Tag Archives: London2012

The authoritarian Games: why Lord Coe can’t simply arrest anti-Olympic protesters in advance


Would you buy a used Olympics from this man?

Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison (aka Assistant Commissioner Clouseau) was quoted in Sunday’s Observer promising to anticipate criminality at this year’s Games by pre-emptively arresting those he thought likely to be guilty of crime or anti-social behaviour. While the proposals sound Orwellian (and here’s a clue – when things sound Orwellian, usually that’s because they are Orwellian), Asst Cmr Allison was keen to calm the anxieties of the good readers of that newspaper. Bona fide protesters, he promised, should not anticipate prosecution for thought crimes, but would be allowed to protest:

“If you want to protest, speak to us beforehand so we can manage your right to peacefully and lawfully protest. But if as an individual we think you are going to disrupt the Games in some way, then I am telling you that we will take whatever action we can within the law to prevent you from disrupting the Games, because you don’t have the right to do it.”

Along with the very deliberate leaking of the huge numbers of police officers and soldiers on duty at the games, and the careful spreading of the word of the variety of military technologies that will be available to the authorities, this latest announcement is best seen as yet another attempt to cause anxiety among potential protesters and to isolate the activists from their periphery. Read in this manner, the important point about the message is the initial “threat” of police action rather than the partial  “reassurance” that protesters will not in fact be targeted. It is the threat which most of us are supposed to hear and internalise.

In the context of Allison’s language, and in particular his final words, “you don’t have the right” [to disrupt the Games], it is worth recalling that when the police have tried to forestall the rights of protesters to disrupt events, as often as not, the courts have found that it is the police who were acting unlawfully.

The leading case is Laporte, R (on the application of) v Gloucestershire Constabulary & Ors [2004] UKHRR 484, a case which was brought after police intelligence identified that 120 protesters were travelling to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire some of them (in the words of the subsequent court report) “hard-line protesters … intent on being present at that demonstration”. The demonstrators were pre-emptively arrested, i.e. held in their coaches, and forcibly turned back by police officers.

Not having had access to solicitors prior to their arrest, they could only bring a claim after their return to London for judicial review and damages.

The protesters said that the actions of the police were unlawful, and prevented them from attending the demonstration infringed their freedom of peaceful assembly under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their freedom of expression under Article 10.

The High Court agreed, Lord Justice May ruling, “the claimant’s enforced return on the coach to London was not lawful because (a) there was no immediately apprehended breach of the peace by her sufficient to justify even transitory detention, (b) detention on the coach for two and a half hours went far beyond anything which could conceivably constitute transitory detention such as I have described, and (c) even if there had been, the circumstances and length of the detention on the coach were wholly disproportionate to the apprehended breach of the peace.”

The decision was then upheld by the Court of Appeal.

This is not to say that pre-emptive arrests could never be justified: but the High Court’s emphasis on “immediately apprehended” breaches of the peace is the key. A police officer is of course allowed to arrest a person just before they throw a weapon. A police officer is not, by contrast, allowed to arrest a person days or hours in advance, pre-emptively to anticipate a hypothetical disorder.

As the Court of Appeal put it, “The greater the distance and the greater the time involved, the more important it is to decide whether preventive action is really necessary and, if it is necessary, the more restrained the action taken should usually be as there will be time for further action if the action initially taken does not deter.”

If, for example, the power of arrest was used against an ordinary demonstrator with no plans to cause violence, as part of a blanket policy which was tantamount to preventing all protests in the vicinity of the Olympic Games, the action of the police officers would be unlawful. In principle, their force and (in all likelihood) they personally could be liable in a subsequent claim for damages.

The neo-liberal Games; Newham teenagers banned from central Stratford


Thanks to the Newham Monitoring Project for circulating the news that the police have applied for, and obtained, a dispersal notice, banning groups of people from congregating in “Stratford Town Centre, including the Magistrates’ Court, the main transport hubs in Stratford and the areas along West Ham Lane commonly known as the West Quadrant”.

In a previous life (well, 6 months, actually) as a criminal barrister, I had frustratingly extensive experience of how dispersal notices were used elsewhere in London by the Met – which is, is the name suggests , to”disperse” any groups (i.e. 2 or more people) of teenage children, doing anything. Inevitably, the children who lived in the vicinity of the dispersal notice, would be stopped again and again from such terrible anti-social behaviour as – walking down the streets, going into shops, riding bicycles, etc.

As dispersal became a habit, there would be friction between the children and the PCSOs (who, being cheaper to hire than ordinary police officers, seem to have the actual job of implementing the dispersal zone). PCSOs would go into secondary schools, to get the names of the children. And in double quick time, full ASBOs would be sought against them. Within a month, say, of the original dispersal order,  there would be application to the Magistrates Courts for ASBOs containing curfew orders (banning named children from leaving their homes after say 5pm), exclusion orders (banning them from any part of the estate on which they lived), etc, etc. Within 3 months, there would breaches, and the children would be in detention.

Dispersal orders are not intended to stop protesters or demonstrators (this is done under distinct powers found in the Public Order Act), nor indeed adults, perhaps because the police officers and the Magistrates recognise that an off-duty police officer or Magistrate might not be distinguishable from any other member of the community. This is rather all about banning teenage children from the streets.

And we can be more specific still: no-one is seriously suggesting that tourists should be banned from taking their children to Statford tube station, the Westfield shopping centre, or the Olympic stadium. Nor are there any calls to ban the teenage children of Seb Coe, or any of the other Olympic administrators, whose rights to shop at Prada and Jimmy Choo are a central priority of the Olympic organisers and of the police.

Rather, this is about turning central Stratford into a “Green Zone”, where children will be allowed so long as they are nicely-scrubbed, properly dressed, and identifiably middle-class. Should they look like the children of the poor, multiracial borough that is Newham; they can confidently expect a PCSO to move them on.

This is the message of Seb Coe and the London Organisers to the people of Newham: your sort aren’t welcome here.

The Austerity Games


When Seb Coe invited the International Olympic Committee to select London as hosts of the 2012 Games he justified the bid in simple terms. If London won, he promised, more people would take part in sport than could be achieved by any of London’s rivals: “Choose London today and you send a clear message to the youth of the world: the Olympic Games are for you”. If London won more would be done for less money than could be achieved anywhere else.

Since London’s victory there have been some attempts to keep an eye on whether these two promises have been met. The London Organising Committee (LOCOG) publishes annual accounts, and there has been some scrutiny through the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

It now seems clear that there will be no increase in sporting participation as a result of the Games. In 2008 the last government set Sport England a target to increase adult participation in sport by a million by March 2013.

Civil servants from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport told the PAC in March that they believe sporting rates have increased by around 100,000 over the last four years (the number of adults taking part in sport has increased by around 1 percent).

LOCOG’s publicity says as little as possible about adult involvement in sport, although there are frequent references to the number of schools which have been sent Olympics merchandise (a cynic would suggest that this has also been a cheap way of disposing of tens of thousands of items marketing the main Olympic sponsors).

As for cost, the London Olympic bid was for £2 billion, of which, it was said, the majority would be raised from the private sector. In fact only some £700 million or so has been raised from the private sector.

The total cost to the public, has risen from £1 billion (in the original bid) to £11 billion according to latest reports.

The PAC is critical of a number of decisions LOCOG has taken, including decisions about security. The Olympics organisers’ security forces will include Typhoon jets and two amphibious assault warships, one of which (HM Ocean, which houses 800 marines) is to be stationed on the Thames for the duration of the Games. These are the most grandiose of “conventional” weapons. What are they intended to protect us against – a surprise attack by Argentinean hockey players?

Between 2005 and 2011, the organisers budgeted for 10,000 security guards costing £282 million. In late 2011 a decision was taken to increase the total number of security personnel (including soldiers) to 23,500 costing £553 million. LOCOG chose to give the contract for 6,000 additional security guards to G4S, a business which has a track record of granting well-remunerated non-executive directorships to former members of both Tory and New Labour cabinets.

“There is no evidence”, the PAC writes, that “the government has secured any price advantage” from renegotiating this contract.

In other words, although you might have thought that buying services on this massive scale would lead to a price reduction, the government and LOCOG appear to have accepted the first offer that G4S put to them. Don’t assume that the workers will benefit from LOCOG’s largesse. In a letter sent by Seb Coe to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in January 2012, LOCOG spelled out how G4S’s contract will work.

Big salaries for some

Nine hundred and four managers are going to be employed at G4S’s Olympic Project Management Office on generous salaries. As for the 16,000 or so security guards to be provided by G4S, they will be paid just £10 per hour. And G4S are “incentivised” (in their contract with LOCOG) to “identify saving opportunities in labour costs”. So if agencies can be found who will pay their workers less than £10 per hour, G4S will keep the difference.

Seb Coe is being paid £350,000 per year of public money for the Games. Meanwhile LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton is being paid £800,000 per year, and altogether 16 executive directors of LOCOG are being paid in excess of £150,000 per year.

Just as there are two British economies, so it is at the Olympics: the rich are in permanent boom while the majority of workers find themselves in deep recession.

[from Socialist Review, May 2012]

Save Leyton Marsh: Mike Wells freed on bail


Reports on twitter (#freeMikeWells) indicate that the journalist Mike Wells, was freed today on bail:

after 2 nights in police custody & 6 nights in HMPThameside Mike has been granted bail

This is how writers associated with the Save Leyton Marsh campaign reported Well’s original arrest:

On Thursday 26th, April Mike Wells, a citizen journalist who writes for the Games Monitor website, was filming unsafe working practices on Leyton Marsh at the ‘chaotically managed’ Olympic construction site. As a result of his attempt to film and draw attention to the unsafe practices of an excavator working close to pedestrians on Sandy Lane (the pathway running adjacent to Leyton Marsh), Mike was assaulted first by the driver who did not want the activities filmed and was then brutally restrained by a number of bailiffs resulting in injuries to his ribs and forehead … His assailants refused to show ID or explain their actions but appeared very agitated and were ordering people to keep away. One of them was recording the scene and bystanders on video. Police arrived and immediately arrested Mike, who was driven away in handcuffs after being treated for some time in an ambulance.

Wells was then placed in police custody, and originally refused bail, before finally being granted bail today.

For those who want to know more of the context, particularly from the Olympic Development Agency’s perspective, I’d recommend reading the judgment of the High Court which in April granted ODA’s injunction against protesters, not prohibiting them from entering the Marsh, but limiting their means of protesting against its development into an Olympic practice area.

(One of SLM’s criticisms of Wells’ original bail hearing is that the CPS substantially misrepresented the terms of the injunction to the Magistrates, suggesting that Wells, and other members of the public, were excluded from the construction site. As will be seen, the injunction does no such thing).

I have no independent knowledge of the truth or otherwise of this account of Wells’ arrest – or indeed of the bail hearing. But this treatment of Wells, if proven, would accord with other complaints Save Leyton Marsh have about contractors working on the site, which include the allegation that a company solicitor – masquerading as an Evening Standard journalist – was sent to the site to trawl for information that would be embarrassing to the protesters.

I’ve previously discussed the case of Simon Moore, who received the first Olympic ASBO.

These allegations have to be placed within context. The approach of the Olympic authorities generally has been to crack down on anybody (whether commercial or political) who might contaminate their “brand”. As Tom Hickman has reported in the UK constitutional law blog

The London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006 prohibits businesses from any promotion linked to the games. It would catch, for example, a bed and breakfast offering a discount on rooms to anyone attending the games, or a pub that gets in a big screen to show the Games and publicises the fact on a sign outside.

Businesses are on very risky ground if they make any use of a combination of any two of the protected words “Games”, “2012” or “twenty twelve”, or combination including other secondary protected words, including “gold”, “London” or even “summer” …

The result was highlighted by the Newham Recorder in an article that received coverage on Have I Got News for You, that a local greasy spoon called Café Olympic had been forced to paint over the “O” on its shop sign.

It seems that protesters – as the greatest potential source of brand contamination – are being treated with the greatest contempt.

Finally, those interested in following the Leyton Marsh story should keep an eye on the SLM blog.


The Olympic Route Network: a public service broadcast on behalf of the anti-Olympic movement


The London Organisers are, as ever, upbeat: “Seventy per cent of road journeys in London will be unaffected by the Games and there will be a ban on planned roadworks during the Games period. However, at certain times and in certain locations in London, roads will be affected by Games operations or by the traffic displaced by Games operations.”

It’s not the roads that trouble me.

Like most people who live in zone 1 or 2, I don’t own my own car, but am dependent on public transport. To make matters worse, my job is itself peripatetic: in a typical day, I may travel to courts anywhere in inner or outer London – I have to use all the main tube routes, and (as court days are shifted) I often find myself in a different part of London at 10am one morning, to where I had expected to be when I first looked at my diary at 4pm the day before. If (say) the central line is rendered inoperative for the three weeks of the Olympics, and if I am booked to attend court in Stratford I won’t even have the fall-back of a bus (which will no doubt be equally busy).

Every day, I spent at least some time in Kings Cross, every day I spend at least some time in Holborn. But not, I can see, during the Olympics.

Friends are already telling me that the British Library is opening and closing late during the Olympics; and that TFL are advising companies in the vicinity of Euston Square that journeys which are ordinarily scheduled to last just 30 minutes will take 2 hours during the Olympic period.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we were genuinely “all in this together”, but of course 4000 Olympic dignatories, politicians, lawyers, and sponsors will have access to a special road network intended to get them quickly from press events to corporate jamboree to diplomatic receptions in the broad vicinity of the Games.

Their speed will only be made possible by delaying the rest of us.

Finally some maps:

Interactive maps for anticipated disruption to (1) London roads, (2) London public transport, and (3) outside London below:



Click to access outside-london-orn.pdf

And here’s an image of the Olympic Route Network itself

Meeting the Olympics Project for Human Rights (part 2)


I was present on Monday for a second meeting of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, the London network that has invited John Carlos to speak at Friends Meeting House in London on 21 May. There were a number of campaigns represented at the meeting including the Institute of Race Relations, Unite Against Fascism, Defend the Right to Protest, the RMT union etc.

Several other unions including the FBU are now backing the meeting as well as other campaigns such as the United Friends and Families Campaign.  The socialist sports writer and Carlos’ co-author is now speaking on the 21, will be Doreen Lawrence, and Janet Alder among others.

Carlos and Zirin will also be speaking under the banner of “John Carlos in Conversation”. The following is their timetable:

May 16, Brighton,
May 18 Brixton,
May 19, Bookmarks

May 22 Norwich,
May 25 Liverpool,
May 29 Stratford,
May 30 London

The branded Games


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).

Meeting the Olympics Project for Human Rights


Am just back from a meeting of the Olympics Project for Human Rights, the London-based successor to John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s original campaign, which culminated in their salute at the 1968 Olympics.

OPHR’s re-foundation has been the work above all of the RMT trade union, which early in March organised a public meeting in London titled We Demand Justice, bringing together the families of Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg, two Black Britons who died in police custody, and whose families have been campaigning for justice ever since, with Paddy Hill, John McDonnell MP and several other speakers.

“OPHR 2”, as I’ll call it, has organised a further public meeting, at 6pm on 21 May at Friends Meeting House opposite Euston station, to be addressed by John Carlos (above). Other speakers will include Janet Alder (of the Christopher Alder campaign), Doreen Lawrence (of the Stephen Lawrence campaign) and the rapper Lowkey.

OPHR 2 seeks to bring together the memory of Carlos and Smith’s action with the many family justice campaigns of which the Lawrence, Alder and Rigg families are merely the best known. The campaign is calling for practical human rights victories to come out of the Olympics (and the anti-Olympics protest movement): including and end to Stop and Search, and the prosecution of the police officers responsible for deaths in custody.

The formation of OPHR 2, alongside the Counter Olympics Network, Occupy London and others, is a clear sign of the growing number of people in London fed up with Olympic organisers’ neo-liberal vision.

A flier for the event on 21 May is attached here

Meeting the Counter Olympics Network


I spent Saturday morning with the Counter Olympics Network at a planning meeting at the Bishopsgate Institute near Liverpool Street. There were roughly 50 people in the room, including journalists from the Sunday Times, London Tonight and Bloomberg. There were even a couple of police officers outside filming us helpfully as we went in.

A number of campaigns were represented, including Our Olympics, No UK Tar Sands, Coalition of Resistance, Occupy London, Save Leyton Marsh, Drop DOW Now, and the SWP, among others. The meeting was chaired in the consensus style familiar from Occupy: no applause but “sparkling”, etc.

One speaker was Clayton Thomas Muller who organised against the Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010, and told us, “the Olympics is a real estate operation to justify the exploitation of the dispossessed.” Another international speaker told us that the Olympics reminded him of the baseball games of his youth: “while the folks played ball, their cars were getting jacked.”

The“Occupy Olympics movement” (if naming it that isn’t it to give it more coherence than it already possesses) is as keenly motivated by global as by domestic issues. If there was one single Olympic outrage to which people returned it was the adoption of BP, surely the world’s most egregious polluter, as the Games’ official Sustainability Partner (Rio Tinto, who will be striking the London 2012 medals, and Dow are also unhappily involved).

Of the domestic campaigns, Save Leyton Marsh is clearly the immediate focus. One speaker in purple running shoes, raised an immediate cheer when she complained “I have jogged round the marsh for years, and now the Olympics is taking it away from me.”

After I had left (childcare responsibilities meant I could not attend the afternoon planning session), the meeting agreed to announce a day of action on 28th July.

The report on the OurOlympics wesbite ends in terms which I echo:

“Further details will follow, but we call on all groups impacted by the Olympics, the misdeeds of its sponsors and contractors, or the government which is selling Britain out from under us: clear your diary and join together with us on Saturday 28th July 2012 to make your voice heard.  It’s going to be a day we never forget.”