Community

Friday, 02 March 2012 17:53
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Friday 27th – Monday 30th January saw hundreds of people in cities across the country come out of their cold homes to Warm-up together at the buildings and offices that house those responsible for fuel poverty and have left millions with a choice between heating and eating.

The Warm-ups are just the beginning. Fuel Poverty Action will becontinuing to challenge the energy companies monopoly and the government’s complicity, and keeping up the push for an energy system that works for people’s needs, not corporate greed.

For more information and updates about Fuel Poverty Action, check our website ( fuelpovertyaction.wordpress.com), follow us on Twitter @FuelPovAction and find us on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/v8pXT0).

*LEWISHAM, LONDON: TOWN HALL*
30-40 activists and residents from Lewisham occupied and Warmed-up inside Lewisham Town Hall. They staged a peoples’ forum inside, where people shared their experiences of unaffordable energy bills and expressed their anger at the profiteering energy companies and complicit government. People discussed the many examples of community controlled renewable energy projects across the country and how we might transition Lewisham and, more broadly, the UK, to a democratic energy system that works for people’s needs. After the peoples’ forum, people moved outside and got even more toasty around a bonfire of burning energy bills!

LEEDS: COUNCIL OFFICES
A group of a dozen activists from Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and local residents staged a Winter Warm Up protest at Leeds City Council’s Leonardo Building which houses the Sustainable Development Unit. The group used the morning to discuss how to achieve a fair and more equitable energy economy that no longer forces bill payers to choose between ‘eating or heating’. The group later moved to the Merrion Centre where they handed out leaflets and talked to members of the public, but were forcibly removed within minutes. In addition, the Leeds Fuel Poverty Action campaign has linked up with church, resident and community groups across the city to involve those who are most affected by the issue.

SWINDON: NPOWER HQ
A group of fuel poverty activists from Oxford played a game of giant-sized Corporate Monopoly right outside Npower Headquarters. Puzzled employees and passers-by received a flyer that outlined why they were there. The game demonstrated that we could all have a better, fairer energy system by managing affordable fuel for ourselves. On the other hand, Npower is hiking prices whilst failing to invest enough in green energy. Through community action we can all get out of the cold and create an energy system that works for public interest and not for private gain.

MANCHESTER: BILLBOARDS
Billboards in Manchester were transformed in protest over the Big Six energy companies’ pricing and climate policies.

LONDON: EDF HQ
Anti-nuclear campaign group, Boycott EDF (http://boycottedf.org.uk/), targeted the UK headquarters of EDF Energy. French energy giant EDF Energy are making record profits from pushing up our energy bills while spearheading the government’s drive to build eight new nuclear power stations around England, starting with Hinkley Point in Somerset. Activists grouped outside EDF’s HQ with banners and leaflets saying ‘EDF Energy: exploiting the poor, polluting the planet’.

LONDON: RBS
A dozen activists from the Energy, Equity and Environment group of Occupy London made themselves at home in a carpeted Fleet St branch of RBS, enjoying its leather chairs and even an open fire. They held an assembly in the bank, pointing out that while RBS, bailed out with billions of pounds of public money, was handing over a million in a bonus to their chief executive, thousands of people were dying of cold because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes – or couldn’t afford a home in the first place! RBS is also the biggest financial investor in fossil fuels. Death from fuel poverty and death from climate change were two sides of the same filthy RBS coin.

CAMBRIDGE
Anti-poverty campaigners from Cambridge performed a street theatre protest to call attention to the 5000 Cambridge households suffering from fuel poverty. The campaigners performed a short improvised sketch in which those dressed as large energy companies ‘beat up’ other campaigners dressed as the Earth and as local residents. They highlighted the predicted deaths of 2,700 people in the UK due to fuel poverty this winter, as well as the five-year record profit of over 700% per customer of the Big Six energy companies.

HARINGEY: WOOD GREEN SHOPPING CITY
Fifteen Haringey residents take part in the Warm Up action in Wood Green Shopping City mall. The Warm-up was organised by Haringey Solidarity Group, supported by Haringey Housing Action Group and the Haringey Alliance for Public Services. The activists set up an advice stall on the first floor, held banners reading ‘No More Deaths From Cold’ and ‘Gas Bills Kill - Fuel Poverty Action’, distributed 500 leaflets and created a friendly space to encourage people to come and sit and share free hot drinks and snacks.

HACKNEY, LONDON: TOWN HALL
Hackney residents warmed up at the Hackney Town Hall. Protestors gathered with their sleeping bags and duvets, joining thousands of other people nationwide accusing the government and energy companies of a “deadly obsession with making money.”

STAINES: BRITISH GAS HQ
Six activists barricaded themselves into meeting rooms on two floors of British Gas offices in Staines, Middlesex. For a short time they streamed the occupation live on the internet, with a ‘Heat or Eat’ comedy quiz played by the occupiers, and audience participation over Twitter.

The Warm-ups brought a glimpse of the community action that will be needed to tackle the Big Six’s monopoly and the government’s complicity. The weekend came as part of a growing movement for energy democracy and energy justice, emerging across the world from Nigeria to Russia to Greece. As corporations continue their drive to extract profit at all costs and governments sit comfortably in their pockets, people are becoming ever more cold and ever more angry. Together, we will Warm-up and fight back!
Friday, 02 March 2012 17:50
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Glasgow Solidarity Network has demonstrated how direct action gets the goods with a successful conclusion to its first fight. Two members of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation and their flatmate discovered that it is illegal in Scotland for letting agents to charge tenants fees apart from rent and deposits. Their letting agent, Martin & Co, had charged the three of them them a substantial £250 “check-in” fee before they had even paid their deposit. They first submitted an official complaint but received only the receipt listing the fees they had paid as a reply. Shelter advised them that they could go to the small claims court, but the court fee would have been £65 with no guarantee of a win! So instead, on 3rd February, they and 15 friends from the Glasgow Solidarity Network delivered a letter in person to the head of the Martin & Co West End office (to the amusement of other staff) giving the company two weeks to return the money. They left quickly, took a picture outside for posterity, and dispersed, some to the pub. The manager must have called the police, because two officers came by the flat on Saturday to have a friendly chat, but thanks to helpful information from the Scottish Activist Legal Project, Solidarity Network members know their rights, and the police left without even taking names. On Tuesday 7th February, just four days later, the tenants received a cheque for the money in full.

Don’t let letting agents get away with charging illegal fees! Don’t let landlords take advantage of you! Join us!
DEPOSIT STOLEN? WAGES STOLEN?
JOIN GLASGOW SOLIDARITY NETWORK
COLLECTIVE DIRECT ACTION AGAINST LANDLORDS AND BOSSES
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Friday, 24 February 2012 23:25
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The Black Rose Centre is a new social centre project at 268 Verdon Street, established by the Sheffield Social Centre Collective. Like Social Centres in other towns this is an anti-capitalist space for people to get together to discuss ideas and take action for social change. It is also a space to share skills and food, run events and watch films in a non-commercial setting. This social centre is run without leaders (non-hierarchically) with a “safer spaces” policy that rejects racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of oppression. The Black Rose Centre is an alcohol and drug free space. We aim to make this space a practical example of what we can achieve when we work together.


If you have any ideas of events you would like to run in the space that fit with the principles of the project (or would like to get involved) please come along to our next general meeting – these happen every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month.

What will be happening at The Black Rose Centre?

-Public meetings and discussion groups

-Bitfixit café, offering computer maintenance and free wi-fi

-Drop-in clinics for people having problems at work

-A radical library

-Art workshops

-Skill-sharing

The centre will be open until 10:30 in the evening.

Sheffield Social Centre | Website

Sunday, 30 October 2011 17:41
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Below is a Q&A written by consensus by a group of Anarchists at Dale Farm, October 2011.

A self written, consensus piece by anarchists at Dale farm, attempting to
correct the lies propagated by elements of bourgeoisie media and in
response to the state repression being faced.


Q. So you describe yourself as an anarchist, what do you mean by that?

We believe in a society based on mutual aid, social responsibility and
basic human solidarity. We feel that people should be free to live as they
wish (where that doesn’t infringe on other people’s freedoms) and there
should not be systems of control that restrict or dictate how we live our
lives. The democracy we have is a farce, we would like to build a free and
equal society where people give to their abilities and receive to their
needs. Anarchists see a distinction between the rich ruling class and the
ordinary working class, and seek to build a society based on working class
solidarity without the inequality between race, sex or creed that this
distinction creates.

Q. Are all supporters at Dale Farm anarchists?

A lot of people here would not call themselves an anarchist, however what
brings us together is a shared belief that travellers are at the receiving
end of oppression, discrimination, violence, and racism and that this is
manifested in the ethnic cleansing at Dale Farm.
We recognise the principle of autonomy, and this means we are willing to
work with people who come from different ideological perspectives as long
as we are centred around a common aim. There is a shared strength between
us.

Q. How does being in Dale Farm fit in with anarchist ideas?

Anarchism is about fighting the struggles of the oppressed against the
oppressors (in this case the struggle of travellers against the state);
Dale Farm is a flash point in the class struggle and the battle against
state racism. Whilst the religious and political beliefs of the community
here are not necessarily in keeping with all anarchist thought, residents
have been incredibly receptive to our politics and interested in our
ideas.

Q. How is the eviction ethnic cleansing?

Ethnic cleansing is the act of eradicating a particular ethnic group from
a nation or area. The case of Dale Farm, which will make it impossible for
a certain ethnic community to live in a specific area is a localised
example; whilst the broader discrimination and criminalisation of
travellers (via the eradication of the right to park up on the roadside)
is indicative of the national picture. There is a discrimination against
travellers in government policy, travellers have settled because the right
to travel freely was taken away; now they attack settled travellers in
their homes. 90% of traveller planning applications are refused compared
to only 20% of the settled community. This criminalises travellers and
destroys their cultural norms and we see this situation as a continuation
of a broader attack against travelling communities. The process that has
been going on for the last 10 years at Dale Farm is a key part of this
cleansing - the diggers will demolish homes, but the government is
demolishing culture through a process of forced assimilation to societal
norms.

Q. There has been a lot in the media about anarchists ‘hijacking’ or
‘taking over’ the Dale Farm protest, what is your response to these
claims?


To begin with, we don’t see this as a protest because protest is merely
stating our disagreement with something; we see it as a resistance because
we intend to put a stop to the eviction of Dale Farm and stand up to state
violence against travellers everywhere. We are here in solidarity.
Everything we’ve done here we’ve been asked to do, we’ve been invited by
residents to support them in their resistance of the eviction and they
continue to direct our actions and decisions, and call on more support. We
came here to show solidarity through a shared struggle. Many of us now
also consider the residents here as personal friends, we feel welcome
among the travellers and are happy that they are letting us be a part of
this autonomous community.

Q. The media has painted a picture that some activists have taken
leadership roles? Is this true, and if not, how do you make decisions?


Decisions are made collectively on an equal basis. We take responsibility
for ourselves and are decentralised and autonomous, however all our
actions are accountable to the collective community through the process of
consensus decision making. People are given an equal opportunity to raise
their thoughts and we have open meetings to involve everyone in decision
making.
However this space is not isolated from the problems of wider society and
issues such as patriarchy, class privilege, and dominance do come up . We
struggle against these inequalities and hierarchies in our actions, but
aim to recognise and deconstruct them where they occur. There is a
dialectal process constantly going on, and we try to resolve issues by
allowing conflicts of interest to play out. We deliberately don’t create
positions which could result in hierarchy, but organise jobs openly and
encourage participation in an attempt to combat invisible hierarchies.

Q. Why are you here, what makes an anarchist want to support Dale Farm
residents?


The struggle at Dale Farm is about anti-racism, homelessness, class
struggle and the freedom to live your life as you choose. As anarchists we
see these struggles as fundamental to personal and societal liberation and
as a step in the direction of social revolution. With the growing
political agenda in England of forced evictions motivated by class and
race, we are fighting that whole agenda when we are fighting the eviction
of Dale Farm; we do this to show solidarity with other members of the
working class and in order to fight the actions of the state, which we see
as unjust.

Q. If you don’t believe in planning law, what do you believe in? How do
you choose what social rules you follow?


It is not about what is legal or illegal…it is about what is just and
unjust. The law is made by the ruling class and serves the purpose of
preserving the unjust status quo. We haven’t had a say in the creation or
upholding of planning laws, and consequently don’t feel obliged to abide
by them; if people are expected to obey the law, they must have the right
to directly create it. The political institutions and laws (such as the
Enclosures Act) in this country are based on injustices and inequalities
that existed prior to the movement to democracy; as such we feel it is our
duty to fight them. We follow social rules that are created by the
communities they directly affect.

Q. What about the concerns of other local residents?

The representation of local residents has been warped and manipulated by
mainstream media. Many local residents do not have a problem with the
residents of Dale Farm and live in peace with them. There are some local
capitalists that feel they can make money from Travellers and support
them, and there are some who discriminate against them, for example pubs
refusing to serve the Travellers. We see this as a part of the
institutionalised racism that exists against Travellers, and feel that
they (Travellers) are exploited in a variety of ways by the capitalist
system. Proportionally the views of more well-off residents have emerged
in media and this has often involved property interests, for example local
resident Len Gridley has voiced his concern over property value and this
has received a huge amount of coverage. We don’t want anyone to lose their
homes but we don’t see property value as important as a home to live in.
The Crays Hill residents should also be allowed to have their homes, but
it is wrong to suggest that the two communities cannot live side by side.
There are Crays Hill residents who support Dale Farm but feel they cannot
say it to their neighbours for fear of being ostracised.

Q. Why do you think there is prejudice and hostility against Travellers?

One of the main reasons Travellers are oppressed is that they do not fit
into the current capitalist wheel and face demonisation by the media and
the state as a result, this is disturbingly similar to stigmatism faced by
Jews in the past and Muslims and asylum seekers today. There are deeper
questions to be asked here about the function of racism within capitalism
and the rise of fascist ideology at times of economic crisis. Jews and
Travellers traditionally move around, therefore modern nation state
capitalism doesn’t have a place for them. Institutionalised racism happens
because travellers aren’t as ‘useful’ to capitalism in the same way as the
settled working class. Travellers had a place in capitalist Europe but
don’t have that anymore and for this reason they are at the receiving end
of policies of ethnic cleansing. British capitalism has exploited
travellers where it has wanted to (Gypsy wedding/circuses/festivals) and
this is the same with other migrant populations – used when needed, then
discriminated and ultimately eradicated.

Q. What difficulties have you faced being at Dale Farm?

It is impossible to escape the hierarchies that are endemic in society;
the Dale Farm resistance is not isolated from the problems of patriarchy
and white privilege. There are people from many countries here and English
language speaking privilege has been a problem but we do our best to
recognise and confront these. The challenge of communicating specific
jargons of the legal process, media trends and local activism has also
been apparent, but we are working well on this. As well as travellers we
have been treated badly by media and police through smear stories,
increased police presence (such as helicopters), and more greatly the fear
of constantly living under the threat of personal physical harm in an
eviction situation. We are currently at the forefront of state violence,
intimidation and repression, but being at the brunt of this state and
corporate repression just makes us want to fight it more.
Institutionalised racism has been difficult to witness– taxis not wanting
to drive here, shops and pubs not allowing Travellers in. There have been
many emotional difficulties, such as a 12 year old boy asking for us to
build a lock on in their home because their mother and sister are so
scared, as well as witnessing the residents’ reactions to court verdicts
and eviction hoax.

Q. What about the bailiffs, are they not just doing their job?

It feels bad to have to fight other working class people; we recognise
that they are being badly abused by the state and their profiteering
bosses at Constant & Co who are putting them in this position. As such we
put out an open offer to the bailiffs to join us in the struggle against
the bosses; we would show solidarity to them in their struggle against
their bosses as we show solidarity to Dale Farm, but if they choose to be
the oppressors then we will fight them as class traitors. We acknowledge
that the severe unemployment probably results in people who would not
normally want to be bailiffs becoming bailiffs, but we also acknowledge
that their role is directed at punishing working class people and
minorities and this is not acceptable. Further, there is understanding
amongst us all that some of Constant & Co’s bailiffs are migrant workers
and we see this as another example of capitalist subjugation pitching one
ethnic minority against another in order to break class unity; the British
government has the privilege to exploit minorities as it always has
through a process of colonialism, divide and conquer.

Q. With the government’s current policies towards Travellers, evictions
will become more regular, how will anarchists respond to this?


Governments over the past few years have been drawing up increasingly
fascist anti-Traveller laws, whipping up and taking advantage of ethnic
and class-based prejudice. Anarchists must respond by standing strong in
solidarity with travellers as they have done here at Dale Farm. Networks
of people committed to anti racism, class unity, and eviction resistance
will be required to help prevent the continuation of the ethnic cleansing
process. It is hard to say exactly what the response will be on a broad
basis, but it is likely that the Dale Farm resistance will set the tone
for Traveller solidarity in the UK. We hope to make a statement here that
resistance and solidarity are our greatest weapons against state
violence, and to show the world the power of struggle.

Friday, 22 April 2011 14:38
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From Bristol AF group blog, posted on 22nd April 2011. See also video via The Commune and other local blog report. Stokes Croft is a main road in/out of Bristol city centre and the site of an unwanted Tescos store opposite a squatted social space ‘Telepathic Heights’.

The Battle of Stokes Croft

Around 10pm on Thursday 21st April, people from Stokes Croft and St Pauls in Bristol, reacting to blatant provocation, started attacking riot police gathered from three different forces with glass bottles. What ensued was seven hours of constant clashes; police charges, volleys of glass, brick and concrete, burning barricades and the trashing of a much-loathed Tesco recently forced on a community who for so long battled to stop it opening.

Just before 9pm, police had forcibly removed a small protest from outside the Tesco, which had been there since the store opened a week earlier and set up a cordon closing that stretch of the road. Their stated aim was to enter the squatted ‘Telepathic Heights’, an iconic, graffiti covered building opposite Tesco. They claimed to be acting on intelligence that suggested some occupants where planning to make petrol bombs with which to attack Tesco. Even if this intelligence was accurate, the numbers of police was far disproportionate to the half a dozen occupants of the squat.

The blocking of road by the police and the news that Telepathic Heights was threatened and that the Tesco protest had been forcibly broken up meant it wasn’t long before a substantial crowd had gathered. The crowd became more and more angry as police refused to give justification for their presence, pushing or hitting anyone who got close to their lines. The increased tension of recent months, which has built up as austerity measures begin to kick in and the community of Stokes Croft and St Pauls feel ever more ignored and marginalised, had found a focal point and personification in the belligerence of the police. All it took was for someone to tip over a glass recycling bin.

After the initial barrage of bottles, a retreat into St Pauls. As people came out their doors to see police marching through their streets, many joined in defending against the police. A routine of the police charging then retreating under a hail of bottles and bricks started to develop. Bins were set on fire and charged into police lines, others were used to form makeshift barricades. Around 1pm police retreated back to Stoke Croft and soon found themselves and their vans surrounded. The vans were prevented from moving off as others pelted them from a side street. Eventually the police broke out and sped away in the vans out of sight further up the road.

Celebrations broke out as the crowd realised they had the streets. Calls of “Smash Tesco!” rang out. Tesco windows and an abandoned police vehicle were smashed and a police trailer full of riot equipment was looted. Police then returned to the area. More clashes as police forced people back into St Pauls and down Stokes Croft before finding themselves again outmanoeuvred and at which point they again retreated. This time Tesco’s windows went all the way through as well as the shutters behind. When the police came back, their vans sped straight into the crowd. At least one person was caught behind police lines, unable to get out of Tesco in time and took a frenzied beating whilst on the floor. Someone else was run over, sustaining an injury to his foot and others hit by vans. Next time it was made sure vans would not be able to manoeuvre in this was as a skip was dragged into the road. Tesco was entered a second time and objects being lunched from rooftops made it increasingly difficult for the police.

A number of injuries were sustained and nine arrests made including four of the occupants of Telepathic Heights. Police report that eight of their number were hospitalised.

One local resident noted the police had “thrown a quarter century of semi-decent community policing down the drain” another saying “If they [the police] don’t calm down, things are getting tense enough on a range of other issues for a new pattern to develop of poor community relations and repeat rioting against a police force which has chosen political sides”.

The police provoked this. Turning up in this area of Bristol with such numbers, attacking Telepathic Heights and blatantly using public money to defend the interests of a corporate giant such as Tesco was always going to get a reaction.

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