Climate activists visit Tory HQ

The London ‘people’s climate march’ took place today, part of a global network of climate protests across the globe ahead of the UN summit in New York. I’ll be posting a few pics later on from that, but first…

01 climate march at tory hq

After the main march (tens of thousands of people, and speeches near Parliament), activists from ‘Reclaim The Power‘, aided by samba from ‘Rhythms of Resistance‘, led a crowd of around a thousand people for an impromptu visit to Tory HQ.

03 climate march at tory hq

04 climate march at tory hq

The street outside the Conservative Party’s Headquarters, (Matthew Parker Street), was completely packed by protesters, delivering their message right to the party that claimed it would be the greenest ever, and which has simply turned out to be the greediest.

05 climate march at tory hq

10 climate march at tory hq

After a while, the band set off again and led a procession up Whitehall, before people split into smaller groups.

11 climate march at tory hq

Activists dance at BP Big Screen event

Yesterday evening, activists from @BPOutOfOpera targeted a ‘BP Big Screen’ event at Trafalgar Square, London.

Minutes before the Royal Opera House live broadcast, they performed a symbolic dance in which culture eventually overcomes oil sponsorship.

The action passed off peacefully and got a warm reception from the audience in the packed square on an Indian Summer evening.

‘BP Out of Opera” are one of many groups targeting BP’s greenwash sponsorship of the arts.

For much less money than the equivalent in commercial advertising, oil companies plaster their logo over exhibitions and events (last night giving everyone a free and brightly logo-ed baseball cap), while also cleaning up their image by associating themselves with public art.

Meanwhile those same corporations dodge tax and receive public subsidies on a huge scale – money that would easily cover the sponsorship deals many times over and help pay for education, welfare and health.

Art institutions are very secretive about the level of sponsorship they receive, and currently there is a high court case against Tate to try to uncover the figure, thought to be as little as half a per cent of the gallery’s budget.

BP has recently been declared guilty of ‘gross negligence’ by a US judge over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused huge environmental damage and killed 11 workers.

By showing up at galleries and events, groups like BP Out Of Opera remind the public that BP are not such nice art sponsors, and that the Arts would be better off without them.

Hidden figures and black squares at Tate Modern

On Thursday a New Orleans judge found BP guilty of gross negligence over their Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the trial also involved contractors Halliburton and Transocean, US District Judge Carl Barbier singled out BP for their “recklessness” and he placed most of the blame on them.

In London, art activists ‘Liberate Tate’ have long campaigned against Tate Modern’s association with BP, and this weekend saw their latest bold action in the Turbine Hall of the museum.

Later this month, Tate Modern faces a court appearance themselves in front of the Information Commissioner over their refusal to disclose how much money they actually receive from BP. The Tate Modern governors’ meeting minutes, requested under the Freedom of Information rules by Liberate Tate, were heavily redacted with black squares.

Ironic then that a black square is on display at the gallery as part of their Malevich exhibition.

Playing with the interconnected themes, yesterday’s art activism began at 1pm with a huge 8 x 8 metre black square of cloth pulled out from a conveniently placed child’s pram.

01 liberate tate

Black clad performers then raised the cloth, and over the course of the next couple of hours, continually played with it, often lowering it on teams of choreographed people to create various shapes.

02 liberate tate

07 liberate tate

The installation attracted much public interest, and spontaneous choreography was encouraged. It was also a magnet for children who enjoyed the spectacle and immersed themselves in the tactile darkness under the material.

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There were no fliers and no chants – this was a subtle and arty protest only explained by a small information board in the style of Tate Modern info plaques, that offered up the piece as “Hidden Figures (2014)” and neatly explained how the museum tries to hide its figures re sponsorship (currently believed to be around just half a per cent of the gallery’s budget). While much of the public may have thought the piece was a commissioned work, I am sure the symbolism and press coverage will come over loud and clear to the gallery’s governors.

05 liberate tate

04 liberate tate

Towards the end of the performance, the artists (and public) layed down in a square under the cloth, and then it was removed and dragged up the slope, leaving a square of silent bodies who arose one by one and quietly left.

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‘Liberate Tate’ believe it is time for Tate Modern to disassociate itself from the criminally negligent polluters, BP.

Remember 11 innocent workers met their death in the Gulf.

BBC bias over Israel

Because of accusations of bias at the BBC from peace activists, yesterday’s huge London march began (not for the first time) with speeches in Portland Place directly outside the BBC Broadcasting House.

04 BBC

There, as protesters arrived from all directions in their tens of thousands, various speakers berated the state broadcast company over their pro-Israeli bias, their poor provision of historical context, and the PR and lies coming from Israeli spokespeople that are left unchallenged and uncorrected. For a very fine analysis of how this works (still profoundly pertinent even though recorded in 2011 after Operation Cast Lead), see Greg Philo’s talk at SOAS, that unveiled the “Israel Project”, and the “National Information Directorate” which was set up a year before Cast Lead purely in order to control the international media debate.

01 BBC

03 BBC

02 BBC

With such a visible protest directed at the BBC, you might think that the BBC News website might offer at least some information about it, even if downplaying the accusations, and offering the usual “we try to give a balanced view and did interview a Palestinian once” PR statement.

But, astonishingly, and in utter contempt for the huge number of people who came, the BBC news website carried the following report yesterday evening:

BBC website screen 1

An inexcusable lie by simple omission.

The aerial view of the huge crowd, shot out of a window from the state broadcasting building, also carried a devious description.

BBC website screen 2

Perfectly accurate, I guess, but “gathered near” doesn’t really tell the whole truth, when “an angry crowd gathered outside Broadcasting House” would have been more honest.

05 BBC

06 BBC

People are fed up of the bias, the uncorrected lies, the rewriting of history, and the manipulation of the discourse.

George Galloway has publicly called for people to cancel their licences and refuse to pay the BBC fees.

Galloway licence fee

There’s plenty of information available about how to do this, explaining how limited the BBC Charter actually is in terms of legal retribution, despite their carefully constructed system of harassment and enforcement. The campaign is certainly gathering momentum on social media. It’s certainly worth looking at the information out there about how to do it with impunity. Some would regard it as a moral imperative.

07 BBC

 

BDS Gaza Solidarity action in Whitechapel 2nd August – pics

Watched by a police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) who prowled around trying to overhear plans, a group of a few dozen people gathered outside Whitechapel tube at noon today to take part in an action called by the London Palestine Action group.

After a short briefing, handing out leaflets for the public, letters to staff, and various banners and flags, the group marched off to their main target which turned out to be the large Sainsbury store nearby.

01  BDS

Some activists were already in the store as the group turned up. They had been gathering baskets of produce that comes from Israel or the occupied territories, among them, hummous, aubergine spread, various fruits and dates.

03  BDS

Some activists remained in the lobby near the main doors, while others entered the shop.

02  BDS

Although management and police seemed reasonably relaxed, some of the Securitas staff acted up – one assaulting a photographer, another grabbing a camera lens, and one trying to seize a banner. When challenged, one of the SIA-accredited staff refused to show his ID badge, until eventually police intervened and forced him to comply.

Various small groups of protesters chanted, handed out leaflets, held up banners, or wandered round the store searching for Israeli produce.

04  BDS

For a while the shop was closed to new customers and as others left, it became emptier.

05  BDS

After around twenty minutes, almost all the activists re-grouped in the lobby, and staged a die-in there, and then they left peacefully and began a loud march heading back west along Whitechapel High Street.

Along the way, they received a good response and much solidarity from shopkeepers, shoppers, drivers tooting horns, and the general public.

They paused for a while outside Starbucks, and then arrived at a Tesco Express store opposite the park. While most waited outside the small store, a small group again entered and searched for Israeli produce. Among the finds were ‘finest Venezia potatos’, grown in Israel.

06  BDS

The store closed its doors for a short while, while the crowd chanted outside.

Next target was a larger Tesco Metro at the end of Fieldgate St, where among the finds were Halawi dates that unashamedly announced they were packed in the West Bank (Israeli Settlement).

07  BDS

One of the activists had an emotional conversation with the Produce Manager, filmed by the FIT video that followed the group around all afternoon.

08  BDS

At the end of their talk, they shook hands, and the Manager agreed to report to Head Office that customers had complained about the Israeli produce.

09  BDS

The protest marched back to Whitechapel Station, where they chanted slogans a while longer, and handed out any remaining leaflets.

10  BDS

After a short debrief, they dispersed. Although the action might be seen as a drop in the ocean, there was a lot of engagement with local community as well as staff at the stores, and even a small dent made in the afternoon’s profits – it also mirrored a South London action that took place in Brixton – don’t forget “every little helps”.

 

For an intro to the BDS movement, this may be useful – http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro

Gaza vigil at Downing Street 29th July

Several hundred people gathered opposite Downing Street this evening at short notice to solemnly mark the murders of children and civilians in Palestine during the recent onslaught by the Israel war machine.

01 gaza vigil

Organised at short notice by Stop The War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, people were asked to bring flowers.

Each person chose a name from the list of hundreds and wrote it on a white card along with the age of the victim. Then the cards were placed with flowers against the wall along the pavement opposite Downing Street.

03 gaza vigil

06 gaza vigil

Police were particularly annoying, with half a dozen Police Liaison Officers continually hassling people to get into the “protest pen”, and one, a TSG officer in a PLO blue tabard, trying to get the small group of anti-Zionist Jews to move (even though they were in the pen), as they were apparently attracting too many photographers!

02 gaza vigil

04 gaza vigil

When the wall space was full, a young woman began to read the list of names of victims and their ages over a megaphone, and an eerie silence fell over the large crowd.

05 gaza vigil

The speaker broke down in tears at one point, and others in the crowd sobbed too.

07 gaza vigil

As soon as she finished, police again moved in and tried to clear the pavement and get everyone penned in.

08 gaza vigil

I had to leave early, but i believe the plan was for a delegation to take the flowers and name cards over to Downing Street and call for Cameron to condemn Israel over its war crimes and to stop selling arms to the apartheid state.

There is another protest planned outside the Israeli Embassy on Friday evening at 5pm.

Gaza national demo 26th July – short report and some pics

The event began outside the Israeli Embassy on Kensington High Street where the police had closed the roads to accommodate the tens of thousands of protesters arriving by lunchtime.

Shortly after 1pm, the huge march set off slowly east.

01  gaza

02  gaza

Police were keen to portray a friendly image, and the Silver Chief Superintendent Morgan briefed his officers to “smile and wave”. Even austerity cuts were temporarily suspended as the Met Commissioner authorised officers to claim for ice creams, perhaps a dual purpose of cooling, as well as reinforcing the ‘fun’ image.

However, in the back streets around Kensington, there were dozens of vans of riot police, and the intelligence-gathering Police Liaison Officers were out in force, as well as undercovers on the march, spotter teams, and Forward Intelligence Teams with photographers. And the front of the march was patrolled by the normally less than friendly TSG officers.

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Downing Street was protected by layers of double fencing, although the march continued on past to Parliament Square for speeches and socialist newspaper sales.

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A small group of Palestinians continued a sit-down vigil opposite Downing Street.

06  gaza

In Parliament Square, even two TSG officers were spotted in PLO tabards (surely some sort of mixed message!), and a couple of British Transport Police were tabarded up too.

06b gaza

At the appointed end, around 4pm, a group of young Palestinian supporters marched a couple of times round the square and then headed north, perhaps towards the BBC or back to the Embassy – they numbered a little over 100.

Meanwhile, in the square a people’s assembly took place, facilitated by Occupy folk, who were hoping to encourage the erection of a temporary peace camp. A group of around 200 people shared ideas and speeches on an open mic, but it became clear that the #occupytheoccupation call-out had not reached enough people to establish a viable camp, and the idea was abandoned for the evening (or rather postponed).

10  gaza

Once they realised the camp was not happening, the large deployment of PLOs dispersed.  

#occupytheoccupation is also a call-out for people to think creatively about occupations of relevant targets over the coming days. Already last week saw several such protests, including at the Ministry of Justice and at arms companies offices in London and Cardiff. Interestingly, there have been NO ARRESTS at any of these actions, possibly because the authorities are concerned about the “commit a small crime in order to prevent a larger crime” defence being played out in court, in the context of UK support for Israeli war crimes.