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Posts Tagged ‘protest’

So it seems that after a flurry of activity for the climate swoop last week where climate activists met at six strategic locations before converging on Blackheath to set up this year’s Climate Camp the mainstream media have largely lost interest in events.

On the Guardian website today we have bibi van der Zee claiming that ‘Five days in and the campers admit things are a little boring – there are no more toilets to put up and the police have vanished. But a plan for direct action should put the zip back into things’

If you took reports like that seriously you would believe that essentially nothing has been going on at camp since the set up on Wedsnesday and Thursday last week. In fact the site has been awash with activity as the camp has hosted roughly 30-35 workshops a day in addition to the daily neighbourhood meetings.

These workshops have covered everything from creating bicycle powered sound systems to the science of climate change and the current state of geoengineering, from creating your own media to understanding the subtleties of carbon trading schemes, from communicating climate science to lay audiences to building your own wind turbines, from direct action and legal observer training to understanding the links between the arms trade and climate change, from consensus based decision making and direct democracy to creating biochar as a green energy source.

In fact there have been so many disparate workshops, seminars and debates that it would be impossible to to attend more than a fraction of them. Meanwhile, the small amount of mainstream media coverage still focusing on the camp (largely in the Guardian) sees the likes of Van der Zee moaning that the camp has come boring because there aren’t campers being beaten up by the police like at the G20. It truly indicates the sad state of corporate media when even the allegedly left wing papers are interested in issues only so long as they are presented with dramatic images of police attacking protesters.

Somewhat bizarrely in yesterday’s Observer Peter Beaumont claimed that ‘the protesters should spend more time convincing others that their actions are sound,’ it’s hard to understand what he believes the workshops on the science of climate change and the careful efforts of campers to provide factually accurate workshops which clearly delineate why they are involved in protesting around these issues, but somewhat unsurprisingly he fails to mention that any workshops are taking place, instead focusing on what he claims are Climate Camp’s ‘often hazy messages and complex inner negotiations.’ Quite how specifically targetting institutions such as the European Climate Exchange, Barclays Bank and Shell, while holding discussions and workshops which communicate precisely why these targets have been chosen can be understood as ‘hazy’ is somewhat beyond me. In fairness it merely appears to be another case of a lazy journalist writing poorly researched rubbish having been disappointed at the lack of sensationalist images of police fighting with protesters.

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This from the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/05/g20-protest-ian-tomlinson

The man who died during last week’s G20 protests was “assaulted” by riot police shortly before he suffered a heart attack, according to witness statements received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Investigators are examining a series of corroborative accounts that allege Ian Tomlinson, 47, was a victim of police violence in the moments before he collapsed near the Bank of England in the City of London last Wednesday evening. Three witnesses have told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson was attacked violently as he made his way home from work at a nearby newsagents. One claims he was struck on the head with a baton.

Photographer Anna Branthwaite said: “I can remember seeing Ian Tomlinson. He was rushed from behind by a riot officer with a helmet and shield two or three minutes before he collapsed.” Branthwaite, an experienced press photographer, has made a statement to the IPCC.

Another independent statement supports allegations of police violence. Amiri Howe, 24, recalled seeing Mr Tomlinson being hit “near the head” with a police baton. Howe took one of a sequence of photographs that show a clearly dazed Mr Tomlinson being helped by a bystander.

A female protester, who does not want to be named but has given her testimony to the IPCC, said she saw a man she later recognised as Tomlinson being pushed aggressively from behind by officers. “I saw a man violently propelled forward, as though he’d been flung by the arm, and fall forward on his head.

“He hit the top front area of his head on the pavement. I noticed his fall particularly because it struck me as a horrifically forceful push by a policeman and an especially hard fall; it made me wince.”

Mr Tomlinson, a married man who lived alone in a bail hostel, was not taking part in the protests. Initially, his death was attributed by a police post mortem to natural causes. A City of London police statement said: “[He] suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work.”

But this version of events was challenged after witnesses recognised the dead man from photographs that were published on Friday.

An IPCC statement was due to be released the same day and is understood to have portrayed the death as a tragic accident. However, the statement’s release was postponed as the complaints body received information that police officers may have been more involved in events than previously thought. An IPCC spokesman said yesterday that in light of new statements it was “assessing” the information it had received before deciding whether to launch a full investigation.

Part of the commission’s inquiries will involve the examination of CCTV footage from the area.

Liberal Democrat MP David Howarth said: “Eventually there will have to be a full inquest with a jury. It is a possibility this death was at police hands.”

A police source told the Observer that Mr Tomlinson appears to have become caught between police lines and protesters, with officers chasing back demonstrators during skirmishes. He was seen stumbling before he collapsed and died on Cornhill Street, opposite St Michael’s Alley, around 7.25pm.

At around 7.10pm, protesters had gathered outside the police cordon to call for those contained inside – some for hours – to be let out. Officers with batons and shields attempted to clear them from the road.

Around 7.20pm, five riot police, and a line of officers with dogs, emerged from Royal Exchange Square, a pedestrian side street. Three images taken around this time show Mr Tomlinson on the pavement, in front of five riot police, and in apparent distress. He had one arm in the air, and appeared to be in discussion with the officers.

Mr Tomlinson then appears to have been lifted to his feet by a bystander. Minutes later he fell to the ground. “We saw this guy staggering around,” said Natalie Langford, 21, a student. “He looked disorientated. About five seconds later he fell, and I grabbed my friends to help him.”

Police have claimed that when paramedics tried to move Mr Tomlinson away for urgent treatment, bottles were thrown at them by protesters. He was later pronounced dead at hospital.

Branthwaite added: “He [Mr Tomlinson] was not a mouthy kid or causing problems, but the police seemed to have lost control and were trying to push protesters back. The police had started to filter people into a side street off Cornhill. There were a few stragglers who were just walking through between the police and protesters. Mr Tomlinson was one of those.”

The police tactics during the G20 protests were condemned in the aftermath of the demonstrations. The clearance of a climate camp along Bishopsgate by riot police with batons and dogs after nightfall on Wednesday came in for particular criticism.

Protesters marched to Bethnal Green police station in east London yesterday to demand a public inquiry into Mr Tomlinson’s death.

Despite the hideous coverage of the G20 protests in London this week which largely depicted the protesters as violent thoughtless thugs who were complicit in the death of one of their own, it would seem that fairly rapidly the truth is beginning to eke out into the public arena. As with the infamous murder of Jean Charles de Menezes it appears that the initial statement handed out by the police is full of outright lies designed to vindicate the violent actions of the police.

Merely describing the police actions this week as heavy handed is an understatement of the highest order. The state sponsored violence which was unleashed on the protesters was in no way proportionate to the behaviour of those on the streets. There is an immense difference between smashing a few windows at a Bank which symbolises the financial violence wrought on people living through the credit crunch and beating a passer by to death. There is no justification in riot police attacking sit down protests or peaceful climate campers whose arms are raised as they chant peace not riot.

A brutal case of state sanctioned violence was perpetrated this past week against the people who sought to articulate their displeasure with the current government for their economic, ecological and militaristic strategies.

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For coverage of tomorrow and Thursday’s G20 protests acrosss london be sure to check out London Indymedia and UK Indymedia who will be providing live updates on the day’s actions.

As the Police have been talking up the ‘summer of rage’ before any kind of protest/demonstrations have occured it seems likely that there is likely to be some very heavy handed actions initiated by the police, and keeping protestors abreast of events while letting the world know what is really going on in the streets seems like a hugely important job for grassroots independent media.

‘Help report what’s happening by sending your reports from the streets. There are two Indymedia reporting numbers running 28th March – 2nd April: 07588 479 039 : For calling in reports from events – remember the ‘who what when where why’ – and also for sending txt msg updates and MMS picture messages.
08444 870 157: For calling in to leave a short audio recording that can be uploaded to the website. (If you do send pictures or audio messages, include the location and time) Twitter: If you are using twitter and have a report or update for Indymedia, include the hashtag #imcg20 in your message’

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This book, published by Routledge in 2006, is a recent attempt at a sociological analysis of the alternative globalization movement (AGM) using a theoretical framework based on an almagamation of the works of Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri and Gregory Bateson, with complexity theory via D&G deployed to provide qualitative analysis of events such as the May Day 2000 demonstration, the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle and Prague, the actions of the Zapatistas and the emergent forms of global civil society which seek to impact on globalized capitalism such as the World and regional social fora.

In their introduction, Chesters and Welsh describe their work as ‘offering ‘a qualitative sociology of the philosophical postulates of Empire and Multitude advanced by Hardt and Negri, rendering tangible the agency and constitutive processes immanent within their works,’ (p3) although in several key areas Chesters and Welsh go beyond Hardt and Negri’s works, which in places can seem overly centred on finding a revolutionary subject for the network society, by mapping the vectors of contemporary social movements and seeking practical instantiation of how these movements connect and combine to create emergent formations capable of challenging neoliberal capitalism.

The approach pursued by Chesters and Welsh does closely correlate with Hardt and Negi’s theoretical works closely in several important ways however; firstly in contesting that ‘One must look outside the state at networked processes of interaction between state and non-state actors. This does not mean that the state is no longer important, but that we must consider the meshwork of national and extra-national political institutions, corporate and civil society actors that co-produce the effects of the global.’ (p95) That capitalist globalization and the rise of the network society means that activism can no longer be effective if aimed purely at a local level, as the larger scale assemblages of global finances can overcode and render such localism ineffective as an activist strategy.

A second important point of agreement between Hardt and Negri and Chesters and Welsh is that the formal structuring of activist movements plays an integral role in the way that they function, that an organization’s internal structure will effect the way that organization operates, and furthermore that contemporary AGM activism is centred around the form of the decentred network, and that this structure allows for a more inclusive and democratic mode of action than the 20th century models of the people’s army, unions or political parties. Indeed, while Chesters and Welsh stress the diverse array of influences on the AGM, socialism, liberalism, environmentalism and situationism, they emphasise the central role of anarchism in the democratic, reflexive and inclusive structuring of the movments ‘The logic of an anarchist stance is that revolution cannot be led by a vanguard party or sedimented through a revolutionary government or state as these forms lead back to the establishment of old habits of mind. Instead revolution requires the dissipative undermining of established institutional forms, not their re-titling.’ (p145)

Finally, Chesters and Welsh approach Hardt and Negri’s work in the way that they highlight the importance of information communications technologies and their usages to contemporary social movements, briefly examining the Zapatistas use of digital communications, and broaching the role played by Indymedia in the AGM.

‘These processes of physical interaction that characterise the global social movements – the protest actions, encuentros and social fora are further understood to be dynamically interconnected and co-extensive with a digital commons that underpins computer mediated communications and which co-constructs the rhizome of the AGM.’ (p103)

The area of media is frequently touched upon by Chesters and Welsh, both in terms of the mainstream media’s portrayal of the AGM as thugs which prevents communication of their goals and beleifs, and also in terms of Indymedia as an alternative to the mass media which presents a decentralized, less hierarchical and more transparent alternative, however one area where this book is perhaps lacking is an in depth investigation of Indymedia, and how Indymedia alongside other elements of the digital commons underpin the physical movements which are covered in considerably more depth through case studies.

Chester and Welsh describe the AGM as operating as:

‘a strange attractor reconfiguring public opposition to global neoliberalism whilst simultaneously creating ‘spaces’ where Alternatives Globalisation pathways are fused through a multiplicity of engaged actors. This is not an anti-movement, this is not a movement that can be subordinated to national analytical frameworks, this is not a movement that is going to go away.

This is a movement which prefigures social forms, social processes and social forces which will become normalized as mobility and the information age redistribute the affinities historically associated with space and place. (p1)

For Chesters and Welsh then, the AGM presents an embryonic set of processes whose dynamism and flexibility provide socially and environmentally sustainable alternatives to neoliberalism whose properties will become dominant social forms. Such claims are perhaps exaggerated, but nonetheless provide a valuable starting point for thinking about how the nonhierarchical, dynamic forms of direct democracy practised by actors within the AGM can be mobilised into dominant social forms, how activist practices can become mainstream.

Similar to Hardt and Negri, Chesters and Welsh are keen to stress that the AGM is not an anti-movement which seeks to resurrect a romanticized pre-globalized version of the nation state, but instead seeks to create sustainable and ethical alternatives to the inequalities wrought by neoliberal globalization, quoting Z magazine founder Michael Albert, who says

we want social and global ties to advance universal equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management, not to subjugate ever wider populations to an elite minority. We want to globalise equity not poverty, solidarity not anti-solidarity, diversity not conformity, democracy not subordination, and ecological balance not suicidal rapaciousness. (Albert 2001, www.globalpolicy.org) (p94)

Chesters and Welsh introduce the concept of an ‘ecology of action’ in an attempt to formulate how contemporary activist interventions effect social ties and structures.

The key to understanding the AGM is not to be found amongst individual actors be they groups or organisations. Instead we must focus our attention upon the processes of interaction between actors, to the iterative outcomes of reflexive framing and to the emergence of an ecology of action within Global Civil Society that is actualised through the AGM.(p101)

This concept is grounded in Bateson’s ecology of mind, in which pathalogical epistemological constructions had to be erased in order to conceptualize the subject outside of the boundaries created by conscious purpose (the ego). Chesters and Welsh seek to scale this concept upwards through Bateson’s three ecologies, from the ecology of mind to the ecology of society, specifically examining ways in which social forms and actions impact upon the social ecology, with a view to mobilising effective activist campaigns in order to affect change in the world.

In conclusion then, in Complexity and Social Movements Chesters and Welsh provide a sociological investigation into certain aspects of the Alternative Globalization movement, and contextaulise this within a theoretical framework drawing on complexity theory, Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri, Bateson, Melucci and Goffman to provide a map of what they see to be an ecology of action, with the intent of understanding contemporary developments in activism with a view to energizing the ecology of action and creating positive changes in the world.

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