected encounters. The large group of several hundred disappeared into the tube station and we cycled off to join the student protests at ULU. The student group at ULU was smaller than the student march on Nov 9 which is shame because there should have been a large presence of students and lecturers. Perhaps the ‘total policing’ tactics of Nov 9 had put students off and quite understandably too. However, as we weaved our way through the streets joining other strikers it was clear that there were many thousands of people out on the streets to defend fair pensions and express their anger at this government. Our march was so large that it took three hours to walk the route of the march, however people were very good natured and there was a strong family presence with children sitting on their parent’s shoulders. UK Uncut were out serving SolidariTEA. An Occupy London bloc had a disproportionate police presence fearful that we would occupy yet another space. Yet they are doing everything in their powers to ensure that we cannot protest outside (or inside) state and financial institutions. The road toWhitehalland access toTrafalgar Squarewere completely blocked off by huge metal barriers – of a kind I have not seen before. Perhaps the police are getting their Christmas presents early. In fact, I’ve caught a glimpse of their Christmas list in today’s Guardian, and they’re hoping for a £4 million water canon with which to police protests. I think Santa should give them lumps of coal for that audacious and useless request. More and more of the city is out of bounds to protest. It is an extremely worrying development.

An hour into the march, we were feeling pretty exhausted from our early morning and cycling tours to and from the centre ofLondon. We wanted to cut a corner of the march and join it further down the road. We had overheard a police man saying that this was fine. However, when we tried to leave the route to rejoin it further down, a different police man stopped us saying that we must stick to the route, and that as marchers we could not leave the route or that would be an arrestable offence. I misheard him and thought he called us ‘Marxists’ so there was some confusion in our interaction. Simply because we were protestors meant that we did not have access to other streets in the city. As a life long Londoner it is incredibly frustrating to be denied the right to walk in the city that I know so well. This was the first of three incidents of over zealous policing which seeks to criminalise and intimidate protestors. Reaching the march’s end point we headed back towards Piccadilly as we had heard via Twitter that there would be an Occupy action happening there. On our way throughTrafalgar Square, which we were lucky to even be able to enter – there was a small gateway in the metal barriers through which we entered, but even then, police were monitoring who could come through. One of them did look as if to stop Luke from getting through. It was a strange scene inTrafalgar Square– gated with the huge metal sheets at the bottom, it was eerily quiet. At the top ofTrafalgar Squarejust outside the National Gallery we saw a large group of police with a small group of protestors. One of them was gesturing wildly to some other police nearby to join them, as if they really needed reinforcements. It seemed very strange that a small group of protestors were being stopped and searched, and two of them arrested, here outside the National Gallery. They seemed to have done nothing at all wrong. I was keen to stand close by to keep an eye on proceedings, but Luke was scared they would then turn on us, because we had protest things on us – a Unison flag and an NUT sash. It is ridiculous that the over zealous policing we have witnessed over the last couple of protests is having such an effect on us – that we felt we were somehow arrestable for standing in Trafalgar Square with a small Unison flag stuffed in Luke’s back pocket. We might as well just go along to a police station and hand ourselves in for a crime we have yet to commit, for this seems the way in which our justice system is moving. I was feeling very stubborn, so refused to move away, and we went over to one young man who was being stopped and searched to make sure that he was OK. We had seen the police open his wallet and record his name from his credit cards and we felt that they were acting in a somewhat legally dubious manner. We spoke with the young man and then stood closely by watching. A senior officer came over to speak with us and tried to suggest that we were ‘obstructing’ them, using language that could lead to our arrest. Our second almost arrest of the day. We took their police badge numbers and spoke with the man afterwards. The police had treated him in a bullying way.

Shaken by this incident, whereby we witnessed our freedoms being increasingly eroded, and the police acting in an unaccountable and threatening way, we made our way toPiccadilly Circus. Walking alongHaymarket Streettwo large Greek men emerged from a side street chanting Greek football songs. As we made our way towards the statue of Eros, we saw lots of sky blue soft caps of the riots police standing around the statue, and hundreds of Greek football fans filling the area. It was an incredible sight and a wonderful coincidence. We were not able to spot any protestors as they had been seemingly swamped by Greek football fans. We found a small group of Rhythms of Resistance who were walking back towards Haymarket and decided to follow them. Suddenly hundreds of protesters emerged from nowhere and went racing down Haymarket. Someone lit a bright red flare and we watched the flare fly down the street. It was a carnival atmosphere as people ran down the street with the sound of samba drums behind a glaring red flare. It was a beautiful sight. It felt exhilarating to watch after the restricted experience of the march and the incident atTrafalgar Square. However, we were too scared to join in because we knew the police response would be huge. So instead of joining in with the carnival, we walked along and watched in awe from the edge. A group ran into Panton House and get to the roof where they unfurled a banner. We stood below in the street, a fair distance from Panton House. Police back up came swiftly. And someone alerted us that they were running to kettle us. We tried to walk away down Haymarket, when a police man came running at us, his arms outstretched to stop us passing him. We jumped on our bikes and cycled down a side alley with several others. We had dodged our potential third arrest of the day. We returned to the scene a little later to see the whole street cordoned off and a kettle implemented. We could still hear Rhythms of Resistance drumming away. More and more police vans arrived, for a group of under 100 peaceful protestors. A van of police dogs arrived. It was a complete over reaction to a group of people occupying a building.

We cycled back through the dark streets exhausted from our day of protest and wondering where we go now…our experiences today show how the police are set on stifling any form of protest that does not march on a designated route with an intimidating police presence. More and more of the city is becoming off limits to protest. Our bodies and our streets are under police control.  It seems like incredibly sad times that we are having to protest for our right to protest.