Friday, February 26, 2010

Fairford Protests Put The Shits Up 'em (Good)

I went along to a couple of the protests during the Iraq War at Fairford, the huge US airbase that was used to send B52 bombers over to iraq to bomb some democracy into the natives. The first protest I went to was small (hundred or so) and the second was huge (couple of thousand?) - both were noisy and confrontational affairs; as they should have been. Here's what I wrote at the time;

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. ... more.

Now we find out that I was right - these protests really had put the willies up the Neo-Labour fuckers and thier neo-con backers! Good:

[Documents] show [anti-war] protests made the authorities very worried: the Americans leaned on defence minister Lewis Moonie, who leaned on Home Office minister John Denham to resist protests. Moonie wrote: "Concerns remain, especially on the part of the US authorities, who also see RAF Fairford becoming a focus of increased protester activity."

Moonie revealed that Americans helped plan policing this bit of Gloucester, writing: "Plans to respond to demonstrations and protest action in the Fairford area, whether at or away from the base itself, have been worked up by the Ministry of Defence police, the US authorities and the civil constabularies."

A draft reply from Denham shows the Home Office was worried that US soldiers might shoot protesters. Talking about the danger of "overreaction" by "American military personnel", the draft letter says: "We are all clear, I think, that the consequences of protesters being seriously injured, or even killed, would be very serious indeed."

For his part, Moonie was concerned that "the possibility clearly exists for unhelpful media coverage should future demonstrations get out of hand, and for our relationship with the US authorities to be damaged as a result". The papers also reveal David Veness, the Scotland Yard boss involved in dealing with terrorism and liaising with the head of MI5, was involved in discussions about how to police the Fairford demonstrations.

My recollection was that the national Stop The War hierarchy didn't want to protest there and wanted us to go to London. Local autonomy prevailed and we went and went. Let that be a lesson to us; same old same old marches in London do fuck all. Protests need to be focused.

(Also see here for more on the counter-intelligence tactics used on protesters.)

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