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News in Brief
On 8 October, around 2000 people took part in a march in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. The march, organised by the stop the war coalition, was addressed by Joe Glenton, who was court martialled and jailed for refusing to serve, as well as by 106-year-old Hetty Bower who recalled the lies told during the first world war to justify the conflict. Names of servicemen and women who have died in Afghanistan were read out, and 120 balloons released to signify the months since the war began. Photo: Mina Boromand
On 7 October, several British peace activists marked the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by pouring “blood” onto the pavement outside Downing Street, and then blockading the gate. The red paint symbolised the blood of an estimated 25,000 civilians and 2,500 western soldiers who have been killed or injured in this decade of war. Six people were arrested: Chris Cole, Maya Evans, Ben Griffins, John Lynes, Martin Newell and Ciaron O’Reilly. They must report to the police station on 1 November to discover whether they are to be charged and prosecuted. Photo: London Catholic Worker
There has been a new uproar about police infiltration of protest movements after evidence emerged that undercover police officer Jim Boyling, who infiltrated the Reclaim the Streets anti-roads group, gave false evidence when prosecuted for his activism. Boyling kept up his fictional identity as “Jim Sutton” when prosecuted at Horseferry Road in 1997 – and was privy to confidential discussions in the defence team. John Jordan, convicted in this case, is now appealing against the verdict. Boyling was exposed in January. On 15 October, another former infiltrator was exposed . Five members of London Greenpeace confronted former special branch detective inspector Bob Lambert MBE at the “One Society, Many Cultures” anti-racist conference at the Trades Union Congress HQ in central London. Lambert infiltrated the anarchist group using the alias “Bob Robinson” between 1984 and 1988. It is possible that Lambert, who supervised other infiltrators, was also prosecuted while using his false identity. Another police infiltrator, Peter Black, told the Guardian this was a common practice. These revelations have delayed the publication of the Hogan-Howe report into the use of police spies. Boyling and Lambert both had sexual relationships with activists while undercover.
Police constable Simon Harwood has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests on 1 April 2009. Harwood will be put on trial at Southwark crown court from 13 June next year. Video footage shows Ian Tomlinson walking away from a police line, with his hands in his pockets, when a police officer strikes his legs with a baton and then pushes him violently to the ground – from behind. He was helped to his feet by demonstrators, walked a short distance and died. In May, an inquest jury decided PC Harwood had acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously, and used “excessive and unreasonable” force
On 28 October, the ministry of defence began a public consultation on its proposals for dismantling 27 out-of-service nuclear powered submarines and for managing the resulting radioactive wastes. The nuclear submarine forum (NSF), a network representing 16 local campaign groups, is calling for responses to the MoD’s proposal to place radioactive waste from the submarines in “interim storage” until a proposed long-term disposal facility opens in... 2060. www.nuclearsubwaste.net
Peace News has been tracking Nepal’s rickety peace process which has had another deadline. After the end of the civil war in 2006, the Maoists stopped being guerrillas and became ministers, as they formed the largest party in the new parliament in 2008.
Having resigned in 2009 after disputes with the Nepali army, the Maoists are back in charge. Maoist prime minister Baburam Bhattarai announced on 28 September that he had set himself until the end of November to complete the peace process and produce a new constitution. Not going to happen. Bhattarai was elected by parliament on 28 August, after winning the support of ethnic parties from the southern Terai region (the “Madhes”). The deal he made with the Madhesi parties was concealed from rest of the Maoist leadership, who have expressed shock at (among other things) the resulting rapid incorporation of 10,000 Madhesis into the security forces.
This is partly because one of the major obstacles to the completion of the official peace process is the stubborn opposition of the army and the other major parties to the integration of 19,000 Maoist ex-guerrillas into the security forces. The 2006 comprehensive peace accord that ended the civil war promised “integration and rehabilitation” of the former fighters. Fractures inside the Maoist party are widening.
On 17 October, British foreign secretary William Hague visited Rabat, Morocco, saying that the Arab Spring uprisings had increasing the importance of resolving the dispute over Western Sahara. However, Hague did not point out that Morocco had illegally invaded and occupied Western Sahara in 1975. His main purpose in visiting Morocco was “to strengthen our partnership with and our support for Morocco”, especially in relation to trade. Hague also failed to mention recent attacks by Moroccan security forces on Sahrawi demonstrations in Dakhla (25 September) and Laayoune (10 October). An attempt by 77 members of the European parliament to stop EU collusion with Morocco was blocked by the rest of the parliament on 29 September. An EU-Morocco fisheries agreement enables 119 EU boats to fish in the rich coastal waters of occupied Western Sahara. The European parliament’s own special rapporteur, Carl Haglund, said in a report on 20 September that there were “no reasons” to an economically-pointless agreement that is “ecologically and environmentally unsustainable”. A proposal to refer the agreement to the European court of justice for a ruling on its legality was defeated by 302 votes to 202. www.wsahara.org.uk
On 14 October, Greenpeace launched its third Rainbow Warrior in Berne-Motzen, Germany. Greenpeace’s first purpose-built campaigning ship, the Rainbow Warrior carries state-of-the-art communications equipment, two fast boats and can carry a helicopter. The motor-assisted 58m-long yacht has large sails which help keep her carbon footprint to a minimum, making her one of the most environmentally-friendly vessels of her class. The £14.6m construction cost of the new Rainbow Warrior (10-15% of Greenpeace’s total annual budget) was paid for by over 100,000 individual donations. The radio room has been designed to be able to withstand a special forces assault for at least 30 minutes. French intelligence sank the first Rainbow Warrior in 1985, killing Fernando Pereira.
Hastings Against War (HAW) activists carried out a protest triathlon against the three local branches of General Dynamics, the world’s sixth largest arms company, on 29 September. Activists “swam” (on land, wearing flippers and snorkels), ran and cycled between the three sites, giving out leaflets, before blockading the entrance to General Dynamics’ offices on the Churchfield industrial estate. No arrests were made.
On 28 September, 27 people appeared at Kansas City municipal court for nonviolent witness in May at the site of the new Kansas City nuclear weapons plant. Together with 26 others, mainly Catholic Workers, they had been arrested after walking into the road to the site. Nine pleaded guilty, two were acquitted because prosecution witnesses could not identify them, and the rest were found guilty after trial. All received light sentences of probation and community service, with fines for those in paid employment, from a sympathetic judge. When two said that they would not cooperate with fines or community service they were sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment instead.
The construction of a major new building by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem has been opposed by 84 archaeologists from around the world, because the “Museum of Tolerance” is being built on Mamilla, a historically-renowned Muslim cemetery, in violation of Israeli law. The site’s Israeli antiquities authority chief excavator, Gideon Suleimani, has spoken of “significant archaeological transgressions”, and of misrepresentations to the Israeli supreme court: things “would not have occurred with a Jewish burial site.”
On Sunday 9 October, over 2,000 UKUncut protesters (including doctors and nurses) blockaded Westminster Bridge in central London (see left) in a three-and-a-half-hour protest against the health and social care bill. (Organisers claimed over 3,000 protesters.) According to UKUncut, if the bill is passed, hospitals will be effectively privatised. There were no arrests on Westminster bridge, but a group of 64 activists moving off to Lambeth Bridge were held for an hour.