This is an appeal to friends, comrades and ‘organisers’ of protests. In light of the mass arrest of 286 anti-fascist protestors on 7th September (and Fortnum and mason, critical mass, BNP Whitehall etc) we appeal to all organisers of protests from whatever organisation to immediately cease from negotiating with the police in any form whatsoever and, for any protests currently being planned, that organisers withdraw immediately from communication with the police.
The police have become the protest organisers. It is they who organise what happens on the day, who goes where, what is said and not said, how the protest acts, behaves, moves and demonstrates. We have now not only a state sanctioned but state organised protest. Be effective and you are liable to mass arrest. Deviate from this meticulous state planning and you’re liable to mass arrest. We must not get used to this!
The police have demonstrably stepped up their intentions against street protests and demonstrations. This is a planned strategy to suppress effective protest and is part of the total policing agenda of the police. For those who believe that effective street protests are not just about letting off steam or performing a state sanctioned role in the political system, but are one of the ways to begin to achieve radical changes in society, we cannot be debilitated by these new malign strategies of suppression – kettled, arrested, processed, released under threat of being hauled back into custody if we dare attend another protest in breach of bail conditions.
The state and the police cannot be asked to stop what they are doing or behave more nicely towards protestors – Rights are requests for permission, and it is obvious to anyone at Whitechapel last week who witnessed the officialised extravaganza of police, UAF, Council officials and ‘community’ leaders all performing a protest for the cameras, exactly what that ‘permission’ to protest means.
It’s been clear for a long time that this type of state sanctioned non-protest should be ended but now its not just a matter of frustration at their ineffectiveness but a matter of the safety of friends and of those we don’t know who come to protest on the streets. All the while that this type of non-protest is accepted, everyone else who doesn’t think it is legitimate, or who doesn’t know the rules of the police’s game, is liable to arrest.
Negotiating with the police now means putting protestors in serious danger. Negotiating with the police is complicity in the suppression of protests and should be seen as such. Collaborating with the police implicates and endangers anyone who does not know of, or agree with, the state sanctioned plans of the march.
The action we must take is firstly encourage and pressure all and any organisers of demonstrations, call outs and protests from any organisation from now on to refuse to negotiate with the police in any form. No negotiation of times, dates, rally points and routes of the march.
While this probably does not prevent mass arrests absolutely – the critical mass cycle ride did not liaise with the police prior to their mass arrests for ‘unlawful procession’ – they are arresting us on mass anyway, by the hundreds. Can they arrest us by the thousands?
Maybe they can, but what it may achieve is to unify the demonstrations in that we are all acting against the police’s efforts to suppress protest collectively. There can be no false separation of good and bad protestors, legitimate and illegitimate protestors that is used to weaken protests and social movements. No treating those arrested as not ‘really’ part of the ‘real’ demo, or as hijackers causing trouble for not obeying protest restrictions. The complicity from the organisers in this police practise of de-legitimising genuine protest must end. Acting collectively in this way means that we will all be illegitimate together.
We know that this appeal will likely not be listened to by most organisations and bureaucracies that organise protests, but we must attempt to win back some space on the streets for protest ourselves.
This is a direct appeal to not be complicit in endangering those who attend by collaborating with the police on the demonstration and cease all negotiations with the police immediately.