Sunday, March 30, 2003

Testing 1, 2, 3? I've decided to blog! So to start with here is a piece I wrote that originally appeared on Bristol Indymedia...

South West Anti-War: State of Panic

The massive police reactions in Fairford, Bristol, across the South West and UK show a system in trouble. For those of us attending the demo at the US airbase of Fairford on Saturday 22nd, and I suspect for those attending any of the hundreds of demos and actions across the UK, we witnessed what can only be called the state in panic. Police presence was overwhelming to the point where you could see the fear of the state manifested in a thick blue line around the gates of USAF Gloucestershire. It made you think of a cornered and wounded beast.

Such was the fear of the people attending that the first use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000 / Section 60 in mainland Britian was at in effect. Its use was not to stop al Qaeda, but to protect a US airbase. As back up for the anti-terror laws there were huge number of police Forward Intelligence Teams, contracted civilian photographers and Evidence Gathering Teams. They had enough cameras to film a Hollywood epic, even if most of their footage was of people making roll-ups. Such was the panic of the authorities that they turned back coaches of protesters under the thin veil of 'legitimacy' as the numbers attending the demo threatened to spiraled out of their control. Police from all over the UK including Thames Valley, Manchester, Devon and Cornwall and Liverpool been drafted into sleepy Gloucestershire with their leave and rest days canceled as they struggle to cope with the popular resistance to war.

If Fairford had been all the days action, then this could have been isolated and labeled as the usual-suspect hairy-hippies. But it wasn't; in Bristol, London, Wolverhampton, Menwith Hill, Glasgow, Galloway, Dundee, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Tyneside and Bath and some. And a few more; the anti-war movement was in full effect. A mainstream reporter on Saturday's TV news tried to bring some analysis to the situation and concluded that because the rally in London 'only' attracted a quarter of a million people and that the Lib Dem leadership wasn't there, that the anti-war movement was loosing ground. Such vacuous interpretation of events can only come from either a pro-state bias of just plain ignorance of the situation: the million strong demo in London just before the war started was the only action in England that day and so concentrated the anti-war movement. There wasn't a million people in London this time because we were all busy in Stroud, in Plymouth, Brimingham, Exeter, Swindon, Belfast and some. And some more. No way are we going away. We're getting stronger. Take Bristol (and we nearly have!) as an example; shut down Thursday Lunchtime by radical school kids. Shut-down Thursday evening by the rest of us. Shut-down Friday and shut-down Saturday lunchtime. Day three of the war and we've nearly re-captured one of the South-West's major cities. Come Saturday evening and the cops guarding the city center were looking tired and miserable. Even Sunday in Bristol, with no organised Stop-The-War movement demo, hundreds gathered anyway to show their anger.

One of the Gloucester Weapons Inspectors, speaking at the gates of the USAF airbase, remarked that the first time they had come here there were only 20 of them. Now there were closer 10,000. It reminded me of an often quoted Gandhi phrase; “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” There weren't many police laughing in Bristol or Fairford. I doubt Tony Blair was having a giggle as the reports filtered back to the War Cabinet at No.10. It looks like we're in for a long struggle and so far we've shown we've got the numbers, the tenacity and the population of the world with us. We even have the analysis - one protesters graffiti beneath one of Bristol's newest yuppie flat summed-up the situation; “War is terrorism with a bigger budget.”

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