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Peace News log archive: May 2012

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

An overnight peace vigil tests how the new law restricting protest around Parliament is being enforced - or not.

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Following long-term Parliament Square peace campaigner Maria Gallastegui's unsuccessful High Court challenge of the blanket ban (literally) on 'sleeping equipment', tents and other structures in Parliament Square under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (PRASRA) 2011 (Part 3), which came into force last December, resulting in the removal on 3rd May of her last peace box and tent (Maria has since lodged an appeal with the Court of Appeal), Maria has continued to sleep from time to time in the square in the open, on the pavement, with just a sleeping bag and tarp / survival bag, and cardboard or other matting. Sometimes these items have been seized in the middle of the night and Maria has been issued with a court summons, whilst on other occasions she has been left alone.

Last Sunday, several supporters of Maria's Peace Strike campaign spent the night in the square during a 24-hour peace vigil to coincide with the NATO summit taking place in Chicago. A number of people made use of sleeping bags and/or survival bags, etc during the night and were not confronted by any police officers or other 'authorised officers' for doing so.

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It remains to be seen whether lack of enforcement against overnight protesters (or others) with sleeping equipment, etc will continue in future, or whether the authorities will enforce the new law as and when they feel like it. It would be helpful if people could share information about how and when the new PRASRA provisions are being applied in practice.

 

See photos of Peace Strike box seizure on 3rd May
See more photos of Parliament Square 24-hour peace vigil last weekend

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A play written and performed by Tayo Aluko. 

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Piano accompaniment by Michael Conliffe. Directed by Olusola Oyelele. Designed by Phil Newman. 4th-20th May 2012. Warehouse Theatre, Dingwall Road, Croydon CR0 2NF. £12/£11. Box office 020 8680 4060. Further performances: 26, 27 August, Greenbelt Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse.

If you get off a train at East Croydon, you may well gaze around and wonder which of the towering office blocks is the infamous Lunar House that ‘processes’ foreigners and refugees; the building that decides who is welcome in this land and who is not. Look around and you will find, overshadowed by the rise of concrete, The Warehouse Theatre. “Oh look” you’ll say, “a proper theatre”. It is intimate, adventurous, has no Corporate Identity. It is a place of Art in the making.

Showing here until Sunday 20th May is ‘Call Paul Robeson’, a profoundly moving one-man play written and performed by Tayo Aluko. An elderly Robeson looks back at the trajectory of his life through a super-star singing career, academic and intellectual achievements and his love of women, humanity and justice. His political commitment was first stirred by talking to Welsh miners in London and led him to his understanding that the struggles of 1930s British workers were just as much a product of capitalism as the African-American slavery his own father was born into. It was his statement, “The Artist must take sides, he must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative” made in support of the Spanish Republicans that defined his intellectual and creative life. For this commitment he was ‘called’ by the Committee on Un-American Activities; was harassed and persecuted by the US government; not welcome in his own country but forbidden to leave.

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Review of Human Rights Watch's report 'Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya', published May 14, 2012.

ImageHuman Rights Watch published its findings today on civilian casualties resulting from NATO's air strikes against Libya in 2011 in a report entitled 'Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya', concluding that at least seventy-two civilians were killed as a result of the strikes, of which a third were children.

The seventy-six page report is based on extensive field investigations conducted by Human Rights Watch between August 2011 and April 2012 and follows a report published by Amnesty International in March entitled 'Libya: The forgotten victims of NATO strikes' which also documented civilian casualties stemming from NATO airstrikes. Human Rights Watch investigated eight NATO air strikes that hit residential homes and resulted in the seventy-two deaths, of which twenty-four were children and twenty were women. In addition to these tragic losses, dozens of other civilians were also wounded in these attacks. 

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Review of 'Three Weeks in Wales', a tour in solidarity with the Bradley Manning who lived and went to school in Wales.

ImageWISE Up for Bradley Manning is a loose network of groups and individuals in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England (WISE) taking action for Bradley Manning, the young US military intel. analyst with Welsh roots who has been held for almost two years without trial accused of blowing the whistle on war crimes and revealing other truths the US would have preferred to keep buried. Bradley Manning has been tortured and denied his constitutional rights. President Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the military, has already said he broke the law and has therefore irrevocably prejudiced the upcoming court martial as well as breaking – not for the first time – his election promise to protect whistleblowers.

We call for all charges against Bradley Manning to be dropped and for his immediate release. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime!

When we heard that Tim Price’s new play The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning was to be performed by National Theatre Wales in Pembrokeshire, Cardiff and Flintshire during April, starting with Tasker Milward, the school Bradley attended as a teenager in Haverfordwest, it seemed an ideal opportunity to organise a series of solidarity actions and events to coincide with these performances. Our aim was to raise awareness of, share information about and generate support for Bradley across Wales.

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Synopses of the work of Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB).

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An Orwellian moment at a CAAB demo. PHOTO: CAAB

The Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) is a bit of a mouthful! A campaign with the word FOR in the title instead of AGAINST was important and the word ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’ was beginning to be banded about. Add American Bases and in 1992 CAAB was born.

For more than 60 years, a dedicated group of concerned citizens has been keeping an eye on, and working to bring to account, those who keep an eye on us; namely NSA Menwith Hill near Harrogate North Yorkshire. The focus on Menwith Hill has been because many of us live locally. However CAAB extends the campaign to bring public scrutiny, awareness and accountability of the role and presence of the all US Visiting Forces and their Agencies here and world wide. 

CAAB is a small group of committed people. None of us are paid and we rely entirely on donations to fund our work. We evolved out of the long campaign of protest at the American base at NSA  Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire. 

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Brief review of the fourth annual camp at Sizewell nuclear power station

ImageThe fourth annual camp at Sizewell nuclear power station took place between 20-22 April, the aim of which was to both oppose the building of two planned reactors and a dry fuel storage dump and to provide information about about nuclear power to local people.

The choice of the April date itself was to commemorate the Chernobyl disaster which occurred on April 26, 1986.

The weekend included a demonstration at the gates of the power station attended by between 80-100 people and included a number of speakers such as Peter Lanyon from the 'shut down Sizewell' campaign and Pete Wilkinson from the Sizewell Stakeholders group.
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On 3 May the police removed the remaining peace box, tent and other items of Maria Gallastegui's Peacestrike protest in Parliament Square after an injunction against the enforcement of the new restrictions on protest was lifted. Below are images of the peace boxes, inside and out, from the last year, and an update on the current situation.

see A SOCPA victory and the blanket ban and Parliament Square Peace Camp resists eviction

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The remaining peace box on the morning before it was removed by police.

Maria has been protesting 24/7 since 2006 in Parliament Square. It has been the base for so many Peacestrike activities including daily petitions to 10 Downing Street, speaking out about the causes and consequences and the horror of war, and supporting the protest of others.

The peace boxes more lately became a focal point in Parliament Square with their powerful statements, art work and all-round creative approach to use of the space. The protests in Parliament Square have for 10 years been a visible expression that war is wrong and have become a place where those who wish to express their concern and sorrow in relation to war can gravitate towards, a space of common concern within the anonymous city.

The legal case

Maria and the lawyers who have challenged the new restrictions on protest will go to the Court of Appeal and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights, to contest the case against the law.

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Maria beds down for the night with just a sleeping bag and some plastic sheeting

No sleeping in Parliament Square

With nothing but a single placard, sleeping bag and plastic sheeting, Maria spent last night on the pavement, determined to maintain her protest. At 3am the police arrived to enforce the law and gave her a warning to hand over the sleeping bag which she did. They informed her that she would be issued with a summons to appear at court.

Maria argues that it is vital to be able to sleep in order to sustain a long-term protest. Without sleeping equipment, that becomes very difficult and the protest is undermined.

What next for the peace boxes

Maria is keen to see the peace boxes auctioned to raise money for children in Iraq. One of the boxes in currently an exhibit in an art show in Los Angeles. See here

Photos by Emma Sangster and Maria Gallastegui. See Peacestrike for more

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Simon Moore, the first person to be served with an ASBO relating to the Oympics, was in court again today. 

ImageSimon was served the Anti Social Behaviour Order after he was convicted for public order offences defending common land at Leyton Marsh against development for Olympic baseball courts.

The ASBO prohibits him from going within 100 yards of an Olympic venue or route, obstructing any Olympic participant - including officials and spectators, going onto any private land without permission of the owner, and from disrupting the Jubilee or Olympics events. (See more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/17/protester-receives-olympic...)

Todays hearing was for an interim ASBO for which a full legal case does not have to be heard but is based on whether the court considers it ‘just’ to prohibit activities. A date for a hearing to impose a full ASBO, which would be in place for a minimum of 2 years, will be heard on 14th June.

The prosecution asked the magistrates to consider if Simon was acting in an anti-social manner, likely to cause harassment and if so, whether an ASBO is necessary to protect others from such behaviour. While mentioning the rights of ‘others’ to enjoy an important international sporting event, he failed to mention the rights of the local community to enjoy their common land.

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