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Police Violence at Old E’ -Witness Callout

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Learning from the Heathrow 13: Reflections on struggle, repression and prison

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This is an article by Free to Fight, a collective of anarchist organisers based in England who have experienced the impacts of repression first hand. We have served lengthy prison and suspended prison sentences for our involvement in animal liberation campaigning and continue to organise support for friends and comrades still experiencing state repression today.

We want to express our full solidarity with and support for the Heathrow13. Being prosecuted and facing prison is a harrowing and personal experience that affects everyone differently. Our thoughts are with the defendants and we hope they’re able to begin recovering from this intense and worrying time. This article is not directed at them as individuals, it is aimed at wider social justice movements. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we would like to add our thoughts to the mainstream discourse circulating around this case.

As many of you will have seen yesterday was the sentencing of the ‘Heathrow13’; thirteen climate change activists that took part in a lock-on on a runway at Heathrow Airport, stopping flights for a number of hours, in protest at the proposed building of a new runway at the airport.

We were delighted to know that these 13 people weren’t subjected to the trauma of prison yesterday and can remain free to fight on the outside, be with their loved ones and continue to raise important issues about aviation and climate injustice. This article is intended to ask critical questions about repression, power, privilege and prison and how we respond to these complex challenges.

Repression has, and will, effect every social movement in history, all over the world. We humbly want to contribute our experiences to the conversation. The animal liberation movement, particularly anti-vivisection campaigning, has unquestionably received the greatest state repression of any left wing political struggle in the UK in recent years. Dozens of organisers have experienced long prison sentences, harsh bail and licence conditions and intimidation, as well as harassment and surveillance by the police, infiltrators and corporate interests.

The movement has been crushed by repression and is still struggling to rebuild itself from the damage that has been caused. In looking at our response to this repression, we can see that our biggest mistakes were our narrow political understanding, failure to anticipate and withstand legal repercussions and the lack of importance we placed on solidarity and personal support. The animal liberation movement was demonised in the media and did not have the power or privilege to contest the political commentary engineering our downfall. With multiple comrades imprisoned, and those on the outside terrified and unsupported, huge lessons were learnt about what to do and what not to do in responding to repression.

We’d like to share our insights in the hopes that the lessons we’ve learned can help organisers from all anti-oppression movements to be better prepared for facing repression.

Repression is more than prison

After running a necessity defence against the charge of Aggravated Trespass, the Heathrow 13 were found guilty and told to expect immediate custodial sentences. The defendants have received an incredible outpouring of support from the environmental movement, green campaigners, local residents and high profile individuals.

At their sentencing yesterday they were each given 6 weeks in prison suspended for 1 year, along with varying lengths of community service. This means that they will not be going to jail for now, but if they’re convicted of another offence within the 1 year period, they’ll automatically serve the 6 weeks in prison, along with any punishment for the new offence. Although it was great to hear that the Heathrow13 weren’t jailed yesterday, seeing suspended sentences being celebrated demonstrates that we need to work on our political understanding and awareness of the different forms of repression.

With one of our collective being just over half way through a two year suspended prison sentence, we know that this is not a victory of justice or a happy end to the personal struggle of being prosecuted. Instead of doing a few weeks or months inside, suspended sentences can be used to punish and control people for a much longer period. For something like aggravated trespass, which has a maximum sentence of 3 months, people can face restrictions and the ongoing threat and worry of being imprisoned for years – often without the movement and personal support that political prisoners receive while inside.

As with time spent on bail, defendants can be isolated from their movements, forgotten by their comrades and left with the seemingly endless worry of a prison sentence hanging over them. We like to make martyrs of our prisoners, but fail to know how to support people through the more tedious and drawn out forms of repression.

These less news worthy forms of punishment can also have a greater deterrent effect on social movements. Seeing people receive a few weeks in prison, amidst outpourings of support and outrage from the public and fellow campaigners can mobilise us into action and drive us to want to resist this acute injustice. But seeing our comrades disappear from activism for months, withdrawn, worried and isolated, ignored by the media and the movement at large doesn’t provide the same motivation. We have to remember repression is more than just prison, it’s all the tools in the toolkit that are used to prevent social movements from achieving their goals, and it has inevitable political, practical, social and emotional impacts on us all.

Privilege, Power and the Prison Industrial Complex

This sentencing has been celebrated as a victory and show of common sense from the justice system. The rhetoric around this case has said that these are moral, professional and qualified people who don’t deserve to go to prison for their actions. Guardian articles share their portraits, highlight their backgrounds and indicate their higher education achievements. For most people going to prison, they are unable to use this kind of privilege to their advantage. Even in political cases, those from working class backgrounds are unable to share letters from Barristers, or Head teachers at Private Schools, they are not able to use the discourse of the concerned middle class citizen, and as such are subject to harsher sentencing than even some of their co-defendants in the same cases. We have to acknowledge the consequences of this approach and how it might affect the next people on the stand and those that can’t play this card.

The second worldview which flickers around facebook is that somehow the British justice system is fair and integral to its’ fairness is our right to protest. Therefore it would be an outrage if peaceful protesters were imprisoned as no environmental activists have ever been sent to prison for non-violent protests. It feeds this idea that we have moved on from disproportionate punishment of political campaigners – the state’s harsh treatment of dissidents like the suffragettes has been consigned to history. This discourse is untrue and shows a dangerous lack of awareness of the history of political struggle and continuing repression of social movements. As well as the harmful disconnect between ‘political’ and ‘normal’ people when it comes to struggling against dominant forces.

The British Justice system is a racist, sexist, violent institution and the frontline of warfare against working class communities. We were inspired to see banners at court linking climate change to colonialism, and read inspiring articles written by the defendants that talk about the impacts of climate change on people in the Global South. Working class solidarity is needed in the UK, where we have the most privatised prison system in Europe, where people are being locked up for profit, where every single day thousands of people are harmed by the prison industrial complex. Violence, beatings, self-harm, drug abuse, rape and sexual assault, suicide and just the simple brutality of being caged are all endemic in our prison system. Prison is inherently violent, and it’s the tool of a violent state that serves the capitalists who are the real ones profiting from aviation and environmental destruction.

We are relieved that the Heathrow13 do not have to enter those prison gates, but we cannot forget the 85,636 people that are there, mostly for being poor. We have to dismantle the discourse of deserving and undeserving and challenge entire systems of interlinked oppression if we are to truly achieve radical change.

State Violence & the inevitability of Repression

Unfortunately, as the animal liberation movement has seen, if a group becomes effective in challenging the interests of the state, increasing repression is inevitable. When SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) campaigners were close to driving HLS (Huntingdon Life Sciences), Europe’s largest animal testing laboratory, into closure, the pharmaceutical industry told the UK government that they must step in, or they would move their business abroad. Not wanting to suffer this economic loss, the UK government introduced new laws (SOCPA 145 and 146) and began reinterpreting pre-existing laws (‘conspiracy to blackmail’ and the use of injunctions) to use against anti-vivisection campaigners. With the biggest police operation in UK history being organised against SHAC, dozens of people were arrested and sent to prison, with unprecedented long sentences of up to 11 years. You can read more about the impact and repression of SHAC on the blog SHAC Made History.

The targeting of SHAC may be a perfect example of an effective grassroots campaign being shut down by the state, but it’s just one in the ongoing state silencing of anyone who poses a threat to the economy or their power.

Finally, we don’t have the word count left to go into the ‘violent/non-violent’ debate. However we’d suggest people read Peter Gelderloos’ text on How Non Violence Protects the State.

For the Heathrow 13, we are sure that there will be tears of relief and deep breaths, as well as thoughts of what to do next now the haunting feeling of prison is lifted (for now at least).

Now is the time to escalate not only our struggles for social and environmental justice, but to place these struggles in the bigger context of confronting capitalism, the state and its prison society. It is also the time to escalate our solidarity for all our comrades that are behind bars or experiencing repression in different ways all over the world.

Until All Are Free!
Free to Fight Collective, February 2016

Italy: 3 comrades arrested for the struggle against Brindisi detention centre

From: http://rabble.org.uk/italy-3-comrades-arrested-for-the-struggle-against-brindisi-detention-centre/

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Via Act for Freedom Now.

We receive and spread:

Following a greeting in front of the CIE of Brindisi – Restinco three comrades of Lecce were arrested on charges of resistance and non-authorized demonstration. They are now under house arrest. Below the leaflet distributed during the march that took place on January 10 in the city centre in solidarity with the arrested:

Since the beginning of October 2015, in the district of Restinco in Brindisi, a CIE(immigration detention centre for identification and expulsion) is open again after several revolts of those locked up inside had rendered it unfit for use.

The CIE are true concentration camps where undocumented immigrants are detained. Life in a CIE is made up of harassment by soldiers and police and good earnings for the management bodies: in the case of Restinco, the cooperative Auxilium.

Since the reopening of the centre some comrades often went outside those walls to bring solidarity to those locked up. After repeatedly being held by police, on Saturday, Jan. 9, three of them were arrested on charges of illegal demonstration and resisting a public official. We would reiterate that the main goal of repression is to make sure that this camp remains a place of segregation totally isolated and unknown to most people.
Who is indifferent is complicit in these camps.

AGAINST BORDERS, ALL FREE, FIRE TO THE CIE !!

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From informa-azione
11/01/2016  Translated by act for freedom now

Cardiff: Pete and Josh free, acquitted of all charges

 Article from: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/men-accused-violent-disorder-after-10733879
Joshua Longbottom (left) and Peter Simpson were acquitted of violent disorder and ABH
Joshua Longbottom (left) and Peter Simpson were acquitted of violent disorder and ABH

Two men accused of violent disorder after protesters occupied a Cardiff bank on May Day last year have been acquitted.

Joshua Longbottom, 26 – also known as Joshua Howe – and Peter Simpson, 30, were accused of having a confrontation with police at the HSBC branch in Queen Street on May 2 last year.

Demonstrators had been involved in a peaceful May Day march in the city centre organised by Cardiff Uncut and Cardiff Trades Council.

Cardiff Crown Court previously heard that a small minority broke off from the main march and occupied the Queen Street bank where they shouted slogans and protests.

Longbottom was accused of assaulting a police officer and Simpson was accused of trying to prevent Longbottom’s arrest.

‘Acting instinctively’

Both were arrested and taken to Cardiff Bay police station.

Longbottom and Simpson, both of Clifton Street, Adamsdown , Cardiff, were accused of violent disorder and assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH).

They both denied the charges against them and argued they were “acting instinctively” to protect themselves.

During the trial Judge Michael Fitton QC gave the jury a direction to find Longbottom and Simpson not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) as the evidence could no longer sustain the allegation.

On Thursday the jury found both men not guilty.

Read more: Anarchist protest at Cardiff bank was ‘serious piece of mob violence’, say prosecutors

‘Peaceful protest’

During the trial both men gave their accounts of what happened at what Longbottom called a “peaceful protest”.

He told the court joined the protest at the end of St Mary Street and entered the HSBC bank along with other protesters when they reached Queen Street.

He said: “I thought we were going to hand out some leaflets and maybe try and engage with some members of the public.

“We all lined up against the back wall and someone started making a speech about HSBC and tax. There was nothing untoward.”

After spending 15 minutes in the bank Longbottom said he approached the entrance to hand leaflets to members of the public who had been refused entry to the bank as it had closed.

The defendant then claimed he was shoved by a police officer and was refused re-entry.

A picture showing the May Day 2015 anti-austerity march in Cardiff's Mill Lane. Those pictured were not involved in the trial

A picture showing the May Day 2015 anti-austerity march in Cardiff’s Mill Lane. Those pictured were not involved in the trial

Defendant claimed he was thrown to floor by police

When he tried to get back into the bank he claims he was grabbed by the officer who tried to shove him back out.

Longbottom said: “I wanted to finish my protest and I felt it was unfair they wouldn’t let me back in.”

When he tried to get back into the bank he claimed he was grabbed and “thrown to the floor” by an officer before later being warned he could be Tasered.

He claimed he sustained bruising to his collar bone, chest and arms as a result of his arrest.

Simpson said he saw Longbottom on the floor and believed he was being “attacked” and added: “I was concerned by the level or force being used by police officers.

“An officer had come down on top of Joshua. It just seemed really sudden and I was shocked by it. I was trying to figure out what was going on.”

Simpson also claimed to have been grabbed and elbowed by a police officer during the incident.

Speaking after the acquittal, Mr Simpson said: “There’s an element of relief but I wouldn’t go as far to say I’m relieved.

“I knew that we both weren’t guilty. We were treated as guilty until proven innocent and that shouldn’t be the way things work.

“The jury was able to see the evidence and and not be brought into this sensational thing. The evidence wasn’t there.”

Mr Longbottom added: “It’s been stressful. I’ve hoped it would turn out like this.

“It’s nice to see the justice system working how it should.”

Solidarity with Yusef

From: https://southwalesanarchists.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/solidarity-with-yusef/

Yusef Asad was unjustly sentenced to two and a half years in Prison for defending himself from racists attacking a Palestine March in Cardiff in July 2014. He received the heaviest sentence despite only responding as racists at a pub started the violence throwing bottles, glasses and chairs at the demonstrators, who included young families.

Yusef welcomes letters of support.

Yusef Asad

A4424DD

HUNTERCOMBE PRISON

NUFFIELD

HENLEY-ON-THAMES

OXFORDSHIRE

RG05SB

Sean Swain: To Rebels, Insurrectionists, and Hacktivists Everywhere

A letter from anarchist prisoner Sean Swain.

I’m ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard, but I’m still swinging with all that I’ve got. I gave the state an ultimatum: reinstate my communications or I’ll refuse blood pressure meds – which will lead to heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm. The state hasn’t budged and neither have I. I’m now out of meds and facing a spike in blood pressure. If I die I hope everyone reading this holds the same people responsible for my death as I do.

Odds aren’t so good that I’m going to live through this no matter how it stacks up. My website is in a state of transition, my access to the radio show is essentially cut off, and it feels like I’ve been obliterated beyond prison fences.

I dropped the federal civil rights action. Fuck the hierarch courts. I’m now relying entirely on the potential of rebels, insurrectionists, and hacktivists to develop methods of direct action to drive this common enemy to its knees.

State terrorists now have home addresses posted at blastblog.noblog.org. These are State agents and collaborators who have employed a program of torture and ideological targeting. So, just to be clear – this isn’t about me. I’m aware I’m not that important. In fact, by the time this is circulated, I may have already sputtered out. This is about a common enemy, those who serve the forces of non-freedom, and a real opportunity for those of us who envision a future that’s not under their control to send clear a message : Those who maintain the program and dig the mass grave will pay for what they’ve done.

And again, in my own situation, this does not begin and end with prison officials. In legal documents, prison officials made clear that they were taking their marching orders from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI. I don’t know what field office or what agents, but whoever they are, I think it’s important that they find out the rude way that they can be found too.

Just for the purpose of setting out what I think to be a healthy orientation, if the FBI can come after us, we can go after them. And we should. They have home addresses. They have personal vehicles.

Imagine what this can evolve into… disrupting their personal communications like cellphones… hacking into their personal systems…stealing their identities and destroying their credit… probing their government databases and melting them down… all while their cars burn…and their homes…and they tremble in fear in the Kroger parking lot when a stranger a stranger asks them for a light, because a coworker was knee-capped with a baseball bat when stopping for a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread on the way home from work…

We might make minor promises in exchange for meeting demands, but our ultimate demand is for a future without these fuckweasels running it.

And we attack, wherever we are, whatever our situation, until we get the world we deserve. We’re not going to vote them out or petition them out or protest them out or sue them out.

We know that if the means you employ do not require you to wear a ski mask or its electronic equivalent, your just not serious.

We’re serious.

If I’m already dead by the time this gets out, I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who has extended my life in struggle, and to everyone who continues that struggle.

Gasoline is cheap. Matches are free.

We own the future. And it’s time to make them know it.

Stay dangerous,

Freedom,

Sean

Post Script from An Outside Rebel:

In order to place the above statement from Sean in some context, I would like to explain some of what’s been going on in Sean’s life in the last few months.

Sean has been off his blood pressure medication for about a month now. During his last med strike he hid his meds and secretly took them until he was moved to a special cell and placed under “medical observation.” In this new cell, he was watched at all times by pigs and medical staff via a surveillance camera pointed at the cell. At this point, he was actually, for real, was not taking his meds. During this time he experienced a blood pressure spike, which he says is “really uncomfortable, makes you want to crawl out of your own skin.”

While under medical observation, Sean made sign language messages to the camera in an attempt to communicate with those observing him. In response, his cell lights were turned off. Presumably, this was done to stop his ability to communicate, or crush his spirit or whatever. We don’t think like pigs so we can’t really tell you.

Sean then faked a heart attack. Those observing him did not respond in any way.

From this episode, Sean drew many conclusions. When observing the ODRC’s active medical negligence, for instance, one could easily draw the conclusion that they would prefer Sean dead.

A few months ago Sean attempted to send some rather incendiary messages through his Jpay account (the privatized prison email system) that related to the CEO of Jpay, Ryan Shapiro. He recieved a 60 day suspension of his Jpay usage. However, in practice this was a more universal shutdown and harassment of his communications. Many of his letters in and out were delayed by several weeks. He was and still is denied use of the telephone. Not only this, but it has been well beyond 60 days since his Jpay communications were suspended and they haven’t been reinstated. At the same time, he’s had two people who support him get upset at his tactics and stop talking to him. On top of all this his parents are aging and both experienced injuries during this time.

He’s expressed that he feels like the state is using him as a weapon against those that he loves. He seems very resolved about following through with this action.

If you have strong feelings about this situation, if you yourself are very resolved, now would be the time to act.

Solidarity Campaign for Mauricio Hernández Norambuena

“We have to be non-sectarian when it comes to fighting for the rights
and freedom of the victims of prison state slavery. Our policy must be
that we will work with and for any prisoner and prison support group, if
they will work in sincerity and unity with us. We do this so as to
obtain the widest possible mobilization on the part of the people in
support of the prison movement and the cases of political/class war
prisoners.” Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

cnario.noblogs.org/mauricio-hernandez-n…/
www.mauriciohernandeznorambuena.com/

Mauricio Hernández Norambuena is one of the most significant
oppositors to the chilean military dictatorship first and, later, to the
“democratic” transition guided by the same dictator Pinochet (till his
death). Mauricio Hernández Norambuena today is suffering the 5038day
of an inhuman detention regime, that is to say 95.06 times what
Washington Olivetto, the victim of the offence for which Mauricio is
jailed, suffered during his kidnapping.

In 1976, during the dictatorship, Mauricio was a Communist Party
militant, while in 1983 he was one of the founders of the Manuel
Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), an organization borned as the military
organization of the Communist Party that later developed its own
authonomy to fight and defeat the dictatorship on the military plan.

Mauricio was condemned many times in Chile as intellectual and material
author of many actions developed by his own organization and he was
arrested in 1993. Freed from prison in 1996 thanks to an operation of
his organization, he was arrested in 2002 in Brasil for the kidnapping
of a company manager and he was condemned to 30 years of prison.

For almost 14 years, Mauricio Hernández Norambuena has beensuffering an inhuman prison regime that violates all the “Standard
Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
”, adopted by the First
Congress of the United Nations about the Prevention of Crime and the
Treatment of Offenders
:

  • A cell 3×2 meters, bathroom included.
  • Two hours a day in a tightened courtyard.
  • Visits just of his brothers and systers, for 3 hours a month.
  • No access to newspapers, TV, radios, etc..
  • Just a book a week.
  • No contact with other prisoners.

The aim of this website it to make know his situation, denounce the
Human Rights violation promoted by the Brasilian Government
, speed up
the Brasilian Authorities to an humanitarian act by the repatriation of
Mauricio Hernández Norambuena to Chile, (the Chilean Government has
already presented an extradition request to the Brasilian Authorities).

The Brasilian Government in 2002 destroyed the lager of the Carandiru
(2nd of October in 1992, 111 prisoners killed by its security forces)
and replaced it by many modern prisons where the physic torture is
replaced by the psicological torture. *Stop the Human Rights violations
of the Brasilian Government Now !!! *

Write to Mauricio Hernández Norambuena NOW !Mauricio Hernández Norambuena
Penitenciária Federal em Porto Velho/RO
Av. Presidente Dutra, 2701 – Caixa Postal 521
Porto Velho/RO – CEP 76801-974
Brasil