Protest at Israeli Embassy 22nd July 2014

Several thousand protesters attended the event in Kensington High Street near the Israeli Embassy at 5.30 on Tuesday evening.

Police closed off the High Street outside the Palace Gate private road leading to the Israeli Embassy which is on Crown Estate land where protest is banned. Behind the gates and the double fortified barriers could be seen several police vans guarding the building, while on this side was a small stage and a crowd of several thousand peaceful protesters.

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

The protest, supported by a wide range of organisations including anti-war activists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Palestinians. The crowd was notable for its wide mix of ages and ethnicities, and one of the speakers commented on how the crowd was a shining example of love and unity, in contrast to the heavily defended Zionist outpost of hatred beyond the gates.

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

Despite the searing heat, protesters shouted energetic slogans and the atmosphere was a mix of righteous anger and buoyant solidarity mixed with a little dark humour among the placards.

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

The police deployed several “Police Liaison Officers” who showed their true colours by lurking at the edges, concentrating on their true role of intelligence gathering rather than actually doing much liaising.

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

As I left early, I came across an interesting sight. An Israeli Jew was handing out leaflets, claiming that the protest was anti-Israel because fewer than 1000 Palestinians dead were attracting bigger protest numbers than many more Egyptians, Syrian or Iraqi deaths. Though based on obviously false logic, he was eloquently trying to persuade a group of young Palestinian supporters who had gathered around him.

22nd july 2014 gaza protest at israeli embassy

What I witnessed over the next few minutes, was a remarkable display of street debate with no sign of menace, despite their diametrically opposed positions. Maps were flourished and argued over, the history of Israel and Palestine was discussed, documents were referenced, and connected and logical argument took place, with each side listening and trying to persuade the other. A little gem of human interaction providing some hope in such an indescribably hate-filled era.

With more than 500 Palestinians killed in this latest Israeli onslaught (around 80% civilians and more than 100 children murdered), another national protest has been called for Saturday 26th July. It will start at 12 noon at the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, and then will march to a rally in Parliament Square due to take place at 2.30.

29th June 2014 DPAC occupation at Westminster Abbey

Please note: This event was Saturday 28th June, not 29th. I won’t correct the title because there are now a load of links to it.

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) staged a dramatic protest on Saturday at Westminster Abbey. They were highlighting the planned abolition of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) and the terrible consequences such cuts would have on the lives of disabled people who gain some little freedom from being able to afford personal carers and who would otherwise end up in institutions.

The occupation was aided by UK Uncut and the Occupy movement, and was very nearly successful in its aim to establish a camp.

However, despite pleas from the protesters, the Dean of Westminster instructed police to confiscate tents and other equipment vital to the safety and well-being of the disabled activists, and he refused to communicate or negotiate directly with any organisers.

After a few hours, a meeting was held on site and a consensus reached, that although many of the supporters were ready to continue the occupation, the safety and comfort of more vulnerable colleagues was not guaranteed without the planned shelter, cooking, and toilet facilities, and so everyone agreed to leave together in solidarity.

The protest was attended by almost 200 police, who outnumbered the activists by at least 3 to 1. Given that the protest was completely peaceful other than two minor scuffles when police used force to prevent additional supporters from coming into the area, this certainly seemed to be more a political show of force than any proportionate response.

When the police threatened people with arrest for ‘criminal trespass’ they said the protesters were stopping the Abbey from going about its ‘normal business’. I received a tweet from @lightacandleOTM that summed it up perfectly – isn’t the normal business of the church to stand up for the persecuted?

 

Back with a little film about BP sponsorship of the arts

After a busy time and an untended blog, I return with news of a lovely action by the “Art Not Oil” coalition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Tonight, the gallery is celebrating its 25th year of BP sponsorship of the Portrait Awards, and to mark this sorry milestone in green-washing, we launch our short film of the serene “25 Portraits In Oil” action that took place in the gallery at the weekend.

 

‘Art Not Oil’ staged a peaceful visual protest at the National Portrait Gallery at the weekend.

While BP are celebrating their long association with the gallery, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says:

“Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.
Those companies primarily responsible for emitting carbon and accelerating climate change are simply not going to give up. They need a whole lot of gentle persuasion from the likes of us.
We can encourage our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry”.

Sponsorship arrangements with prestigious art institutions provide oil companies with an image of being “good corporate citizens” while in reality their main business model depends on destroying a safe and habitable climate for all of us.

The amount of finance they contribute to institutions is actually tiny in terms of overall budgets, and if oil companies paid their taxes without huge subsidies and massive loopholes, the money raised would hugely exceed the small contributions the oil companies make in return for their and apparent generosity.

Web: artnotoil.org.uk
Twitter: @artnotoil | #BPPortrait
Facebook: End oil-sponsorship of the Arts

Students surround and delay David Willetts car in May Day protest

Student activists had called a May Day Carnival for this evening to celebrate a year in which students and workers united in campaigns against University bosses, gaining some victories but facing intimidation, lies and violence in return.

The action was due to begin at 6pm with a parade to an unknown destination at 7.30.

By chance, the same day, MP David Willetts, the minister for Universities and Science, was giving a speech about capital funding in the UCL Darwin Building. So some students arrived early, and a few even got in to the building in an attempt to interrupt the event, before violent security henchmen forced them back, and taser-armed police arrived to secure the building.

The Carnival itself, plagued by constant rain, wasn’t looking too lively, and even with the appearance of a samba band at around 7.20, the gathered crowd was small, and spirits seemed dampened.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

Suddenly though, a few people carrying red and black flags headed off north, and others followed. It seemed they had a destination in mind, and just a few minutes later we were at the north east corner of Gordon Square, where a line of University security men surrounded a black Jaguar car, while students blocked the road in front. They’d found Mr. Willetts leaving his event, and he was trapped.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

As word spread, more students arrived, and peacefully blockaded the path of the Jag for several minutes before sirens were finally heard and several riot vans steamed up behind. As police poured out of the vans, they started aggressively pushing people out of the road, shouting about ‘Obstruction of the Highway’, and then tried to clear a path for the vehicle to start moving.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

However, the students weren’t fazed, and they kept running ahead and blocking the road, attempting sit-downs and standing in front of the vehicle despite some pushing, dragging, and even some punching from the police.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

Eventually police managed to get a riot van in front of Willetts’ car, but even this kept being stopped by determined protestors.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

It took a full ten minutes after the arrival of police before, at Euston Road, the car was finally free to speed away north while a police line blocked students from any further action.

1st may 2014 students delay david willetts' car leaving UCL after speech

In all, the Minister’s car was delayed by at least 15 mins, and notably, at the start of the blockade, there was no sign of any police for at least 5 minutes, giving time for students to arrive from Malet Street.

Activist film spoofs BP-sponsored Viking exhibition at British Museum

On the 24th March, as the British Museum promoted its Viking exhibition in cinemas around the country using the #VikingsLive hashtag, activists hijacked the twittersphere and sent around 1300 visitors to my spoof film highlighting BP’s greenwash.

A few weeks ago, I came across the British Museum’s short promo film for their flagship “Vikings” exhibition. I was annoyed that the end of the film sported the BP logo as sponsor, especially after discovering that the actual amount this destructive oil corporation gave was just a miniscule 1% of the museum’s annual budget – for which they get an enormous amount of cheap publicity and greenwash.

So, I wondered if there was a way to undermine BP’s cynical marketing ploy by spoofing the film. The idea took on a life of its own when various people came together to help me, and I became director, cameraman, editor, and composer, aided by a dedicated small team of actors, make-up, costume and props folk. We filmed the ‘BP Vikings’ in an occupied fitness centre in Camden, where the squatters kindly gave us use of their hall to hang up a huge green screen for the shoot. Background scenes were filmed in Brighton and North London, and after some compositing and additional graphics, the 75 second spoof was finished.

On Thursday 24th April, the British Museum promoted its exhibition with a live walk-through at 70 cinemas. As a result of activists’ use of the #VikingsLive hashtag, around 1300 visitors watched the video on that day alone.

Links:
ORIG FILM:  http://britishmuseum.org/vikings
– Shortlink:  http://is.gd/L4VJAT

SPOOF FILM:  http://vimeo.com/92032352
– Shortlink:  http://is.gd/C0frhJ

Heritage Wardens in Trafalgar Square hassle student film-makers

Two years ago I was hassled by Heritage Wardens on Parliament Square and told to stop taking photographs.

At the time, I interviewed the manager of the Wardens, Mr. Dean Eardley, who claimed that even for non-commercial use, there was a list of websites I could/could not publish to.

http://london.indymedia.org/articles/11962

My film and story was taken up by the NUJ, the BPPA and ‘Peace News’. Because Ed Sterns at Scotland Yard had given an assurance, when new bye-laws were introduced, that this sort of thing would not happen, the head of the BPPA took the matter up with them. MP John McDonnell agreed to table an Early Day Motion in Parliament over the issue. The NUJ also approached the mayor’s office.

In the end, the GLA offered an apology that stated unequivocally that the Heritage Warden had “overstated his authority and misquoted the bye-laws”. They said that “action would be taken to address this lapse of standards”.

In a public statement, the GLA apologised for the incident and clarified that “There are no restrictions on photography or filming for private or amateur use.” They stated that prior authorisation was required for “commercial filming”, but they clarified that “commercial photography or filming is that which is done for financial gain”, that there are no other restrictions and that “what someone does with their photographic or video material is entirely a matter for the person taking the image or recording”.

The Support Services Manager, Chris Harris, who gave all these public assurances, said that the issues I’d highlighted “had been taken very seriously and that action had been taken to address them”.

You would think then, wouldn’t you, that Mr. Eardley would have been told of this apology, and re-educated about his interpretation of restrictions on filming, but not only does he claim (at the end of yesterday’s new footage) that he knows nothing about any apology, but also, he is seen happily defending his wardens behaviour of hassling student film-makers, asking for their ID, and telling them to stop filming.

The new incident began yesterday afternoon when, passing through Trafalgar Square, i caught a Heritage Warden interfering with two small student groups, the first interviewing people about extremism, the other filming a small-scale drama project with one actor. Both were told they couldn’t film on the square, and the first lot were asked for their IDs.

When questioned, the Heritage Warden I spoke to at first said it was the Bye-Law. I asked him to show it to me. He told me I could look for myself on the boards around the Square – these boards DO list the Bye-Laws, but I wanted the Warden to show me which law he was enforcing – he refused. He then said it wasn’t a Bye-Law, but was the “protocols”. I asked whether this had any legal authority, and he couldn’t understand what I meant, telling me it was just his job. I asked to see a copy of the protocol, and he went off for a while, but came back with nothing, saying the printer wasn’t working. I asked to speak to his manager, and was told I’d have to wait a few minutes. Then I was told the manager wouldn’t speak to me but I could phone a number.

Soon after, I spotted Mr Eardley. The interview with him makes up most of the short film I’ve posted. He admitted that the Wardens were not relying on Bye-Laws at all, but on a “student protocol” which he claimed was set by the GLA who would be able to supply me with a copy. He also claimed that his staff were not “directing” students to stop filming, but “advising” them. This is not what three different students told me.

I don’t yet know whether the whole thing is another of Mr. Eardley’s fanciful ideas (like the list of approved websites he invented in 2012), or whether the GLA are reneging on all the assurances they have given about freedom to film, but either way, this interference with people going about their private business is intolerable and must stop.

I’ve asked for a copy of the “protocols” from the GLA and contacted the NUJ again. This post will be updated as the story unfolds.

“Fracked Future Carnival” at London Shale Gas Forum on Wednesday

The Shale Gas Forum changed venue at the last minute to avoid protests. Protected by police and soldiers in a London barracks, it was still hounded at its gates by a large, noisy and lively crowd, and one protestor managed to defy all the security and sat in on a keynote speech by Cuadrilla boss Francis Egan before being ejected.

Originally, the industry conference was planned to take place at a Kensington hotel, surrounded by the unfeasibly vacuously overpriced designer outlets of Sloane Street.

The opportunity to schmooze for the day, and network with industry leaders, MPs, and even a Treasury tax man, comes at a snip – only £1000 per delegate. In the bumph for the conference, organisers were coy even about the original location, but alluding to the next round of government onshore licensing, and the coming 2015 General Election, they state without apparent irony, that the conference is an opportunity to address how the UK can take first steps towards the commercialisation of fracking “in this changing climate”.

The changing climate was of course one of the main concerns of campaigners outside the conference, with speeches from Vivienne Westwood, Vanessa Vine, and Ewa Jasiewicz among others.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

Meanwhile, inside, the delegates were more interested in analysing the ‘investment climate’, ‘gearing up for exploration in the Bowlands area’ (an area of outstanding natural beauty east of lancaster http://www.forestofbowland.com/), and ‘driving a change in public perception’.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

After some speeches and music outside the Kensington hotel, the carnival protest took to tubes, buses and bikes to reconvene at Old Street, where they briefly reclaimed the streets on the short procession to the hurriedly re-arranged venue.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

I was surprised at the lack of police on the streets, but once we’d arrived at the barracks, I realised they’d known it was a short journey which would probably keep moving, and that once there, that they had the event well secured and the protestors under keen surveillance.

The Finsbury Barracks houses the City of London Militia and is part of the Honorouble Artillery Company which is registered as a charity, but which boasts of acquiring a fine selection of silver over the past 200 years, hiring out facilities including the huge grounds (“a significant source of revenue”), and hosting a museum “for members only”. It’s not very clear what the extent of their charity is – the website boasts that one of their members raised £500 for the British Legion – I’m sure there must be more than that!

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

The place is also a hotbed of freemasonry – its “Fitzroy Lodge” enjoys a close relationship with the Grand Lodge, and is a leading lodge in the the Circuit of Service Lodges. There is also a Special Constabulary (no doubt with its own special handshakes) ‘attached’ to the City of London police.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

There’s a strong transatlantic affiliation with the “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company” in Massachusetts, who claim to be  the oldest ‘chartered’ military organisation, and to have ‘helped develop new friendships with emerging democracies in Eastern Europe’.

So, behind the iron gates, its courtyard guarded by private security, police, and some soldiers, under the chandeliers of the ancient stain-glass windowed banqueting hall, the oil industry plotted the rape and pillage of our areas of natural beauty, the management of public perception, and the maximisation of profits with the aid of changing tax laws.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

Meanwhile outside, at the Bunhill Row entrance, and opposite at the City Road gates, aided by the Rhythms of Resistance samba band, and a powerful sound system on a campaign bus, music and speeches filled the air.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

There were representatives of the Balcombe villagers, and people from Barton Moss, with banners demanding the release of ‘Vanda’ who after being injured in her violent arrest by police has found herself in prison. Her solicitor, after reviewing film of her arrest, has called for the United Nations to bring the UK Government to account over this and other similar incidents.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

The protestors were watched by both Forward Intelligence Team officers, and also by officers from the National Domestic Extremist Unit, including Officer Skivvens, who lurked outside the local lap-dancing club for much of the afternoon.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

Police Liaison Officers worked their intelligence gathering techniques trying to engage protestors in conversation throughout the afternoon. Some of the wiser activists refused to interact.

A few delegates and suppliers entered and exited the gates, and each time TSG officers cleared the access. I left around 6 when there were still a couple of dozen people there. During the course of the afternoon, the protest overall must have been several hundred strong, and was attended by some mainstream media.

19th march 2014 frack off protests at shale gas conference in london

For me, the afternoon was a fine example of Orwellian dystopia, as masonic friends arranged military protection for the people trying to minimise their taxes and destroy the planet for profit, while the concerned activists outside are labelled extremist, as they battle against violent force and imprisonment.