NCAFC Student Protest Nov 4th 2015 – pics/report

Not content with previously raising tuition fees and scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance, the Conservative Government announced in the budget this year that from next September, grants for students from low-income households will be abolished and replaced with further loans of up to nearly £9,000 a year.

This will mean that the poorest students may finish three-year courses with a more than £50,000 debt burden at the start of their working lives.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Despite assurances from the Dept of Business, Skills and Innovation that they are “committed to ensuring that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity, despite their background”, the fear expressed by students marching yesterday is that the huge debts will disproportionately affect the poorest and deter them from taking up higher education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

The new Labour leadership is vociferously opposed to the scheme, and Jeremy Corbyn reminds us that “we all benefit from education, collectively as a society, not just as individuals”. His Chancellor, John McDonnell was one of the first speakers to address the 2,000-strong crowd in Malet Street at the start of the march yesterday, offering solidarity, highlighting that education is not a commodity to be bought and sold, and condemning the Tory betrayal of current students and future generations. Other speakers included a junior doctor, a ‘no borders’ activist, campaigners against the Govt racial profiling “Prevent” programme, and education activists.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

The march was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), which is a grassroots movement that grew out of frustration with inaction of the official student body, the National Union of Students, who offered their “support” to yesterday’s protest.

As students set off at 1.30 yesterday afternoon, a short but heavy rainstorm did little to dampen spirits. Nor did the oppressive police presence, which included officers stationed at every corner in the vicinity of the University, dozens of TSG officers (normally deployed against football violence and riots), a police helicopter, lots of blue-bibbed ‘Police Liaison Officers’, who are inextricably linked with intelligence gathering, as well as several undercover officers amongst the crowd. The National Domestic Extremist Unit was also monitoring the protest, with several of their senior officers in attendance.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

As the march approached Whitehall, the sun came out, and it was clear that numbers had increased to several thousand, booing and shouting as they passed Downing Street. It was great to see so many different banners at a protest, with far fewer adverts for Socialist newspapers – the usual sight so often – instead replaced by inventive slogans and art, and many variations on a pig theme.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

The heavy police presence continued with horses deployed at Westminster Bridge, and dogs at the Home Office.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

This finally provoked a reaction from a small ‘black bloc’ presence in the crowd, who threw a few paint bombs (eggs injected with water-based paints) at officers outside the Home Office, along with a couple of smoke flares.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Nearby, I saw Green leader, Natalie Bennett, giving interviews and offering her support then making her way to the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation in Victoria Street.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

This building was very heavily protected by police, both inside and outside. There was an attempt by some students dressed in matching black overalls and using large foam shields painted as book covers (the “Book Bloc”) to push through the police lines and occupy the building, but this was viciously fought back, and scuffles erupted, more paint bombs and flares were thrown, and the lamestream press, looking for confrontation, got their shots.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Police also briefly imposed cordons (some called this a kettle, the police called it a ‘containment’), and officers started telling people to “leave the area if you’re not involved”, thus trying to split and disperse the demonstration, rather than facilitate it for the vast majority of students who wanted to make their voices heard.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

The police tactics did however succeed in disrupting the protest, and planned speeches didn’t happen. Some of the Book Bloc did manage to break through police lines, and then among scuffles there were some arrests, while a breakaway march began round the back streets of Victoria, making their way slowly back round towards Parliament and Downing Street and then retracing their route back towards Malet Street.

Public reaction to the chants of “Free Education” were generally very good, with lots of waves and thumbs up.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Students protest in Central London calling for free education.

Police however, were not content to let the protest march peacefully back to Malet Street, and, in a huge operation surrounded and contained groups near Trafalgar Square, pushed them towards Charing Cross, and then threatened arrest using dispersal powers unless they left the area.

In all there were 12 arrests for a variety of suspected Public Order offences, and prisoners were held overnight at West End station.

Many students complained yesterday that when a peaceful march is so heavily policed with TSG, horse, and dogs, it is hard to see how it is going to remain peaceful.

It would not be the first time that heavy police tactics have been used to dissuade students from protesting against government plans.

Tory HQ heavily defended by metal fencing, police and horses, though no students actually went there.

To find out about future events, see the NCAFC website.

24th Oct 2015, Occupy the Daily Mail – video report

On 24th October 2015, media and climate activists began a 48-hour vigil and protest outside the London HQ of the Daily Mail in Derry Street, Kensington.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, joined one of the group, Donnachadh McCarthy, for a meeting with the Managing Director of the Daily Mail, Charles Garside, and their Environmental Correspondent.

During the meeting they presented evidence of misleading and unscientific headlines, which the newspaper staff undertook to respond to.

Later there was a candlelit silent vigil to remember the people killed by climate change (which the UN currently estimates is nearly half a million each year).

Several activists continued to camp outside the building until Sunday.

24th October 2015 ‘No Borders’ Migrant Solidarity protests at St Pancras Eurostar

In 2005, the Anarchist Bookfair, held that year in Holloway Road, ended in a practical session of massive policing. The local Coronet pub, on police advice, suddenly refused to serve alcohol, and as hundreds of anarchists spilled out onto the dual carriageway, they were met with riot police geared up for local football matches. The ensuing clashes led to several arrests and injuries, although most if not all were acquitted of serious offences months down the line.

A full decade on, the bookfair today was held at the Granary Building occupied by the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins. While on the one hand it’s an excellent space for the bookfair, with a large and airy open area for stalls, and lots of classrooms and lecture theatres for group events, on the other it is surrounded by lots of pseudo-public space, corporatised, controlled, and covered by private regulations rather than public rights – another example of the accelerating privatisation of public space in cities across the world.

Still, this year’s event was well attended, with packed lectures and workshops and a buzzing hall of stalls.

In solidarity with actions today in both Paris and Budapest, Calais Migrant Solidarity called a “No Borders” action to take place at the Eurostar terminal in nearby St Pancras station.

So, ten years on from the Holloway Road kerfuffle, clashes seemed likely again, as huge numbers of police waited at St Pancras and a group of a couple of hundred activists, intent on reaching the Eurostar, set off along private roads shortly after 6pm.

At one of the entrances to the station, they were met by a line of police, and with sheer weight of numbers, first one, and then dozens more, squeezed their way into the station before police reinforcements regained control, after deploying metal batons.

01 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

02 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

03 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Suddenly, the group inside the station turned back to help their comrades, and at that point things got quite messy. Activists were grabbed and pushed back through the lines on to the pavement, with some injuries and a few arrests. Police began to kit themselves in full riot gear, and they also grabbed a large red banner and threw it aside.

06 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

05 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

All the while, train travellers and other members of the public watched through locked entrances.

07 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Deeper inside the station, police were picking out people hanging around near the Eurostar entrance, and an entirely peaceful woman was forcibly removed, dragged much of the way on her knees, before police finally picked her up and carried her. Police claimed she was being removed to prevent a breach of the peace.

08 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Despite the massive police operation, a group of around 30 women suddenly appeared in the concourse, chanting “No human is illegal” and “No borders”, and carrying large banners.

09 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki
They set up right in front of the access point to the Eurostar departure lounge, and handed out leaflets while continuing their protest. Police Liaison Officers moved among them, and more than a dozen police soon arrived in full riot gear, but thankfully they thought better than to interfere, and the protest continued for a few more minutes before the group (who had other appointments) packed up and left.

11 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

10 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

12 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

This dignified and peaceful action was organised by ‘Global Women’s Strike’ (, and ‘All African Women’s Group’.

13 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki
Outside the station, the large crowd had been pushed away from the area back towards the Granary Building, and policing continued on a huge scale.

14 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

A small peaceful group of around a dozen protesters entered King’s Cross Station concourse, with a banner that said “people want to bring down the borders”.

15 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

16 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

They were confronted by several dozen police, many in riot gear, and then kettled for about an hour.

17 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Police used Railway Bye-Laws – Sect 6 (8) – (no person shall molest or wilfully interfere with the comfort or convenience of any person on the railway), & Sect 23 – (anyone suspected of breach must give name and address), – to process, photograph and identify each protester before escorting them from the station with a 24 hour ban. A few were arrested during this time too.

19 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Interestingly, there was an attempt before this process, for a station representative to make an announcement on a megaphone, but it wouldn’t work and no announcement was made – my feeling was that the announcement was meant to be part of a legal process and so it might be pertinent that it was never made.

18 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

One of the causes being championed by migrant solidarity groups is for the release of Abdul Rahman Haroun, a Sudanese man, who after walking through the Eurotunnel is being prosecuted under an obscure 1861 ‘Malicious Damages Act’ and has spent months in jail. Earlier this month, the same legislation was used to arrest two Iranian men in Folkestone after they had completed the 31-mile walk. Calais Migrant Solidarity are calling for the release from prison of the ‘Channel Tunnel 3’.

During the action in King’s Cross, the Harry Potter Hogwart’s platform was closed by police – surely a wilful interference with the convenience of excited Potter fans?

20 eurostar no borders protests - ©indyrikki

Fuck Parade 3 – Class War street party in Shoreditch

Saturday’s protest and street party was called by anarchist group “Class War” and was the third such event this year. These are ‘Reclaim The Streets’-style walkabouts, with fire juggling, pyrotechnics, a very loud bicycle sound system, and lots of attitude. With no pre-organised route, they are a fingers up to the status quo, to the need for permission to have fun in public spaces, and they’re protests against the creeping privatisation of public space, as well as the wider capitalist austerity agenda, gentrification, and corporate land-grab that poisons our cities and our democracy.

Having said that, by their very nature, they’re also a disorganised, messy and drunken affair, the main result a passing celebration of freedom with all the mayhem that might bring.

So, activists and party animals gathered together under a railway arch outside Shoreditch Station from about 7pm, the sound system adorned with a piggy-faced police effigy which, thanks to the Ashcroft revelations, neatly tied together the Tory class-enemy and the “pig” police. At times, flame torches and smoke bombs invoked images of a post-apocalyptic film set, complete with loud punk or drum ’n’ bass soundtrack.

01 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

02 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

03 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

Near 8, the party set off along back streets towards Brick Lane.

04 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

A handful of police followed, ears glued to their radios as they fed back route information to an unseen controller. Around 200-strong, the procession turned north up Brick Lane, and then stopped outside a small shop called “Cereal Killer Cafe”. With some banging on the windows, and a couple of paint-bombs thrown, it was clear that, to some in the crowd, this was a target, but the significance passed me by until someone explained – apparently this business sells nothing other than breakfast cereal, and at nearly £5 a bowl, it was seen as a symbol of gentrification in the area, infamous for having been featured on a C4 programme, and made all the worse by being fronted by two twins wearing hipster beards.

I didn’t really follow why this was marked as such an important target, and its selection has caused much controversy in social media and has gained wide coverage in lamestream media. The hipster twins have been quick to court publicity and victimhood, and there are a lot of questions over whether the message of the night was muddied. But there has also been hysterical talk of physical violence, and a claim that children were in the cafe. I certainly didn’t see any children there, and suspect that like Farage’s similar claim when activists invaded his local pub, it may turn out to be untrue. On the other hand, ‘Class War’ hasn’t had so much press for a long time, but whether “all publicity is good publicity” applies here, I’m not sure. Whatever, a couple of paint bombs, some spilled cereal, some banging on the window, and a felt-penned “Scum” graffiti, shouldn’t really characterise the whole event, given that a tiny portion of the crowd were involved. The supposedly “terrorised” staff seemed to be smiling as they took images on their mobile phones from inside the shop.

05 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

Further up Brick Lane, the front window of Winkworth’s estate agent received a blow – a more predictable, and perhaps less controversial target for symbolic property damage. Round the corner on Bethnal Green Road, another estate agent, Marsh and Parsons, got the same treatment.

06 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

07 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

Up till now, the same few police had been tailing the protest, and apart from a minor altercation in Brick Lane, were very hands-off. Suddenly, sirens could be heard, and two riot vans appeared, out of which some fully-kitted officers emerged.

07x shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

But as the party doubled back towards Brick Lane, a clash was avoided, and soon a full-scale impromptu party was taking off in a small park, Allen Gardens, with numbers swelling rapidly around the sound system, and a small firework display adding to the merriment. Class War founder Ian Bone posed with one of the large banners in front of riot cops near the gates to the park.

08 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

By now a police helicopter was hovering overhead, Brick Lane and other surrounding roads were closed to traffic, and more police were arriving. After a while, the group set off east to Vallance Road, and then up again to Bethnal Green Road where they started heading back towards Shoreditch, reclaiming both carriageways as they walked.

09 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

10 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

A loud bluster of police sirens announced the arrival of more riot vans, but several of these were empty. Sometimes this can signify an expectation of mass arrests, but there simply weren’t anywhere near enough officers to attempt this, so I think it was mainly for show, and the police were actually quite under-resourced – perhaps they should consider some direct action to encourage Cameron to reverse the cuts and stop giving all the money to the rich?

The sound system led the way west, and then up Shoreditch High Street, followed by a dozen police vans (most empty) and accompanied by about 20/25 police, now back in normal uniforms. Their role was to try to keep oncoming traffic moving, so there were a few minor scuffles as they did this, and there was one snatch arrest, apparently for suspected criminal damage, under the bridge at the crossroads with Old Street.

11 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

Further west, the party brought Old Street roundabout to a standstill, and the pig effigy was set alight. After a while, and accompanied by the hands-off police, with numbers just beginning to dwindle, I left them heading back east at around 10.30 – heard later it ran past midnight.

12 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

13 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

15 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

Some activists claim the event was a 1000 strong, but although this number might reflect a total who joined at some point however fleetingly, I’d estimate the main core never grew more than a few hundred at any one time.

14 shoreditch fuck parade - @indyrikki

05 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

Mark Thomas sheep protest in Paternoster Square (LSX), and punk gig on Thames beach.

Four years ago, the Occupy movement tried to establish a camp at the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square. The Square, although it looks like public space, is in fact “private land”, and the Management Company applied for a pre-emptive injunction, so that on October 15th, the planned day for occupation, protesters were met by a police blockade, and instead they began their four month encampment in front of St Paul’s.

The original injunction remains in place, and gives power to the Security to order people off the land.

Comedian and activist Mark Thomas is currently touring his ‘Trespass’ show which campaigns and entertains around the subject of gentrification and the privatisation and corporatisation of public space. As a result of walking across Paternoster Square in a ’Shaun the Sheep’ outfit, Mark finds himself banned from the private land. Not one to take such bans lying down, he called supporters to join him in a mass trespass which took place on Saturday afternoon and attracted around 50 people who donned sheep masks and entered the Square ignoring the legal warning signs, and posing next to ‘No Loitering’ stickers.

01 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

11 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

02 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

Walking round and round in a loop outside the London Stock Exchange, they completed a nominal 1km hike before congregating around Dame Elizabeth Frink’s Bronze statue of a Shepherd and his Sheep.

04 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

03 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

10 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

At first, Security kept well away, but eventually they showed up, along with a bicycle cop and a PCSO . Mark explained the spectacle, and the injunction remained unenforced.

06 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

05 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

07 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

09 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

08 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

Later the same afternoon, with help from ‘Punk Ethics’, Mark organised a trespass at Gabriel’s Wharf, where he compered a public gig with sets by ‘Flowers of Flesh and Blood’ and ‘Oi Polloi’ as well as some comedy.

03 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

04 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

02 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

He also introduced some campaigners who are against the ‘Garden Bridge’ which I hadn’t realised will be another private space with its own rules and exclusions despite being built partly with public money. More info at

01 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

05 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

06 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

Vivienne Westwood launches Nana’s Talk Fracking tour

Last week, Vivienne Westwood drove a tank up to the constituency home of Prime Minister David Cameron near Witney in Oxfordshire. Accompanied by the ‘Nanas’ and some children, she was there to launch a “War On Fracking” and the press launch of the ‘Nanas’ speaking tour.

I made this promotional film of the event.

Full details about the day, and the upcoming tour, on the TalkFracking website.