In the months since the murder in Woolwich, there is a familiar conversation being had by conscientious activists keen to avoid the predictable backlash against a marginalised group of peoples. I’ve heard the same questions being asked; the uncomfortable realisation that current day Britain is echoing the horrors of Nazi Germany. Of course, those on the right are quick to minimise and dismiss genuine concerns with Godwin’s Law but it has also been established this is not relevant when discussing actual fascism. BBC News has been reporting on the number of arrests at yesterday’s counter demo against the fascist EDL. Whilst I wish it were true, sadly their estimate of 2 anti-fascist arrests is grossly misleading when the numbers were in fact closer to 250+.
If you have a heart, you may have wondered how Nazi Germany came to be so organised and how, HOW ON EARTH so many were systematically murdered by the state. Why wasn’t there an outcry much sooner? How did people not notice this was happening right under their noses? It’s simple really. The media and government filled people with propaganda and the atrocities were downplayed. Exactly what the BBC appears to be doing now. 250+ of my comrades were arrested yesterday under sections 14 and 16 but here’s the thing; none of them were aware these orders were in place. People were arrested by deception.
Section 14 gives the police the right to confine protests to a particular space. Now, if this was the case yesterday, tell me why the police allowed us to march through the streets in our 100s whilst they stood idly at the sidelines? Surely a section 14 would have prevented us from leaving Altab Ali Park? How can people be arrested for a crime they did not know they were committing? What of the innocent passers-by who happened to be caught up in the brutally enforced kettle and were then arrested for simply occupying the same space as anti-fascist activists? Of the 15 people I helped support at Colindale police station, 3 of them were adamant they had nothing to do with the demo. It did not matter that they protested the unlawful arrest; they were not given the chance to explain their circumstances. The police acted with impunity, as though these facts were never going to be relevant. Doesn’t that scare you? It scares me. I can be plucked from a crowd of people in a public area and thrown into a cell for as long as they like, though 12 hours seems to be the standard.
The events of the day disturb me. I wasn’t personally arrested but I was treated with suspicion. When the police closed in from all around us, the natural reaction was for people to flee the scene. Who wants to be kettled? As experienced activists we know what a kettle means. Surrounded by officers built like brick shit houses, comrades are pulled out of the kettle, beaten and arrested for simply being there. How does one react in such a situation? Well, you’d want to avoid a beating obviously but if you so much as push back, there’s an assault charge with your name on it. I was trapped in a crowd of activists, all pushing and straining to avoid police brutality and I froze. I was being carried along, I couldn’t afford to push anyone myself, I have a historic spinal injury. Maybe this is why the female officer chose to bash her baton into me. It was frightening. I couldn’t feel anything, the adrenalin was pumping but I was aware I might have been injured. At the first opportunity, I and my buddy retreated to as safe a space as was possible but it was too late, we were in the kettle. It was another 20 minutes before the adrenalin subsided and I felt the pain and tingling creep in. I approached the officers at the end of the police line and expressed my wish to leave the kettle because of my medical condition. They jokingly suggested they’d put in a request with the big boss. An arrestee who was nearby would later tell me how those officers were mocking me for lying and of course, I only wanted to leave the kettle to join the UAF in Altab Ali Park. Anyone who knows me or anyone with any grip on reality would know that this was the last thing on my mind. Another 10 minutes passed and I pleaded with them again to let me leave the kettle, this time lifting my top so they could see the old surgery scars. This time the big boss was asked to have a look at my back. He advised that, unless I need immediate attention I should sit down on the floor to avoid exacerbating the condition. Again, anyone with an iota of intelligence would probably know that sitting down on a hard floor with this kind of complaint is probably not advisable. When my back is inflamed, my body stiffens up. If I’m sat down, it becomes difficult to stand. About half an hour after my initial complaint I asked to be seen by police medics. There were horses and dogs straining on their leashes and then the familiar red bus (Sullivan’s of Potters Barr – ‘a small friendly bus company’) designated for arrestees turned up. Experience has taught me that this is when things take a turn for the worst. When I asked officers why they were stood sideways, holding on to the backs of each other’s belts and why we were being kettled when we were peaceful, the response I got was astonishing. Apparently this was not a ‘kettle’ but ‘containment’. I didn’t fancy being sat on the floor unable to move quickly if things were about to become violent. The medics checked my pulse and it was higher than they would have liked. Suddenly these men in their padded suits and hard hats were being sensitive and attentive. They lifted me out of the kettle. They gently placed me down on the ground around the corner from the rest of my comrades. I watched with heavy heart as they pulled people onto the arrestee bus. Young people, gentle people. They didn’t stand a chance.
There are those that will tell me I deserved this predicament because I should know better than to attend a protest with a medical complaint such as mine. Well, in recent months I have been racially abused more than ever before. The threat has escalated and hateful people have become brazen as you like. I know that I prefer to confront things head on and defend my right to a non-threatening life. The alternative is a deep depression spurred by feelings of hopelessness and vulnerability. I have been agoraphobic once before, I am damned if society does that to me again. It’s why, after I was allowed to return home without further police interrogation and able to take my pain meds, I volunteered – with many of my close friends – to provide arrestee support. There is a growing solidarity between people from all walks of life who are prepared to sacrifice their own mental/physical health to ensure true equality for all. We are anti-fascists and we mean business.
We chose to attend Colindale copshop as it’s the arse end of nowhere for most and being in North London it was easier for us. When we arrived, one arrestee had been released. His eyes were bloodshot and he was shaking. He hadn’t been given any food and was extremely grateful for the supplies we’d brought. We read his bail conditions in disbelief.
“Not to engage in demonstration within the boundaries of the M25 where the English Defence League, English Volunteer Force or British National Party are present”
Are the police effectively enabling fascists by stifling dissent? Why were over 250 anti-fascists arrested in this manner? Who are the police trying to protect? Of the 15 we processed, most of them were given bail conditions to the 21-22nd of the month and a couple had 24th. I’d be interested to find out whether there is a planned fascist march before these dates. It would certainly explain why such a large number were arrested and then released without charge. I would also like to understand why one of our arrestees at Colindale had had his flat raided by the police. This all feels unlawful. I haven’t the legal knowledge to challenge any of this but there are many of you who do. It is our duty to halt the creeping fascism infecting this country of ours, lest young people of the future ask the same questions of the once Great Britain the way we do now of the Holocaust.
*Worth nothing, there were only 2 fascist arrests. Whose police?
** Update – 14 EDL arrests