Occupy Murdoch – Saturday Rally, Trial and Occupation

On Monday 23rd March, an occupy protest began in the shadow of the Shard building, outside Rupert Murdoch’s News International HQ in London Bridge Street.

The protest focuses on the power that Murdoch and four other right-wing extremist media billionaires have over public opinion in the run up to the May general election.

Each day of occupation concentrated on different themes, such as environment, democracy, poverty, health and NHS, and human rights.

Saturday promised a mock trial of Rupert Murdoch, and a larger rally leading to a non-violent direct action (NVDA).

Although the rain mostly held off, weather was characterised by howling winds, whipped up by the tall buildings. But the show went on.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

The trial of Murdoch was of course part comedy, with a bumbling Boris included as a witness for the defence, along with a smarmy Cameron, but prosecution witnesses included a moving statement from an ex-Wapping print worker who described the heartless Union-bashing, police violence, and the effects on so many workers that led some to suicide at the behest of Murdoch.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

Among other witnesses was a speaker from the Tax Justice Network, who pointed out the hypocrisy of Murdoch’s massive tax avoidance while his newspapers focus on tiny levels of benefit fraud.

The role of the Sun newspaper in promoting the lies that led to the Iraq war were also under scrutiny, showing that Murdoch was implicit in International War Crimes.

Found guilty on several charges, in the spirit of non-violence, reconciliation, love and respect that the Occupy movement prides itself on, his punishment was that he be exiled from the UK, stripped of his business empire, and forced to live as a lowly member of the 99%, but was also given rehabilitation with a heart and hugs.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

A photo op was then set up to portray News International’s war crime involvement.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

After the trial, celebrity economist Max Keiser did a short set, and handed out free money in the form of StartCoin cards, which he hopes people will use to invest in great crowd-fund projects on StartJoin, such as the Trews awnings springing up in London to replace newsagent Sun sponsorships.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

An energetic and talented anarchist rock trio from Norfolk, ‘Shock Hazard’ then performed a few tunes to warm up the growing crowd.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

As their loud amps ran out of battery juice, it was time for some Earth folk to lead a ‘Beating the Bounds’ ceremony round the building to the sound of drums and ancient horn.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

All week, the protest has been under intense scrutiny from authorities. There was a continual array of private security guards, from the Shard, News International, London Bridge station and elsewhere. Intelligence-gathering Police Liaison Officers were always mingling with the crowd and trying to engage in conversation. There were red-coated Community Wardens, British Transport Police, and Met Police too.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

A silver-windowed office over the road, which was an abandoned Ambulance Control Centre, was commandeered by police to provide a perfect viewing and meeting spot.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

As the time for direct action approached, a police helicopter buzzed overhead, and a FIT team with police photographer and video operator turned up.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

Before the moment of action, some very welcome sustenance, curry and fruit, was provided by the mobile Hare Krishna food cart.

Then, after a briefing to go through the ‘safe space’ policy, and to stress the non-violent nature of the exercise, a crowd (bolstered by activists who had attended the ‘This Changes Everything’ conference during the day) approached the main entrance of the News International building.

While a small number of ‘blac bloc’ activists scaled the wall and occupied the attention of the corporate security guards, others jumped over fences from behind, and made a run for the front doors. Organiser, Donnachadh McCarthy was briefly pinned against a wall behind the legs of a burly guard, but he slipped out and nearly made it to the revolving glass doors, while security guards tried to prevent others entering the area.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

In the chaos, more people flooded the covered space in front of the doors, and security gave up holding that space and concentrated on stopping any entry to the building.

Then a dozen or so TSG officers pushed their way into the crowd and formed a further line in front of the entrance.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

The brief excitement subsided. No-one, despite minor scuffles, had been hurt nor arrested, and an open mic session began with the megaphone, while protestors held the huge ‘occupy’ banner in front of police lines, and a variety of other banners and placards were displayed.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

Later that night, many people drifted away, but a core group of a dozen or so continued the occupation, two tents sprang up, and police stepped down their presence so that the occupation settled in for a peaceful night, still buffered by strong wind, but sheltered from rain.

The occupation was of course symbolic, and didn’t actually shut down the news empire, as staff were seen scurrying in and out of a rear service door and through a fenced gate guarded by more security.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

Certainly, the news-makers can not have been unaware of the protest, even though the papers were strangely muted about this news the next day.

Sunday was planned to be the final day of the week-long protest, on the theme of alternative media, with strong representation from the soon to be launched ‘Real Media’ platform.

 

 

Institute of Dissidents – Pall Mall

123 Pall Mall, a prestigious address, was until recently the home of the Institute of Directors, a meeting place for business executives to plan their capitalist agenda, pressuring through powerful lobbying for fewer workers’ rights, less corporate tax burden, and a reduction in ‘red tape’ (ie regulation).

04 Institute of Dissidents

The capitalists have now moved a few doors down the road, leaving their five storey mansion empty, while thousands of homeless sleep rough across London.

03 Institute of Dissidents

So squatters have moved in to reclaim the building and open it up as a new prestigious central London autonomous social centre.

07 Institute of Dissidents

IoD is big on networking

Among those representing are, the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL), Squatter and Homeless Autonomy (SHA), and the Love Activists.

08 Institute of Dissidents

and extremely well connected

They have a small kitchen, a cinema room, and lots and lots of space.

06 Institute of Dissidents

05 Institute of Dissidents

They also have an interesting collection of huge safes in a vault room in the basement of the building. Budding crackers should make contact. Who knows what nefarious role the vault had for CEOs wanting some private space.

01 Institute of Dissidents

02 Institute of Dissidents

ANAL like to share their spoils with like-minded anti-capitalist groups and individuals, opening up the space for networking, film nights, meetings and workshops, so anyone wanting to hold events or needing space should get in touch. News and planned events can be found on the ANAL facebook page

09 Institute of Dissidents

Occupy Murdoch – Day One

With more than fifteen hundred people signed up to the Facebook page, hopes were high for a good turn-out this morning. Truth be told, the dozen or so protesters were completely outnumbered by police, security and journalists, as they gathered at London Bridge this morning.

03 occupy rupert murdoch

01 occupy rupert murdoch

While the half dozen blue-tabarded ‘Police Liaison Officers’ mingled with the activists trying to gain intel as they do, a Forward Intelligence Team was sightseeing from a distance, pointing their video camera at the gathered journalists, having filmed the Occupiers from every angle.

02 occupy rupert murdoch

There were also security staff (the men in black) from the Sun offices, and other unknown undercovers watching from a distance.

06 occupy rupert murdoch

04 occupy rupert murdoch

After a photo-call, the small group set off for the ‘mini-shard’ Sun HQ where again they posed for pics and organiser, Donnachadh McCarthy, gave a short speech, before delivering their ‘arrest warrant’ for Mr Murdoch.

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07 occupy rupert murdoch

08 occupy rupert murdoch

Opposite the modern Shard entrance to London Bridge station is a small area where works are in progress behind blue fencing. There’s not much through footfall here, and there are some benches to sit on, making an ideal spot for the week-long occupation.

09 occupy rupert murdoch

Soon, banners and posters were fixed on the fence, a symbolic tent and a children’s play pen were set down, and the first speaker, Occupy’s George Barda turned up.

10 occupy rupert murdoch

The full week’s activities are up on the web page, along with ideas for solidarity actions for those that want to support but can’t make it to London Bridge.

The organisers believe a civil injunction will be fast-tracked to try to move them off the land, and a call-out for peaceful resistance will no doubt go out on their twitter feed when that happens.

The biggest event of the week will most likely be on Saturday, but in the meantime there are some fab speakers and some excellent cabaret lined up, along with daily assemblies.

Climate March and policing 7th March 2015

It is hard to understand why yesterday’s Climate March attracted many fewer than in Autumn, other than that the corporate media, owned by a handful of right-wing billionaires, is successfully misdirecting the public by continually ignoring or playing down the pressing scientific argument against the stranglehold of oil multi-nationals on national and international energy policy.

Still, several thousand angry folk gathered in Lincoln’s Inn Fields at lunchtime, before a bike bloc led the march towards Parliament.

01 climate march

03 climate march

There was a pause for a sit-down on the Strand, lasting around ten minutes, and there was also a detour by an anarchist bloc which turned off Whitehall and looped back into the rear of Parliament Square to establish the #occupydemocracy gathering due to follow the climate rally.

04 climate march

05 climate march

06 climate march

Prior to the march there was controversy over the Met’s demand that organisers pay for private road management – a position they retreated from later. In their original reasoning, they claimed that there was no need for any police presence because their core responsibility was “preventing and detecting crime, maintenance of the Queen’s Peace and protecting life and property”, and that because there the proposed march was “expected to be crime-free there was little requirement for it to provide a policing operation”.

So it was interesting that the event was not only fully policed, but that there was also a marked ramping-up of surveillance, with several FIT teams filming protesters, and a huge number of blue-tabarded “Liaison Officers”.

A smiley "liaison officer" from the National Domestic Extremist Special Operations branch

A smiley “liaison officer” from the National Domestic Extremist Special Operations branch

They seem to have given up any pretence that they are not gathering intelligence, with more and more of them sporting Public Order (CO) lapel badges, one Sergeant showing his SO (Domestic Extremist/Terrorist Specialist Operations), several Tactical Support Group officers (whose usual liaison with protesters involve shoving, punching or batoning them!), and out of their usual beat, several City of London police and some Detective Inspectors from Kent.

Perhaps this huge increase in intelligence gathering was a celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, in the John Catt case, that for the moment legitimises the wide-scale collection and retention of intelligence for “police purposes” that may include studying the “leadership, organisation, tactics and methods” as well as “links between protest groups”.

After the speeches and rally, one group of around a hundred activists headed off to block the steps of Tate Britain in protest at their sponsorship deals with BP, which provide huge amounts of greenwash and free advertising to the disgraced oil company in return for financial support which amounts to less than 1% of the Tate’s budget.

Another larger group, led by a ‘carbon bubble’ and huge dinosaur, took a stroll across Westminster Bridge and rallied outside the Shell HQ on the South Bank, where there were a few minor scuffles as TSG officers, protecting the corporation, tried to burst the bubble and snatch a few placards.

07 climate march

08 climate march

After some speeches there, the several hundred protesters began to head back over the bridge to re-occupy Parliament Square, but suddenly things took a dark turn. The same group of TSG that had been observing protesters earlier in the Square, and who were involved in scuffles at Shell, suddenly decided in the middle of the bridge to snatch someone and arrest them on the strange premise that they had previously committed a Section 5 public order offence in Humberside. This character had been noisily playing a tambourine in Parliament Square during the afternoon, was very visible around the Shell protest, and was clearly heading back to the Square, so why the police chose to so publicly snatch him in the middle of the bridge is a mysterious lapse in judgement.

Inevitably, his arrest, and claims that the arrest was completely unfounded, led to the prisoner van being surrounded by protesters, with costumed polar bears staging a sit-in in front of the van.

09 climate march

For the next 45 minutes, ever increasing numbers of police fought to clear a path for the van to exit, with many protesters receiving injuries in the process, despite the overwhelming majority acting peacefully.

10 climate march

11 climate march

12 climate march

During the operation, another three people were arrested, including an NUJ journalist.

Even when the van finally made an escape along York Road, it got held up by traffic and some activists tried to halt its progress further, but in a terrifying few moments, the driver gradually built up speed, as protesters ran backwards with their hands on the bonnet, until eventually they realised he literally might kill them, and they span off to the side.

13 climate march

14 climate march

Serious questions must be asked about whether the police were wise to attempt the original arrest in the middle of a large crowd in the middle of a bridge, and then whether their ensuing operation and escalating violence was proportionate in order to question someone about an historic alleged minor public order offence.

Once things had calmed down, the crowd returned to Parliament Square, where, under intense further surveillance, a group of up to a hundred held a meeting and then enjoyed some conscious poet and music entertainment into the evening from the likes of David Willard, Pete the Temp, and Danny Chivers.

16 climate march

17 climate march

Occupy Democracy organised prisoner support at Charing Cross police station so that as people were released they were met with a friendly welcome and some food etc. It took the full 24 hours for the last of the four to be released.

Occupy Democracy have announced they will be in Parliament Square during the election period from 1st till 10th May, and Liberty have just had the go ahead to launch a judicial review on the legality of the GLA’s closing of the Square to protests.

15 climate march

Occupy Democracy February – “Equality and Representation”

Last weekend, ‘Occupy Democracy’ returned to Parliament Square for a series of events around ‘Equality and Representation’. Despite an ongoing legal challenge against the GLA over previous repression, on Saturday they faced further arrests by police who appeared to be having difficulty providing a legal basis for their actions.

The afternoon began peacefully on the pavement by Churchill’s statue with a presentation on Islamaphobia, followed by a mock funeral for democracy at the foot of Mandela’s statue.

01 occupy democracy february

02 occupy democracy february

03 occupy democracy february

Then the activists walked on to the grass area and unfurled a huge tarpaulin, on which they continued debate, with an inspirational offering from Kerry-anne Mendoza (aka Scriptonite).

04 occupy democracy february

05 occupy democracy february

Heritage Wardens and police kept interrupting proceedings and attempting to hand over pieces of paper and information to members of the group, but were mostly ignored. Police numbers were also building up, with TSG officers arriving on the scene, and suddenly a dozen or more officers bundled into the crowd, ignoring the shouts that there were elderly and infirm individuals present, and they made their first arrest of the evening, targeting Donnachadh McCarthy, author and media activist. The authorities clearly see him as some sort of focus, as this is the fourth arrest he has endured.

From then on, the evening descended into a petty legal farce and police actions which successfully disrupted the planned events. Superintendent Kohli, heading the police operation, began the evening in assured form claiming his conscience was clear, but as legal arguments ensued, he was heard arguing with CPS about whether CCTV was needed to support any charges, and later literally refused to speak with Bindman’s lawyers and drove away into the night. See the video.

Each of the several more arrests over the evening followed the same bizarre pantomime. A Heritage Warden, surrounded by a large group of TSG officers, would randomly select a member of the public on the grass and (if they didn’t run away), would ask them to leave the grass, without giving any reason for the request. He then claimed they were breaking a Bye-Law by not following a “reasonable direction”, but constant requests to be told the “reason” for the request were ignored. He then asked for a name and address, and if refused, police piled in to arrest the person targeted.

06 occupy democracy february

At one point, people in chorus (using the ‘mic check’ technique of call and response), described to the wardens and officers that some months ago, a Bindman’s solicitor had explained to the commanding Inspector why this exact same scenario was unlawful, and as a result he had withdrawn nearly 200 officers allowing the occupation to continue peacefully – this caused the police and wardens to withdraw and huddle for a while, but they returned for more arrests soon after.

The argument lies around whether a Warden can just issue a direction to leave (which clearly opens him/her up to the dangers of discrimination or infringement of human rights), or whether the “reasonable direction” has to have one of the reasons defined by the rest of the Bye-Laws.

The arrestees were released hours later, and all except Donnachadh, who is facing other charges, were told there would be ‘No Further Action’. Thus, the entire police operation seriously disrupted a peaceful and probably entirely lawful assembly by a few dozen people wishing to discuss the state of democracy in front of Parliament. It seems the occupy movement have a point.

They returned the next day and again held many of their workshops (with topics including ‘feeding the homeless’, ‘black activism’, ‘Greece and Syriza’) on the pavement next to Churchill’s statue.

02 occupy democracy february 15

Romayne Phoenix

Romayne Phoenix

But when they peacefully moved to the grass, they faced further intimidation and harassment from wardens and police threatening further arrests.

05 occupy democracy february 15

04 occupy democracy february 15

They finished the day by holding a small rally in front of Parliament.

06 occupy democracy february 15

Superintendent Kohli certainly had CCTV covered on the Sunday, with a crew of four mysterious figures observing and filming from an overlooking window, and an unmarked green van sporting a powerful surveillance camera just behind the gates of Westminster.

02 surveillance

01 surveillance

Occupy Democracy return to the Square on the day of the massive Climate March next month on the 7th.

03 occupy democracy february 15

26th Jan Infrastructure Bill vote at Parliament (fracking)

26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament

Yesterday was an extraordinary day in the fracking calendar.

Protestors pulled together a rally outside Parliament with a range of speakers, celebs, and a massive fracking rig puppet. The Government’s own Environment Audit Committee (EAC) published its report on the ‘Environmental Risks of Fracking’ which unequivocally called for a moratorium. And the Government held a short final debate on the controversial Infrastructure Bill before passing it.

26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament

The fracking industry is in deep trouble presently, what with the fall in oil prices, the growing number of bans worldwide (including New York) recently, and the announcement by Plaid Cymru and SNP of moratoriums on fracking.

Yesterday didn’t get off to a good start for the pro-lobby either, with the revelation of George Osborne’s dodgy private letter to cabinet and the call for a moratorium in the EACs final report.

But in the biggest illustration of what little democracy we ever had being fully subsumed by corporate interests, the new clause (NC19) calling for at least 18 months’ moratorium was voted down in Parliament, as Labour abstained from the vote to push their own agenda.

While trespass laws were altered by the Bill so as to allow frackers to drill under our homes without letting us know, to pump whatever they want down there, and to leave any equipment and chemicals etc for as long as they like, the only protection we have from the environmental effects outlined by the EAC (a committee set up by the Government to consider independent evidence and offer reliable advice), is a set of 10 “safeguards” that Labour tabled (NC9), which once again relies on effective and robust regulation (while Government regulators get hit by massive cuts because of “austerity”).

There were numerous complaints from MPs that there was not sufficient time to debate the amendments, and even that they were being asked to vote on amendments of amendments that had supposedly been sent to them by email but that they hadn’t seen. Murkiness all round it seems.

It was no surprise then, that many of the speakers at yesterday’s protest spoke of how the only option left for environmental protectors is to consider peaceful civil disobedience to disrupt the fracking industry everywhere it tries to drill.

26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament

The press crowded round the celebs such as Bianca Jagger and Vivienne Westwood, as the Friends of the Earth compere, Donna Hume introduced activists from around the country, and the ex-UK Diplomat for Climate Change, John Ashton, enthusiastically addressed his first ever public rally.  

Donna Hume

Donna Hume

Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

John Ashton

John Ashton

Green MP Caroline Lucas, one of the architects of the NC19 moratorium clause spoke to the crowd before delivering a petition signed by more than a third of a million supporting the moratorium.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas

26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament

The crowd also held up a solidarity message with Lancashire residents who are waiting for a Council decision later this week on Cuadrilla applications for further drilling in the beautiful Fylde area.

26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament

The Lancashire planning committee has already recommended in a 684 page report that the licenses should be refused on planning grounds, and normally this would be the end of the matter, but given the Government’s dismissal of its own environmental report, and the dodgy ties the industry invariably has with policy-makers, activists are still very concerned about the vote and have called a two-day national vigil at the council offices on Wednesday and Thursday. There is a current Avaaz petition for Lancashire Council which has already collected more than 40,000 signatures which they will deliver this week. ‪
26th jan 2015 #binthebill anti-fracking rally outside parliament