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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

Message from Daniel McGowan on the 10 year anniversary of his arrest

Ten years ago today, I was finishing up stuffing holiday cards for my
employer when 2 beefy men asked me if i was indeed, Daniel McGowan. Once I
was handcuffed and being frog-marched through the office, I knew what it
was about.

At the same time, 6 of my codefendants were getting arrested at the same
time. Others were receiving grand jury subpoenas as well. Sadly, all the
people arrested that day became cooperating witnesses save for William
Rodgers, who I knew as ‘Avalon’, who took his life in a county jail on the
Winter Solstice, two weeks after we were arrested.

Of course, other arrests followed in the months after that, with a handful
of codefendants refusing to play the game. We came together in solidarity
to fight the charges and reduce the potential sentence as much as
possible.

For that, I will always have gratitude to Jonathan Paul, Nathan Block and
Joyanna Zacher (though it would be disingenuous for me to not point out
the latter two peoples’ identification with esoteric fascist movements
currently).

I was bonded out of jail, fought my case on house arrest for a year and
months after that, worked out a plea that did not involve naming names or
becoming a witness against anyone. It had repercussions for me including
more time and no protection from grand juries (and surely, two years
later, I was called before one as a witness and put on civil contempt of court).
That said, I cannot have seen it going any other way. My regrets with the
case is that more of my co-defendants did not stick with us and move
forward together-something that had been the idea when worst case
scenarios had been discussed years prior.

10 years later, its obvious to me every time I go to any activist event
that many younger activists do not know this history. I suppose it is the
struggle we all face-how to remember and memorialize, but not live in the
past and nostalgia. I can tell people to watch If a Tree Falls or read
Green is the New Red (thanks, Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman & Will Potter) but that is an incomplete picture.

How then, do we, move forward in our fight for justice and pass on to
others what we learned? Its a longer question.

I use the word “I” often in this post and perhaps others as I am talking
about the past but at no point have I ever felt alone and not connected to
others. Without these stalwart, loyal and amazing people in my life, I
know with certainty that things would have gone a totally different way:
Jenny Malone – my former partner and best friend. The rock. The Wizard of Oz behind every aspect of the support campaign and the ‘trying to keep me sane’ campaign. G.O.A.T. EXES4EVAH!

My family especially my sister Lisa who funded my legal defense, let me
live with her while on house arrest and did not waver or flinch one time.
These people taught me loyalty.

Family and Friends of Daniel McGowan better known as FAF.
This small group worked their asses off, put on so many shows, sold a
zillon t-shirts, made my court dates, wrote articles, supported me
mentally, emotionally and financially, put their lives on hold for some
time to make sure I would have a life to come home too. So much gratitude
to all of them. I am not even in touch with all of them, which to be
honest, saddens me but I have nothing but lifelong gratitude for all of
them. Shoutouts to Andrew,Ainsley Belle Bowman, Eliza Brooklyn, Kitty, Corey Eastwood, Sideshow,Cin Dee, Marianne Maeckelbergh and Ryan DC

Letter from Em Sheppard 26 December 2015

Please note it is important that this is not reposted after 30 December 2015 as this will be in breach of licencing conditions.

In October my probation officer said I could go back to Bristol. Now it transpires I have been a MAPPA (multi-Agency Protection) for my whole sentence, though no one thought to tell me (I always thought it was strange I wasn’t). The police met in November about me and to draw up my licence conditions, but (as is common practice) have only told me now. The licence is so restrictive that ironically I will have had more freedom in jail in some ways. I’m not sure what’s worse – to refuse to leave prison, or to accept their restrictions! It clearly shows what a farce the much quoted claims of “rehabilitation” and “maintaining family ties” are. I had a place to live and several jobs organised, but instead they make me sign-on and live in a bail hostel in Reading.

Licence conditions are one of many possible examples of how the prison society extends beyond these walls. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore said “Prison is not some building ‘over there’ but a set of relationships that undermine rather than stabilise everyday lives, everywhere”.

Apart from the usual “big 6” licence conditions, I also have: a 7-7 curfew for my entire licence (plus signing several times during the day and ‘group work’ and sessions with probation to address my “attitude”), not using any computers or internet capable devices (and specifically not deleting any browser histories), not going within 100 metres of any police buildings (probation said if I want to report a crime I can but I have to ask permission from them first…?!!?!), not to have more than one mobile phone (possibly not even one at all they are checking on this) and to provide the SIM/IME number, to permanently reside at Elizabeth Fry, not to visit or interact with any prisoners, not to contribute to or publish anything, or attend any meeting/gatherings associated with direct action/activism/campaigning, not to contact directly or indirectly any person whom I know or believe to be involved with “extremist” activities ( I have asked for the legal definition of this), or have been charged with or convicted of an offence. I am also not allowed to work with “vulnerable adults” or “groom” (or have discussions with) anyone for the purposes of radicalisation or extremism.

Once I’m out I’m going to challenge these conditions but my solicitor said it’s hard to do from inside prison. Accepting them goes against everything I believe in but I am going to do so for my family. They are obviously setting me up to fail (most girls at Elizabeth Fry do because drugs are rife there) so we’ll see how long I last. Once I sign the conditions, unless I get recalled, I won’t be able to write again until 2017 :(

They can try to stifle and control me with their restrictions, false sympathies and fake smiles, but “no pueden encarcelar neustras ideas”. My silence is only temporary, and my rage is infinite.

“Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Just like the moons and like the suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise”

  • Still I’ll rise, Maya Angelou

Thanks for all the support this year. Hope you have a fun and mischievous 2016.

Solidarity, love and lots of rage

Em x :)

Please note it is important that this is not reposted after 30 December 2015 as this will be in breach of licencing conditions.

Solidarity dinner and talk with antifascists from Greece

Hosted by Bristol antifascists.

When: Thursday 3rd December.
Where: Kebele Social Centre, 14 Robertson Road, Easton. Bristol BS56JY.
What: Dinner at 7pm. Presentation and discussion from 7.30pm.

AFN / KAVALA,GREECE ANTIFA SOLIDARITY TOUR – DECEMBER 2015

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Comrades from Kavala, Greece will be speaking about the situation there to raise awareness and solidarity for their struggle
against fascists and state repression.

One of the comrades from Kavala is facing serious charges at an upcoming court case on December 9th and is in desperate need for solidarity and financial support.

Anti-fascists in Kavala have been some of the most active in all of Greece, organising demonstrations and actions against neo-nazi groups over the past years.

On Sunday 26th January 2014, a few hours before a scheduled anti-fascist rally, neo-nazis from the “Patriotic Movement” smashed up a shop owned by one well know anti-fascist and attempted to set fire to it, endangering the lives of those inside the building. After the intervention of local residents, as well as people from the surrounding nightclubs, the worst was avoided.

Our comrade, once notified of the attack on his store, went down there to see what had happened. A few moments later some plain-clothes police officers arrived, having been notified by the local residents. At that moment our comrade is informed that before the smashing and arson of his store, a clash had taken place between a group of antifascists and a group of members of the Patriotic Movement. The “Patriotic Movement” were guarding the public space of the Municipal Park to prevent any
anti-fascists from attending.

Though refusing to have anything to do with the police, our comrade for the purpose of insurance had to go to the police station. Whilst waiting for 3 hours he was informed that he was arrested for public disturbance. Apparently members of the Patriotic Movement in collusion with the police attempted to put the blame for a previous confrontation on him.

Not only were the Patriotic Movement attempting to control the streets and public spaces, they had after the incident violently attack two youths in a park and then proceeded to work with the police in making this claim against our comrade.

A few hours later the antifascist rally, organised by the Autonomous Collective of Kavala, Vironos 3 squat and individual antifascists, took place in Faliro Park. From the very first moment of the rally, the Park was surrounded by several riot squads (around 8 to 10) and many plain-clothes cops. As soon as the antifascists (150 to 170 people from Kavala and other towns) blocked the road in front of the park, police vans shut off the road, in order to prevent the antifascists to approach the Municipal Park, where at the same time the fascist gathering was
being held. Not only neo-nazi Golden Dawn members took part in the
fascist gathering, but also other neo-nazi groups, such as the National Socialist Army of Macedonia and other known and unknown fascists from Northern Greece.

After the events of that weekend, two comrades were held in custody for several days and face charges of “disturbance of public order with facial features covered”.

The trial is set for December 9th 2015.

We hope that this tour can further make links between anti-fascists in the UK Anti Fascist Network and anti-fascists across Greece.

Please pass this on to your friends, comrades and networks. Let’s show our comrades they are not alone and we share the same struggle!

Turkey: vegan anarchist prisoner Osman Evcan on hunger strike again

Who is Osman Evcan?

Osman Evcan who was born on 1959 in Samsun is an anarchist prisoner who spent his last 23 years in prison. İn 1992 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison with the charges of being a member of a leftist terrorist group and robbery. He was also imprisoned for 9 years between 1980-1989. Since Osman adopted anarchist ideas in 2003, he also became vegan and supports animal liberation struggles.

Osman Evcan was imprisoned in many different prisons all over the country during his conviction, he built his life fighting against authoritarian violence and especially the violence and oppression which is a systemic part of the prison’s hierarchical structure, and he still continues his fight against prison’s oppressive mentality, without giving an inch, aspiring to the right standards for anarchist, vegan, libertarian individuals.

Osman’s first barnburner act was his hunger strike in 2011 for vegan food to be available in prison which lasted 42 days. During his hunger strike the anarchists, animal liberationists from all over the World and in Turkey supported Osman’s fight to access vegan food in prison. After 42 days of hunger strike the government gave in and made regulations for the vegan and vegetarian prisoners: “Vegan or vegetarian prisoners demands will be accepted as long as its limited by subsistence
allowance”
. After this victory of all anarchists, animal liberationists and political prisoners, Osman continued to be in the anarchist struggle during his time in prison. He has supported the LGBT, Animal Liberation, women rights, anti imperialism struggles outside prison and he made hunger strikes to protest the animal massacre during each ‘feast of sacrifice’ every year for 3 days, he wrote articles to support nature, ethnic and different identities against government’s and comprador bourgeoisie’s raids and he still continues his political fight as much as he can from prison.

Osman Evcan was convicted of being a member of a leftist terrorist group, he self-criticized himself by saying that both capitalist and socialist system forms for being are statist and colonist formations. To quote his own words: “Veganism is not only a capitalism contrast it also includes socialism contrast. Veganism is civilization contrast. Veganism has an all out attitude against technological destruction, violence, human species alienation to nature and to itself, ecological pillage, pollution, colonialism, global warming. Act of civilization has a common history with statist forms of organizations. The idea of a state grown up process starting from primitive-simple history ongoing modernization continuum for thousands of years and transforming to nation state is a result of civilization. We cant separate This ongoing, mutually reinforcing facts that produce each other, from each other. Veganism is a radical attitude against all…”

Osman Evcan is still in Kocaeli no 1 high security prison. The pressure against him continues to increase. After his hunger strike for 33 days on June 2015 he took vegan food supplies one step further and he gained the right to get vegan food from outside the prisons. The prison administration usurped this gain due to arbitrarily reasons. Osman Evcan continues his indefinite hunger strike since 10 November 2015.

ABC İSTANBUL

Write to the comrade:

Osman Evcan:
Kocaeli 1 Nolu F Tipi Cezaevi
A-7-21
Kandıra / KOCAELİ
TURKEY