Tag Archives: 2012

Simon Moore: ASBO decision

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At today’s hearing before Westminster Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Purdy issued the ASBO sought by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, making an order limiting Simon’s ability to protest for the minimum period of 2 years required by law.

Unusually, DJ Purdy issued his reasons as a typed document, which have been scanned (although they are not tremendously easy to read) onto the Indymedia website.

As to the merits of the application, Purdy says as little as he could possibly get away with, noting that Simon is personally brave, sincere in his hostility to the corporate take over of the Games, and non-violent.

Purdy granted the application (as almost any district judge would feel obliged to do), but with 2 interesting refinements:

i) Although the order was made for the minimum two year period, Purdy recorded that the order could be dismissed by consent as soon as 17 September, i.e. as soon as the Games have been finally put to bed (and it has to be assumed that if Simon applies for its discharge, that will be granted).

ii) Purdy discharged the old “clause 3” of the order which prohibited Simon from trespassing anywhere. It now appears that it was this particular clause which police in Windsor had relied on when arresting Simon for involvement in a Levellers protest (unrelated to the Olympics) last weekend. That doesn’t take away all the malice of the ASBO, but it does lessen its sting a little…

After the hearing, Simon issued a short statement to the press: ”The effect of this ASBO is to criminalise peaceful protest.  There are legitimate issues for concern around the Olympics such as the destruction of Leyton Marsh in East London for a temporary basketball training facility and the ethics and human rights records of corporate sponsors for the games.  These punitive and coercive measures will not stop us from peacefully protesting or from doing what is right.” 

“I stand by my position that I will continue to do what I think is just even if that means having to live in prison.”

London 2012: the touts move in

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Sunday’s papers report the news that Serbian and Chinese Olympic officials have been caught offering to sell tickets outside their jurisdiction in blocks of up to 1500 tickets at a time. This in turn begs an obvious question: who is buying the tickets, and who will be filling their seats?

The suspicion is that some of the tickets are being sold to British sports fans.  Thursday’s and Fridays’ issues of the Metro newspaper ran an advertisement for tickets for the London Olympics. “The Games may not come to London again”, it began “are you and your family really going to miss them.” (Phew, so no pressure there). It was the prices that really caught the eye: £295 for the unglamorous Canoe Sprint at Eton Dorney, £495 to watch the slightly most desirable sport of handball in the Olympic Park, and £695 for the morning athletics events at Stratford on 3 August.

What delights await the spectator who stumps up £695 for a single ticket? The 1st round (of 2 rounds) in the hammer, the 1st round (of 2) in the 3000 metres steeplechase, and one (repeat, just one) final: the shot put. All that for just £695 per person? A bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Simon Moore speaks

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The court hearing the application for a “full” (i.e. 2 year) ASBO against Simon Moore has reserved its judgment until Monday.

This is the text of the statement Simon read out in court:

“I feel that this ASBO is symptomatic of the nature and feel of the Olympic games in London 2012 and the general state of consciousness of the authorities at this time.

I think it is clear to see from the delivery of London 2012 that these games are not simply about sport and amusement. They involve the channelling of very large amounts of public funds into the hands of private corporations whose primary aim is the make as much profit from their service as possible.

Partly due to this, I believe that a culture of greed has been created as London 2012. It has been reduced from an event which could be a benefit to everyone to a profit making exercise which places private interests above public.

The games offer the government the chance to increase its national and international image and popularity at a time when austerity and turbulence are becoming commonplace. The government appears to be desperate to use the games to better its image.

For these reasons I believe that there is a pathological desire on the part of the authorities and private interests to ensure that the delivery of the games is executed to exactly as they intend. This is not a healthy, balanced and reasonable attitude and it is creating negative effects.

The needs of local communities in the areas where the infrastructure of the games are located are being ignored and in many cases overwhelmed or infringed on by the delivery of the games. This is evidenced by multiple examples including:

The intensive and ecologically destructive developments for games related venues on open metropolitan land at Hackney Marshes, Leyton Marsh and Wanstead Flats to name a few. This destruction of local community resources illustrates that the authorities believe is a price worth paying despite how unpopular the decisions have been in the local areas. It feels like a case of: ‘the games must be completed at any cost’.

The pathological desire for results has created an atmosphere of intolerance towards anyone or anything that disagrees with any aspect of the games or its delivery.

This has meant that when local communities have expressed legitimate concerns about the way some aspect of the delivery of the games is being delivered in their neighbourhood, not only have they been ignored, they have been criminalised and penalised. The campaign to Save Leyton Marsh which is made up of residents and locals has been subjected to coercion and intimidation through the use of the law as it attempted to peacefully stand up for the protection of a community space which was taken without their consent for the construction of a basketball training facility. The construction has created a lot of problems for the locals there including the exposure to dangerous toxic waste in areas in which children, adults and animals regularly play, not to mention being effectively locked out of a vital community space indefinitely. Their concerns are legitimate and have not been listened to by the authorities to any degree which could be called understanding.

The use of measures such as the ASBO which are tools to coerce and punish, are being used for those who are engaging in ordinary peaceful demonstration against aspects of the games which are unpopular. They can and are being used to stifle legitimate dissent. This reflects a possible desire by the authorities to ensure that the public image that they are crafting for the games is not tarnished in anyway by peaceful protest. It is a further indicator of a pathological mentality which characterises the undertaking of the delivery of the games

Personally I do not think disrupting the ceremonies or sporting events of the Olympics would necessarily be an effective form of helping to awake people to an injustice. I think there is a risk of alienating and irritating those people who may be open to a message, but are also keen to enjoy these events.

However I believe that this use of punitive and coercive measures to intimidate and punish those who cause or are under suspicion of causing some form of limited, temporary and non-harmful disruption is unreasonable and is symptomatic of the pathological mentality which characterises these Olympics.

This attitude shows no attempt to understand why people have issues with aspects of the games including its delivery, its timing and its relationship with private interests.

The authoritarian nature and behaviour of the authorities in its behaviour in delivering the games are also present in its everyday activities, although perhaps in a less extreme way. It seems that our system of diluted fascism is becoming more fascist everyday. It need not be this way and it is within our power to change it.

In my case this ASBO has imposed on me a challenge whether to proceed with activities which I know are fair and reasonable and by so doing break the law or to succumb to its coercive nature and stop. I have decided to break the law.

The activities which I speak of include:
Travelling around London and elsewhere and passing through and by the various Olympic routes and venues as part of a consequence of taking part in everyday activities including visiting family and friends and even coming to the court today. (in contravention of prohibition 1).
Engaging in peaceful demonstration against unreasonable aspects of the games or other issues in, around or near Olympic venues or routes such as Leyton Marsh.
Living on disused land and using camping equipment such as sleeping
bag, tent and other equipment in order to create low impact
sustainable communities. (In contravention of prohibition 3).

I have decided that I would rather live in prison than be entrapped and controlled by fear of breaching the prohibitions contained within this ASBO. Control by fear is a worse prison than physical prison. Only reacting to fear can imprison the mind and spirit.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the heavy reliance of ASBOs and other forms of coercive or punitive laws to regulate society and prevent ‘anti-social behaviour’ is failing to create a just, peaceful and free society. I think we need a radically different approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour which is based on ‘restorative’ justice.

Sir I would like to put to you that if you think the prohibitions contained within this ASBO are just then you should do as you see fit. However if you see the injustice of this ASBO or any legislation which you think is unjust, you would show the highest respect for the law by resigning your post.”

Simon Moore: an update

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Longstanding readers will recall my post from the end of April in which I drew attention to the case of Simon Moore, the Save Leyton Marsh activist who was faced with an ASBO banning him from (amongst other things) “Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee celebrations.”

Simon was arrested in Windsor on Monday, apparently for breaching the terms of this order. He was part of a group of people trying to set up a self-sufficient eco-village on unused land that is part of the Crown Estate, i.e. in the vicinity of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations (even though these have now ended) and in the vicinity (ie about 5 miles away from) the venue of the Olympic rowing and flatwater canoe/kayak events, even though these don’t start for another month.

The above photo shows Simon with a group of fellow “Diggers” shortly before his arrest – and a long way from any Olympic site.

Details of where Moore is being held, or the basis under which he is being held, are still vague but some information can be found on London Indymedia at https://london.indymedia.org/articles/12392 and https://london.indymedia.org/articles/12379

Two things we can say for certain: the first is that the ordinary practice of the Magistrates’ Court, when sentencing for a breach of a post-conviction ASBO, is to sentence the person to imprisonment.

The second is that Moore’s order is too widely-drawn and offends against even the limited legal protection which the courts offer in Asbo cases – namely that an order should only be made to prohibit a specific form of conduct, closely tied to the accused’s previous behaviour. To expand an “anti-Olympic ASBO” into an order prohibiting protest within several miles of an Olympic event that is not due to take place for six weeks is to expand the order into an all-purpose prohibition on “thought crime”.

I am sure all my readers will join me in sending solidarity greetings to Simon. His detention is another small sign of how the Olympics are changing Britain: for the worse.

UPDATED

Save Leyton Marsh has now reported that Simon was released on bail today, but is bailed to attend Westminster Magistrate Court this Thursday at 9.30am, where there is likely to be a full hearing of an application to convert his present interim ASBO into a full (i.e. 2 year) order. There will be a protest outside that hearing. I would encourage everyone who is available to attend.

“Hello Auntie”; the residents, the students, and the neo-liberal games

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Later this week, the BBC is due to take occupation of its broadcasting headquarters for the Olympic, which will be in the upper five storeys of two tower blocks, Lund Point and Dennison Point, on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Where, you might ask, will all the residents go? The answer, as traced by “Richard B” in the current issue of Mute Magazine, is that the blocks concerned were condemned as unfit for human habitation in 2004, and have since been run down by Newham council, which has reached a deal with University College London (UCL) to site a new campus on their remains. The residents, in other words, are being displaced.

Dave Sewell, writing about this same story in Socialist Worker, notes that Newham has a council house waiting list of 28,000 people and just 600 unoccupied homes for the former Lund inhabitants (and anyone else in the borough) to move into, and quotes Warren a local resident, “it’s just social cleasing. There are empty properties on the estate – why can’t people live here instead of being sent to Stoke?”

While the Olympics speeds up the displacing of the residents by students; a second population transfer is simultaneously taking place. The BBC’s competitors among the global media businesses reporting the games are going to be housed in UCL’s own student quarter in Bloomsbury (i.e around Russell Square). In both these moves, the wealthier are displacing the poorer, and the geographically mobile displace those who would prefer to stay.

The Carpenters Estate comprises some low-rise properties and three large concrete (22-storey) blocks, finished in (of all years) 1968. The blocks were marked down for closure eight years ago, but are still occupied, thanks not least to the Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans (CARP) campaign.

Richard B describes Newham’s efforts to mobilise against the dissenters: holding sham public meetings with security guards to keep out the Carpenters residents; offering remaining tenants alternative accommodation in a housing association block (ie with diminished security of tenure), promising loans (not grants) to anyone quitting the Carpenters in order to buy their own home.

UCL students – disheartened by the activities of their own institution – have voted to back the residents; while UCL management is no doubt hoping the occupiers will simply leave with the minimum of fuss.

Yet again, the Olympics is being used as an excuse to remove London’s poor. You might almost think that this was a pattern.

The Security Games; Brent’s problem with leafleters

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Campaigners in Brent are incensed by news that the local authority is planning to introduce a bye-law which would penalise those handing out free leaflets in the Borough. The report to the council which justified the measure stated that it was “being sought now to assist with the effective control of literature distributors anticipated during the Olympic period.”

Under the proposals, an organisation who wanted to hand out free literature would have to apply for a licence costing £175. There would be a minimum notice requirement of two weeks. A re-submission fee would cost a further £75. Each individual person who handed out leaflets would also have to pay a fee depending on how which days of the week they proposed to do this: £75 per person if during office hours on weekdays, rising to £165 per person on Sundays or Bank Holidays. The new restrictions would not materials promoting charities, religious organisations or “for political purposes”.

At a meeting of the Brent Trades Council on Wednesday, which voted to oppose the proposals, delegates gave examples of the sorts of activities which would be subject to this charge. BNP canvassers would not be punished by the rules; anti-fascist protesters would have to show that their purposes were “political”, otherwise they might be required to pay the fee.

Campaigners against library closures (a key group in Brent in the last year) would probably have to pay the charge, as presumably would trade unionists, and as (certainly) would trade unionists trying to leaflet quickly (i.e. without waiting for 2 weeks’ notice) in support of a dispute that arose suddenly.

Typical of the present period is Brent’s insistence that the new scheme, which will last indefinitely, has to be rushed through in order to be in place by the Olympics. Brent is an Olympic borough. It renegotiated its street cleaning contract last year, reducing the frequency of collections, and no doubt the council is wary of critics dubbing Brent the dirtiest Olympic borough.

But all over London there are other petty, authoritarian measures of this sort which are being introduced simply because they are convenient for various local authorities (councillors, the police, businesses etc). The Olympics is being used as an excuse to generalise the worst of London.

Simon Moore: notes towards a defence

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On 3 May, Simon Moore will face a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court to determine whether (according to the Inside Left blog, which has published a statement from him) he should be pre-emptively banned from

  1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence withinEnglandandWales.
  2. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any road being used on that day for the passage of the Olympic torch, or on which any Olympic competition or practice venue is taking place – e.g. the marathon – within England and Wales;
  3. Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land;
  4. Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee celebrations;
  5.  Obstructing the movement or passage of any Olympic participant between their residence, practice venue or place of work and venues being used for Olympic competition or cultural purposes and vice versa

The ostensible justification for these measures is that Moore has been successfully prosecuted for obstructing police officers at the Occupy Leyton Marsh site, and received a custodial term of 4 days. Having been prosecutes once, he is now being portrayed as a serial protester who must be prohibited from taking part in any further actions.

ASBOs have long been criticised because they give a barely fettered power to individual police officers (and because they are heard in the Magistrates Courts, the police do almost always get the orders the seek) to creatively invent new criminal offences, meaning that people are then prosecuted for “offences” which Parliament never designated criminal. 

Breaches of ASBOs are prosecuted and result in jail terms. The ordinary practice of the Magistrates Court, when faced with the breach of an ASBO is to order a custodial sentence, which in Moore’s case (because it would be a repeat conviction) would be likely to be lengthy.

In this way, by doing mundane acts, which on no rational basis could actually be characterised as anti-social behaviour (eg standing 98 yards away from a road that in two months time will be part of the marathon route) Moore potentially faces severe penalties.

Even the Coalition government accepts that ASBOs are an unhealthy development of our law and should be removed. (Although the government has taken no practical steps though to act on this promise).

My own approach would be as follows:

Agree nothing in advance and if need be appeal. If you can get the case away from the Magistrates Courts and into the High Court you will find that the atmosphere changes, there is a different approach altogether.

The courts have repeatedly said that an order can only be justified if it is completely comprehensible and no person could unwittingly breach it.

But consider the terms

  1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant’s residence withinEnglandandWales.

Has Moore been given maps showing where every “existing or proposed” competition, venue, route and residence is situated? If not, how is he expected to know whether he is unwittingly breaching that order or not?

Clauses 2 and 5 duplicates the “route” provision in clause 1 and are unnecessary.

Clause 3 bears no rational relationship to what he is accused of doing. Moore is not a serial occupier, he does trespass on flats or houses. He has protested once at an Olympic site. Clause 3, as currently drafted, would potentially make it a criminal offence for him to enter a shop without the owners’ permission.

You just have to fight every dot and comma of the proposed order.

The branded Games

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Three campaigns, the London Mining Network, Bhopal Medical Appeal and UK Tar Sands Network have been working together to produce a website Greenwash Gold exposing some of the worst Olympic sponsors: BP (responsible, via the mining of the Canadian tar sands, for aboutas many carbon emissions as any other company in the world), Rio Tinto and Dow. It’s a nice site, with some good short films (including the above).

But what strikes me about the full list of Olympic sponsors (set out at page 107 of this), is that they are not only polluters.

There are also producers of junkfood (Cadbury’s, Trebor, Holiday Inn), union busters (BA, UPS, Coca-Cola), faddists for nuclear power (EDF), vivisectors (GlaxoSmithKline), a sweatshop manufacturer (Adidas), as well as companies that have no economic function other than to cannibalise the welfare state (Atos, G4S). What a diverse list of rogues they are.

(Inside Left skewers them all brilliantly).

That Olympic legacy: class and ethnic cleansing

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Housing minister Grant Shapps has been seeking to defend his government, and the Coalition, from responsibility for Newham Council’s attempts to rehouse residents, no longer eligible for housing benefit, over 100 miles oustide the borough, in Stoke.

To most people this looks like blatant social engineering. Poor people are having to leave the areas in which they live, because the price of private-sector rents has gone up so sharply that the council can no longer afford to house them. Not so, says Shapps, who blames Newham. According to the BBC, “Grant Shapps said there were nearly 1,000 rental homes in Newham which fell within the cap and suggested Newham council were “playing politics” ahead of the elections.”

While the primary definition of the people who are being moved is that they are poor, it doesn’t take too much genius to grasp that the demographics of those being moved will be in many ways different from those who stay behind. In London, the working poor are predominantly white. That no longer remains true as you look lower down the ladder: the poorer Londoners get, the more likely they are to be black, Muslim, etc.

A bit of context is needed: until the 1980s, housing benefit was a relatively modest part of the total welfare bill. The cost of housing benefit, to local authorities, and to the state generally, has since risen enormously, essentially because in the mid-1980s, the previous Conservative government brought an end to 60 years of legislation limiting private sector recents.

 The “cap” referred to by Shapps is the government’s attempt to limit housing benefit by saying that no family may receive housing benefit in excess of certain limits (including an overall limit of £500 per week per family, for all benefits). Now, when these caps were introduced, they were applauded by the tabloids, because it just does seem obscene that anyone should be able to receive more in benefits than the average wage. The problem is London rents, which for a 2-bedroom house very often are in excess of £1500 per month.

I have described the process elsewhere:

“The Tory-Lib Dem coalition is cutting housing benefit, for example by placing (from April 2011 for new tenants, and for existing tenants from January 2012) an absolute cap on the amount of housing benefit that can be paid depending on the size of the property: £250 per week for a one-bedroom property, £290 per week for a two-bedroom property and so on. This is intended to be accompanied by a new measure that no family may receive a total of more than £500 per week in welfare benefits. The measures are supposed to reduce the growing housing benefit budget, but the costs of housing benefit have risen in circumstances where landlords are able to charge what they like. They will do nothing to reduce landlords’ power to charge ludicrously inflated rents to the state, but will leave many thousands of tenants with a shortfall. In due course, they will be in arrears with their rent. Inevitably, a large number will be evicted. Civil servants have estimated that the £500 cap alone will result in 20,000 families being made homeless.”

ie Government policy, faced with a spike in private-sector rents, is not to reduce rents, but to compel people to leave their properties and (inevitably) to move to cheaper (i.e. poorer) areas.

Shapps is lying, in short, when he disclaims responsibility for Newham: they are doing exactly what government policy asks of them.

Now, probing a little deeper, what really interests me is the part played in all this by the Olympics. One Newham resident interviewed on Radio 5 explained the matter as follows: many private-sector landlords have been pushing up their rents in 2012 in particular. Their motives are that they see the Olympics as a potential windfall. There will be many people moving to be near the Olympics for just a few weeks, and ladlords hope to rent out their flats at hotel-type prices – i.e. not £40 per night, but £100 or £200 per night. Clearly, no housing benefit system could “compete” with rents of this level.

At one point, the Olympic organisers were promising the residents of Newham, Stratford, etc better jobs and housing. By spring 2012, their primary promise is that at least the area will be left a giant shopping mall, the Westfield. But once you look at the units, presently in that shopping centre, you see a very similar problem. A significant proportion are going to companies like Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Tiffany, etc. As a boutique, you really don’t have to sell too many pairs of shoes at £10,000 each  before you’ve paid off a year’s rent.

The flats in which the friends of LOCOG will be staying are homes being taken out of the reach of working people. What the story shows, most clearly, is that you can’t create a playground for the rich in a bubble of its own.