law

fascists

The rise of fascism in Great Britain (Tower Hamlets)

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

danger men-at-work

Perpetrators, Paedophiles and Patriarchy

It’s been a while since I was a teenage girl but I can remember how I used to feel. I am one of an identical set of twins. Identical, but different still. I was the quiet studious one, she was the pretty one all the boys wanted. Identical remember? I was a few pounds heavier so this made me the fat one. Pounds, not kilos or stones. They said I had a bigger nose even though most people couldn’t tell us apart at first glance. I was a coupla inches taller than my younger sister by four minutes, but patriarchy doesn’t care for a healthy body mass index just sex appeal and next to me; she was a little bit skinnier and more talkative, especially with the boys.

She was 12 the first time a boy called her frigid. He was the cock of the class, advancing through puberty with straight As and all the girls wanted to be his girlfriend. I did too but I can’t remember why, it was just what we did. We weren’t thinking of losing our virginities, heck, we didn’t quite understand how that all worked. The gesture of the finger through the hole was frightening, what on earth did it mean? My sister was called frigid for refusing to let this boy kiss her cheek. In fact, she thought he’d already gone too far by holding her hand! A little while later we’d heard he’d cheated on her with a girl a coupla years above us. Everyone said they’d had sex and everyone called that girl a slag. But everyone gave him a pat on the back and whispered about who’d get to be his next girl. This behaviour was considered normal.

Teenaged girls are walking the tightrope to acceptance. I’ll never forget how an ex described how happy and reassured he was that his recently tweenie daughter was funny; a skill that would help her fit in with the boys. He actually said that it didn’t matter if a girl was not so attractive as long as she had the ability to charm them over with her wit. It was then I understood that he understood patriarchy and how it controls women. To fit into this man’s world, you’ve gotta make yourself attractive to them, on their terms.

And so we start shaving the baby bird down we sprout when our bodies start changing. We aspire to be the girl the other girls don’t like; they’re only jealous. We want a boyfriend but that’s only because so and so has one and if we don’t it’s probably because we have herpes. The word virgin makes us cringe and it’s only when we lose our virginities that we realise it’s too late, now we are sluts and can never be a virgin again. Some of us will have to have our hymens sewn up so that we can pretend it never happened. It’s that or risk death in the name of patriarchal ‘honour’.

In light of the Savile enquiry, with hundreds courageously coming to the fore, our society has had to think seriously about the way in which we silence child victims of sexual abuse in this country. They have been scorned and accused of making their allegations up; because it’s easy to present as a victim of systematic abuse? Only it’s not. How is one hardwired to think of people being so duplicitous as to convince a jury that they have been horrifically violated, sexually, against their will? Imagine replaying those incidents over and over in  your mind until one day, when you feel for the first time people are actually listening, you dare to share the crimes committed against you, hopeful that you will have finally have support. Except.. They say that you are lying, that they don’t believe you and this is something you have conjured up for financial gain.. Why would anyone risk putting themselves through this unless they are telling the truth?

Even if you are telling the truth and the judge believes you, convicts the perpetrator and locks him away, there’s a message in it for you still. It doesn’t matter that you’ve just only just left primary school, haven’t even had all of your jabs, the fact that you were there shows you were willing. This is what Judge David Farrell QC had to say whilst passing sentence on Roshane Channer and Ruben Monteiro, jailing them both for just 40 months because he accepted the perpetrator’s defence that she was ‘willing’ and looked at least 14.

Judge Farrell said: “Despite her age it is accepted that she was a willing participant, but the law is there to protect young girls from this type of behaviour and to protect them from themselves.

“The girl had clearly been subjected to systematic sexual exploitation and you willingly used her for your own sexual gratification. It is aggravated by the fact that the event was being videoed.”

I disagree, Judge Farrell. The law is there to protect children from men like you. And you are there to implement the law, not make a mockery of it.

But he’s the not only one. Last month Steven Pollock admitted to violating a 13 year old girl. He was duly convicted of sex with a minor yet somehow managed to walk free from court with just an order for community service and undertaking that he should attend a sex offender’s programme. He obviously knew he was committing an offence when he told his very drunk victim to pretend she was 16. The CPS changed the original charge of rape because they could not establish whether she had given consent.

CONSENT?

How is a minor able to give consent? Is this not a clear cut case for statutory rape?

Lord Turnbull has difficulty answering this question. “It is important to understand that the offence arises out of consensual conduct rather than any form of force, grooming or manipulation.”

MINORS CANNOT GIVE CONSENT.

DRUNK 13 YEAR OLDS CANNOT GIVE CONSENT.

THIS IS CALLED RAPE.

When the judiciary are sending out a clear message to victims that they brought it on themselves, how is it any wonder that Savile’s victims remained silent for so long? Even when they convict offenders they have to slip in a warning (control) for all victims. Anthony Parry was recently convicted of rape and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. His victim awoke to find Parry raping her. Despite this and the fact that Judge Niclas Parry found the defendant guilty, he added that the victim had “let herself down badly” by drinking heavily and taking drugs on the night she was attacked. He told her she had made herself “easy prey for a rapist”.

Take this as a warning women, you should all just accept rapists exist and that they will rape you if you don’t do a better job of immunising yourself against this sort of thing. Stop drinking, stop having fun, change your clothing (but don’t cover up too much lest they think you’re a Muslim, and what a can of worms that is) and for chrissakes, stop sleeping around, or you’re just asking for it.

Sign this petition, not because I believe it will ultimately change anything for the big menz in power but because it is raising awareness by its very existence. RT it, forward it on to your mailing lists, keep talking about it. The more we say, the more we can do to affect change.

Judge Niclas Parry, apologise and retract your victim blaming comments:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/judge-niclas-parry-apologise-for-and-retract-your-victim-blaming-comments-to-a-rape-victim

Safe as Houses

Since Refuge announced it might have to close due to excessive funding cuts from the government, we have to question whether the withdrawal of support to such an institution is lawful and whether the local authority has a duty to provide shelter to those at risk of harm.

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 was the first revision of DV legislation in over 30 years and put in place new powers to support victims at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse, through the courts and police e.g making common assault an arrestable offence and breaching of non-molestation orders, a criminal offence. It implemented a framework from which all agencies could follow a code of practice to ensure all victims were given adequate support and protection.

This was an enhancement to existing legislation – Housing Act 1998 and Homelessness Act 2002 – which aimed to prevent further incidents of abuse by providing an interim duty to accommodate;  an admission that where there may be reason to believe (a verbal declaration should suffice) a person is believed to be at risk of homelessness due to domestic abuse and it is not reasonable to occupy their current premises, the local authority has a duty of care to establish whether they are in priority need (under section 184 Housing Act) and eligible for assistance.

In my experience as a DV worker, priority need differed from one city/borough to the next. Single women without children were not considered in this category and as such, their only recourse to safe accommodation came in the form of a refuge. Even in cases where a service user had come to the end of their license agreement, whereupon they would become unintentionally homeless, local authorities would refuse to accept they had duty of care, suggesting that we move the survivor on to another refuge. So much for Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – The right to privacy, family life, home and correspondence.

The role of a refuge is to provide temporary accommodation, a halfway house before suitable, permanent accommodation is allocated. As a rule, all the women passing through safe houses should submit homelessness applications on arrival, because they are in fact, unintentionally homeless. If, for whatever reason, the service user could not remain at the refuge, she was then considered to be intentionally homeless and as a result, not eligible for assistance. Survivors were being manipulated into staying at refuges.

I had a case once where the survivor was at an immediate risk of homicide. Police reports had been taken, her injuries photographed. She had been viciously attacked and her small children witnessed it taking place. Social services were involved. We were in the process of securing an injunction. A clear-cut case if ever there was one. Yet the local authority disallowed her application because the worker believed she was lying about her disclosure.  They simply did not believe her. She had presented with a hospital report but this was not enough. However, she was sent away with a list of refuges whom she would  have to call herself along with the advice that she may be in a refuge for up to 3 years, after which she would no longer be deemed priority need Band A and would be demoted to that of non-priority Band C. The housing worker suggested to my client that if she were to approach a refuge, the local authority might be more inclined to believe she was telling the truth. Despite the reams of paperwork and evidence suggesting she and her children were at an increased risk of homicide. Eventually, a multi-agency approach imcluding me and her social worker was successful in demonstrating the local authority did have a duty of care to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need” (Children Act 1989) which includes providing accommodation.

Essentially there are 3 options when fleeing:

  • Homelessness application
  • Transferring tenancy from current premises to another borough
  • Refuge

Local housing lists are stretched beyond their limits, many more people presenting at Homeless Needs Units than there are properties available. In order to transfer tenancy, another must become available. As a result, many women are forced to stay in hostile situations. Or approach a refuge.

The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities states (paragraph 16.27):

“Housing authorities should develop close links with women’s refuges within their district… However, housing authorities should recognise that placing an applicant in a refuge will generally be a temporary expedient only, and a prolonged stay could block a bed that was urgently needed by someone else at risk. Refuges should be used to provide accommodation for the minimum period necessary before alternative suitable accommodation is secured elsewhere.  Housing authorities should not delay in securing alterative accommodation in the hope that the applicant might return to her partner.”

If Refuge are forced to close their doors, where will the non-priority, supposedly intentionally homeless survivors of domestic abuse go? Local authorities will no longer be able to place duty of care at their door. A system that has already collapsed under the strain cannot conceivably provide additional support. How will local authorities cope with a drastic increase in homelessness applications? Will they have temporary accommodation in place for women who urgently need to flee? Where will they find the stock to re-house these urgent cases?

There are no answers to these questions because we cannot magic provision out of thin air.