Tag Archives: July 28

The Counter Olympics Network demonstration

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July 28

They were handing out Olympic-themed packets of Krave cereal at Mile End tube station (a product so well-enriched with sugar that it is known as “Crack4Children”). The first steward to arrive had settled with other anti-corporate veterans in a branded coffee house beneath the Green bridge, and was waiting for our briefing to begin. “You’ve never seen so many police vans in your life,” she told me. But the vans, it turned out, were all driving the other way.

In the weeks building up to the demonstration, I’ve met more different police officers than I have in the previous two decades put together: from the PC in charge of the traffic cones (“we will be laying the cones at two meter intervals. They will be made from orange plastic…”) to the working-class mum (who on finishing her escort of our five-mile anti-Olympic torch relay insisted on posing with us for photographs, “we’ve even got Critical Mass on the New Scotland Yard wall…”). I’ve met more senior officers who’ve been promoted rapidly for their role in the policing of dissenters (i.e. us) and I’ve encountered – more than once – the mute tension that culminated in Friday’s police riot.

On Saturday, the police waited at the edges. The vans were behind, they were in front, they were kept moving, they were kept out of sight.

In their absence, the demonstration was happy; relaxed, self-aware, conscious of the gap between what we want to do and the numbers we have on our side, but relieved, and capable of more.

The route followed from Mile End Park to Wennington Green. There was a lengthy pause outside the missile site at Bow Quarter.

And the crowd intervened successfully to prevent the one attempted arrest: a demonstrator equipped with nail-scissors who was foolish enough to try to clip a piece of the white ribbon which the police were using to mark off our route.

The main target of the chants was Our Tory Olympian:

Seb Coe, Get Out, we know what you’re all about! Missiles, job losses, Olympics for the bosses!

Hey Ho, Sebastian Coe Get your missiles out of Bow

In Wennington Green, the speeches began with Brian Richardson, East End resident and my fellow Haldaner, who was followed by Ruth Turner of War on Want, and Chris Nineham of Stop the Olympic Missiles.

The march has made the BBC and even the Daily Mail.

“It wasn’t the largest demo I’ve ever been on, but it was lively, vocal and angry”, Gareth Edwards of Inside Left writes, “And it felt important.” I’m not sure about the anger, but I agree with him about the march’s importance.

A friend who travelled widely in post-Stalinist Russia, hoping to encourage its citizens to rebel, once confided to me his greatest surprise on exploring its cities. Expecting to be constantly surrounded by images extolling the people to believe in the virtues of the Soviet system; he found in fact a near absence of visual propaganda. Not having a plethora consumer goods to advertise, rather only one product (the state), there were of course posters glorifying the regime – but they were occasional. Traveling through Moscow or Leningrad you could walk for an hour or more without seeing anything endorsing the regime.

The organisers of the London Olympics have drawn from this story the lesson that saturation advertising is the surest way to maintain support; whether it is the posters in the railway stations insisting that the Olympics could not take place without corporate backing and listing the corporate sponsors (but not naming the main funder, whose backing outweighs that of all the other funders together by ten to on; the tax-paying working-class), or the MacDonalds ads colonising the transport links to the Olympics, or the interminable television and radio coverage forcing even loyal listeners away from the BBC.

This was the victory of yesterday’s anti-Olympic demonstration: for the 5-600 people present it broke through the isolation imposed on the Olympic disbelievers and reminded each of us that we are not alone.

UPDATE: there’s a lovely short film here which gives a sense of the scale of the demo, as well as the views of the participants.

Rotten Borough Heather Bonfield: unelected consultant tries to ban anti-Olympic protest demonstration

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By the time this post goes up, the big Counter Olympics Network will hopefully have left Mile End park and will be ambling peacefully in the direction of Wennington Green (via Bow Road, Fairfields Road, Roman Road, etc).

The organisers do have the permission of the police and Transport for London for their route. It is simply not clear whether we have been able to get the agreement of Tower Hamlets council for speeches after the demonstration, despite the fact that every demo in Britain in the last 20 years has ended with speeches of one sort or their another. Rather the council’s good idea has been that demonstrators should get to Wennington Green, enter it, and then “disperse” (whatever that means).

What makes this more troubling is that the demonstrators are told by the local councillor (Bill Turner) and by the local MP (Rushanara Ali) that we have their support. Indeed the Mayor, the senior elected person with responsibility for the council has so distanced himself from his own officers, as to convey a message to the organisers, via councillor Rania Khan, that the event should go ahead as planned.

For those interested in this story, as a case-study of how local democracy does – or doesn’t work – here are the key dates:

On 11 June 2012, CON  first wrote to Heather Bonfield the interim head of Culture at Tower Hamlets informing her of our intention to hold an event starting at Mile End Park marching through roads controlled by your authority and ending at Victoria Park.  She wrote back on 22 June as follows:

“Thank you for your email.  My apologies for not coming back to you
sooner. I have to advise you that the Council does not grant you
permission to use either park and if you make a formal application –
which we require – it will not be approved.”

“During the Olympic period our major parks, especially Victoria Park,
will be extremely busy and we will not permit any additional use.”

“We have advised the Police that we are refusing your request.” (emphasis added)

Officers of the council were present at a meeting with CON, the Metropolitan Police and Transport for London on 9 July where this matter was revisited. Michael Rowan, Head of Tower Hamlets Parks, was asked whether it remained the council’s position that it would not allow an event ending at Victoria Park, and answered that the council had changed its position and would allow an event provided that it ended at Wennington Green rather than Victoria Park.

On 10 July Michael Rowan again informed CON that speeches and other events would be allowed provided only that there was no indication from the police that they would be unsafe. He wrote: “The one issue that concerns us here is the use of Wennington Green for speeches etc as when I approached the meeting I had assumed it was to be used as a dispersal site. I have asked my colleague who is sending the paperwork to comment on the health and safety implications of use of that particular site with the number of people potentially surging forward to see or hear what is going on. So long as the police are content that there is no health and safety issue then that is fine” (emphasis added).

There was then a lengthy to-and-fro about the details of the event, with CON being asked to send an event plan, which we did, and there were various email and phone exchanges in which there was no suggestion that the council was against the event.

Then, quite out of the blue, on 17 and 20 July, Michael Rowan emailed CON, copying in Ms Bonfield (the original decision-maker of 22 June, but who had then been on leave and played no part in any public exchanges between 22 June and 17 July) to say that they would not allow anyone from CON to enter Wennington Green save for the sole purpose of dispersal.

On 23 July, CON threatened Tower Hamlets with Judicial Review, with the result that at 5pm on 25 July, Tower Hamlets wrote to us backing down, but sending us a list of conditions for the event, none of which had been put to us before, including a prohibition on “marquees” but not on “gazebos” (and what exactly is the difference?), and a ban on sound traveling outside the park (given the limited strength of our amplifiers that will present no difficulty), and a newly dreamed-of rule that there should be no more than 1 hour of speeches and no other activities (ie an absolute ban on a speech delivered in the form of a poem, or as a sketch).

We responded, accepting some but not all of their conditions, at 10am on Friday, and have heard nothing since.

The best explanation for the council’s official hostility to the event appears to be that Heather Bonfield has objected to the event and on her return from leave brow-beat more junior council officers into accepting her decision – despite the support it had from every publicly elected politician with any relationship to the area. There was less hostility in early July, when she was away. On her return, she was able to foist her decision onto her more junior colleagues.

Heather Bonfield, the author of the charming correspondence I quoted above, is not even an employee of Tower Hamlets council, but is a self-employed consultant trading under the originally-titled name “Heather Bonfield Consultancy Limited”.

As to how much she is paid: according to her own company records at Companies House, in 2006-7, the turnover of her business was around £75,000; but the documents she has filed at Companies House in 2011 and 2012 are not so gauche as to reveal her present income.

Express journalist and long-time watcher of the council, Ted Jeory, reports she is is being paid £800 per day, and around £200,000 p/a altogether. But, given the paucity of the information she has filed, I cannot confirm that. What I do note is that if Jeory is right that means she is trousering more than her own Chief Executive, who is paid on a salary scale from £165,000 to “just”  £194,000 per year.

There is something troubling about the idea that someone who is not even employed by Tower Hamlets has the authority to countermand the elected councillor, the elected MP and the elected Mayor.

Without speculating at all as to the politics or ethics of this arrangement: the demonstration – and the speeches – go ahead.

Why I am marching

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“I doubt I am quite what the police would expect of the typical Olympic protester. On Thursday morning, I will be gathering with friends from my local running club to cheer on a member of our team who has been picked to run with the official Olympic torch; only afterwards, on Friday, will I run with the unofficial Olympic Poverty torch, first made by activists for the Vancouver Games.”

Me on the openDemocracy website explaining why I am marching on July 28.

July 28 demonstration; stewards still sought

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There are just two days to go now till the Counter Olympics Network demonstration. There will be a march from Mile End park (assembly time 12 noon) to Wennington Green (at the North end of Mile End park, near Victoria park). At the end, there will be speeches and Counter Olympic events.

CON is still seeking stewards, as there have been difficulties negotiating the event with the authorities, primarily the local authority, and at the time of writing it is still not clear whether the authority will give us permission to hold our post-demo events.

There will be a stewards debrief on Saturday July 28 at 11am.

Write to me at davidkrenton[at]gmail.com if you’re interested in being a steward and I will send you full details of where to meet up.

Protesters prepare to take Tower Hamlets to court over anti-Olympic speeches ban

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Press Release from Counter Olympics Network 23rd July 2012

Anti-Olympic activists in the Counter Olympics Network (CON) have today served papers on Tower Hamlets council demanding that it reverse its ban on anti-Olympic speeches and events following CON’s Demonstration against the Corporate Olympics on Saturday 28th July.

CON was informed on 18 July 2012 that Tower Hamlets refuses to allow speeches or other events at Wennington Green, where its march will end. This is despite CON obtaining permission from the police and from Transport from London for its demonstration.

Tower Hamlets Council denies placing restrictions on freedom of speech, saying that they could not allow the event as they simply did not have sufficient notice of it. But CON first wrote to Tower Hamlets on 11 June setting out details of their protest, and by law protesters only have to give the authorities six days notice of an event.

After receiving notice of the event, Tower Hamlets initially wrote back to CON on 22 June refusing permission for it; but after coming under pressure from the police and from elected officials in the borough changed tack, writing to the protesters on 10 July to say that they would be given permission, before finally banning the event on 18 July.

On 20th July Labour MP Rushanara Ali wrote to Stephen Halsey of Tower Hamlets supporting the group’s right to protest. CON has also had messages of support from both Labour and Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets, and Respect Councillor Harun Miah has tabled a motion for Tower Hamlets council supporting CON’s right to march.

Julian Cheyne stated ‘CON does not understand why Tower Hamlets has decided to alter its decision to allow it to hold a peaceful event in Wennington Green. CON has co-operated with the authorities at every stage and has approval from both the police and TfL for its march and event. It is astonishing and unjust for Tower Hamlets to go back on its word like this.’

Albert Beale of CON commented: ‘There is a very substantial body of opinion which is unhappy with the Games, its connection with a number of very unsuitable corporations, and the refusal to properly consult with or to listen to local opinion over decisions like the placing of missiles on residential buildings in the East End. The authorities have stated they intend to facilitate protest. All protests end with speeches and in this instance CON intends to hold a family friendly closing event which Tower Hamlets should welcome. Instead it chooses to place obstacles in our way. CON will continue to insist on its right to protest and to use a public park for that purpose.’

CON has given Tower Hamlets until 10am on 25th July to allow it to use Wenningham Green after which it will issue proceedings in the High Court for Judicial Review.

Notes

1. CON’s protest will start at 12 noon on Saturday 28th July. Assembly point is in MileEndPark, opposite Mile End Tube station. The march will begin at 1pm and proceed down Bow Road, pass along Fairfield Road past Bow Quarter where missiles have been installed in the face of opposition from local residents, down Tredegar Road, St Stephen’s Road and Roman Road to Wennington Green. The event to be held in Wennington Green will not require the use of any heavy equipment, a condition presented by Tower Hamlets, in light of the heavy rainfall, at an earlier stage in the proceedings and one which protesters are happy to abide by. The event will include speakers Brian Richardson of Defend the Right to Protest, Ruth Tanner of War on Want and Chris Nineham of the Stop The Olympic Missiles Campaign. There will also be speakers from some of the 50 or so campaigns that support CON, children’s activities, poetry, theatrical performances, music and mock Olympics sports.

2. The CON Demonstration against the Corporate Games highlights the close ties between the Olympic brand and its corporate sponsors who, despite IOC claims of vetting on ethical grounds, include serial polluters, companies which seriously damage the environment and which wreck or take lives, Coca Cola, Rio Tinto, BP, Dow Chemical. Others like G4S, Cisco, and Atos deny people their human rights in a variety of situations while Macdonalds helps to fuel the obesity epidemic. London2012 provides benefits at taxpayers’ expense while receiving little in retur.

3. Counter Olympics also protests at the broken legacy promises, the lack of benefits for local people and businesses, the fantastic expansion of security into our daily lives, the deployment of missiles and large numbers of troops, the unwarranted seizure of public land at Wanstead Flats, Leyton Marsh and Greenwich Park. These negative precedents set in so many different fields can be used to justify further massive security operations, the deployment of armed police and drones, the further seizure of land and the breach of planning rules preventing development of open space.

July 28 CON demo: stewards sought

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I reported yesterday that the route of the Counter Olympic Network demonstration has been agreed with the police.  Naturally, we are all focussing now on the final preparations for the event.

CON is particularly seeking stewards, as there have been difficulties negotiating the event with the authorities, including TfL and the local authority, as well as the police. It is our simple priority to keep everyone on the event safe, and the more stewards we have the easier it will be.

There will be an informal stewards meeting on Thursday July 26  from 6.30pm and then a final training/debrief on Saturday July 28 at 11am

Write to me at davidkrenton[at]gmail.com if you’re interested in being a steward and I will send you full details of each event.

Counter Olympics Protesters Will Defy Demo Ban

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Press Statement – COUNTER OLYMPICS PROTESTORS WILL DEFY DEMO BAN

PRESS STATEMENT

COUNTER OLYMPICS NETWORK

(phone contacts: Julian Cheyne 020-3560 4064, 07988 401216, Albert Beale 020-7278 4474)

12 July 2012

COUNTER OLYMPICS PROTESTORS WILL DEFY DEMO BAN

A packed meeting of Counter Olympics activists agreed last night to march through Bow on Saturday 28 July in protest at the corporate takeover of the London 2012 Games. The protestors will defy an attempt by Transport forLondonto ban the demo.

The meeting, representing an alliance of 43 campaign groups (see below), plans to assemble at Mile End Park at 12 noon, march down Bow Road, up Fairfield Road (past the planned site of a ground-to-air missile), and down Roman Road, ending with a ‘People’s Games for All’ rally and festival at Wennington Green.

When activists met representatives of the Metropolitan Police, Tower Hamlets Council, and Transport forLondonon 9 July, TfL said they would not sanction a march alongBow Road, claiming it is part of the ‘Alternative Olympic Route Network’ (AORN).

The AORN network is an alternative route for use during the London 2012 Games if the main Olympic Route Network (ORN) should for any reason be blocked.

Comments

Counter Olympics Network (CON) spokesperson Julian Cheyne said: ‘The ORN will be used exclusively by the IOC, Olympic officials, sponsors, media, and athletes. Even ambulances are barred. The IOC are getting luxury accommodation in theWest Endand will ride around in chauffer-driven BMWs at public expense. They will have priority over all other road users.

‘Everyone else will be herded onto congested roads and overloaded public transport. The ORN will be a 35-mile ribbon of class privilege running acrossLondonfor the duration of the Games. It will cause six weeks of blocked roads, traffic congestion, and closed bus routes, cycle lanes, and pedestrian crossings.

‘But the AORN isn’t even part of this. It will only come into operation if the ORN suffers some kind of breakdown. The idea that you ban free speech and shut down democracy to ensure that the rich have an alternative priority highway is an outrage.’

The protest meeting, held from 7 to 9pm at theSchoolofOrientaland African Studies last night (11 July), decided that the demonstration will follow the route already agreed but use the pavement if necessary.

CON spokesperson Albert Beale said: ‘We’ve done everything we can to accommodate the authorities – giving early notice of our intention to march, avoiding the ORN network and the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Park, agreeing to use the parks proposed by the local council, and so on. But we won’t be denied our right to protest, so we will be marching downBow Road, and if we are restricted to the pavement, the stupidity of the resulting congestion and delay will be the responsibility of Transport forLondon.’

The demonstration and supporting organisations

The march is taking place under the slogans ‘Whose Games? Whose City? No Limos! No Logos! No Launchers! Demonstate Against the Corporate Olympics’.

It has been called by the Counter Olympics Network and is supported by the following organisations, representing a wide range of critical perspectives:

ALARM, Athletes Against Dow Chemical’s Sponsorship, Badhoc, BARAC, Blacklist Support Group, Bread and Circuses, Brent Trades Council, Coalition of Resistance, Counterfire, Defend the Right to Protest, Disabled People Against Cuts, Drop Dow Now, East London Against Arms Fairs, Games Monitor, G4S Campaign, Grunts for the Arts, Hackney Green Party, Hackney Trades Council, Hackney Woodcraft Folk, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Haringey Trades Council, Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Trades Council, Jewish Socialist Group, Lewisham People Not Profit, Lewisham Stop the War, Lewisham Trades Council, London Green Party, London Mining Network, Netpol, No Games Chicago, Occupy London, Our Olympics, Partizans, People & Planet, Save Leyton Marsh Campaign, Space Hijackers, Stop the Olympic Missiles, Thurrock Hecklers, UK Tar Sands Network, Waltham Forest Trades Council, War on Want, Youth Fight for Jobs, and more.

Press contacts

Julian Cheyne (from 1pm onwards): juliancheyne@yahoo.co.uk, 020-3560 4064, 07988 401216.

Albert Beale: worldpeace@gn.apc.org, 020-7278 4474.

Websites

For further background on CON, the issues raised by the Olympics, and the demonstration, see previous press release and other info at:

www.counterolympicsnetwork.wordpress.com

www.gamesmonitor.org.uk

https://livesrunning.wordpress.com/tag/counter-olympics-network/

Meeting the Counter Olympic Network – report of event on 11.7.12

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Thanks all to the 50+ people who attended yesterday evening’s Counter Olympic Network planning meeting at SOAS.

I thought it was a brilliant event, its breadth indicated by the number of groups who spoke in the opening “shout out”: Youth Fight for Justice, Save Leyton Marsh, Disabled People Against Cuts, Stop the Olympic Missiles, People and Planet, Spacehijackers, UK Tar Sands Network, Drop Dow Now, Carpenters Against the Regeneration Plan, War on Want, etc, etc…

We announced – and confirmed – the route of the demonstration on July 28th, and groups were able to bring ideas in terms of the post event planning. A few very practical points emerged:

The painting of banners for the 28th will take place on either Thursday 19th or Friday 20th July at LARC 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 1ES between 12-6pm contact juliancheyne[at]yahoo.co.uk for confirmed time

There will be an Alternative Torch Relay starting at 2pm on Saturday 21st and Friday 27th July in East London.

We are looking for people to help with being on streets with leaflets and encourage runners, to film and photograph the runners, for details or to offer help please contact juliancheyne[at]yahoo.co.uk

Please note these two events will not interfere with the official torch relay!

A variety of events were advertised at the meeting. If people wish to publicise meetings on the CON website please contact juliancheyne[at]yahoo.co.uk

Counter Olympics Network – July 28: no limos, no logos, no launchers

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Here is the poster for the Counter Olympics Network demonstration and party on July 28. You’ll see the assembly point of our demonstration above. We#re then hoping to have an enjoyable and accessible afternoon of cultural activities, with particular events aimed at children. Full pdf for printing here. Any offers of assistance (with sponsorship, stewarding, ideas for speakers, etc etc) do feel free to drop me a line at davidkrenton[at]gmail.com.

Reasons to demonstrate on July 28; number 7: Atos

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For all the talk of the corporate take-over of the Olympic Games, less has been said about the take-over of the Paralympics. Here, the great scandal is the role given to Atos, whose website describes the company as the “IT sponsor” of the event. Atos is of course one of a cluster of Olympic and Paralympic sponsors which exists in a parasitical relationship to the state; providing private services which once would have been done by government departments, and doing so at exorbitant rates.

More particularly, Atos is the primary recipient of government contracts for “work capability assessments”, i.e. the process under which disabled people are declared fit or unfit to work, with the result (where a finding of capability is made) that their benefits are downgraded to those available to other, non-disabled unemployed people. It is estimated that as many as 1 million disabled people have failed capability assessments over the past 4 years. Many of course have appealed (and appellants’ success rates are unusually high in this area of the law), but this is a jurisdiction which does not receive legal aid, and many others have felt powerless to do anything to resist Atos.

Examples of people to have been diagnosed as well by Atos include people with terminal cancer, people between sections by mental health professionals, etc. Atos has been criticised by CAB, McMillan Cancer and others.

The BMA Local Medical Committee Conference has voted unanimously for an end to work capability assessments and it was announced last year that 12 doctors employed by Atos were under investigation by the General Medical Council over allegations of improper conduct. Seven of the doctors had been under investigation for more than seven months. The complaint linking all of them was that they had assessed people incapable of work, as if they were capable, doing so for Atos.

For disabled activists, Atos’ role in the Paralympics is about as incongruous as putting the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in charge of a children’s kindergarten.

Details of the July 28 protest below (click on the image to enlarge):