ACTION SOUTH WEST
the West Country activist network newsletter
FEBRUARY 2000 ISSUE 17
produced by WCA, Box 80, Green Leaf, Bristol BS1 5BB
Welcome to Action South West, the slightly different newsletter of the Westcountry Activist Network. We've expanded in size and coverage - with more global reports to show how resistance is as transnational as capital - and given the design a bit of a spruce up. Inside are reports, whilst the back page carries useful info, features on new groups and requests for help. Let us know what you think about the new look.
All feedback - plus your reports, articles, sexy (but non-compromising) action photos, cartoons, graphics etc - to the usual address (send 10 2nd Class stamps for 5 issues), Box 80, Green Leaf, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07931 268966. Also, can anyone with e-mail, e-mail us, as our subscription list is screwed and you'll be making our lives a lot easier. Turn the world upside down in the new millennium! See ya on M1Y2K...
• NEW DEAL, NO DEAL
Claimants and welfare rights activists took action against the 'New Deal' on Friday December 10th. Two demos took place in Bristol as part of the European Day of Action against Workfare.
40 people picketed the Nelson Street Job Centre in Bristol and then a smaller group occupied the offices of Scout Enterprises who do training and evaluation for the New Deal's Voluntary Sector Option. Police made no arrests.
Actions took place in over 100 cities throughout Europe, with 50,000 protesters taking action across France and 10,000 taking to the streets in Paris alone. Reports of actions were circulated across the continent and the South West action was warmly received by European activists who see the policies that we face today as those which European leaders have prepared for them tomorrow.
The Bristol action was organised and coordinated by the Bristol Benefits Action Group (BBAG). BBAG are organising for the long struggle against the New Deal and other Dickensian welfare reforms that government has up its sleeve. BBAG is in regular communication with groups and activists here and abroad and wants to make links with other South West groups concerned with the erosion of the Welfare state and are interested in common actions and the exchange of information and ideas. Further actions are being planned for the next European Day of Action in March. ffi: BBAG (see contacts)
•WESTCOUNTRY SAYS NO WTO
BABYLON BURNS AGAIN
Delegates meeting at the doomed WTO summit in Seattle at the end of November were confronted by a whole disparate spectrum of direct activism, writes Action SW's man in Seattle.
While the well-funded anti globalisers of the International Forum on Globalisation (Martin Khor, Vandana Shiva, Carlos Bello et al) met in the city's symphony hall and the high profile San Francisco-based Ruckus Society decorated the skyline with 100m banner drops, disillusioned youngsters from across America were flocking to 420 Denny, the HQ of the Direct Action Network (DAN).
As well as free food and banner making DAN laid on workshops for the kids (around 10,000 in the week running up to N30). Some of the non-violence training seemed a little misplaced (such as 'everyone point and go "Omm" at the riot cop beating up the protester), though the jail-cell solidarity and legal training from DAN's lawyers seemed to work well. (500 were arrested during the week, most of whom refused to give names or details while lawyers bargained for a single deal for all). Two months later the DAN legal team continue to battle for those facing charges.
The run up to N30 saw an eighty strong critical mass cripple the downtown shopping mecca on Friday Nov 26th, and on Sunday a 1,000 strong RTS-style street party shut down Broadway before descending on sweatshop bugbears 'The Gap'. On Monday (the day John Vidal wrote in the Guardian - from his hotel room?- that it looked like nothing was going to happen in Seattle) French trade warrior Jose Bove commanded a lairy crowd of 5,000 outside McDonalds at 3rd and Stewart.
DAN's tactics seemed to pay off on N30; the city was divided into sections and affinity groups assigned areas to clog. By 7am the Trade Centre and the delegates' hotels were surrounded. Arms were linked: "Nobody in. Nobody out." Tactics, communication, medic and legal teams networked by walkie-talkies moved fluidly in the 10,000+ early morning crowd - sending reinforcements to where the frontline was thinning. An Independent Media Centre had been set up to counter the imminent mainstream press lieathon.
West Country hacks were given radios and kept supplied with film and pizzas as the tear gas flew. (At one stage we stood next to a dozen cops and discussed with the despatcher how more people were needed to block off a particular junction. Could you do this in the UK without fielding a bunch of conspiracy charges? I doubt.)
Fears of compromise were soon allayed with the appearance of the BlacBloc, around 200 masked anarchists (all going by the name of Marcos in an echo of a Zapatistas communiqué: "Marcos is a gay in San Francisco, a black in South Africa, Asian in Europe....etc") who on a pre arranged signal set about trashing the altars of global capitalism. The property destruction caused major debates among the WTO's opponents, both on the day and since.
When I asked one woman who was trying to save McDonalds' windows how the burger giant's global vandalism compared to that of the glass breakers' she said: "But what McDonalds do is legal." Despite claims of Seattle being a hotbed of dissent ('We had a general strike here in 1914').
Anti state/corporate activism does not sit easy with the American psyche. Some upstanding citizens attacked the anarchists for being mindless, but all those Action SW spoke to were well informed about the issues of global capitalism and totally aware of who they were targeting and why. Their age (average about 19) and equal male/female split was a real inspiration to jaded old West of Englanders.
The sole policing strategy appeared to be: 'Turn up with lots of guns and body armour and intimidate the crowds of mainly white middle class kids'. This worked until 9am when they brought the arsenal into play. Once the burning passed, the threat value dissipated with the smoke. The police didn't have the numbers and had evident trouble co-ordinating their different jurisdictions (city/state/county police) as one. Intelligence gathering did not become evident until Dec 2 and the authorities (refusing to heed the advice of more experienced European forces) seemed to have been genuinely taken by surprise.
If all else fails read the newspapers eh boys? Uncle Sam's arrogance was evident on both sides . 'This is the start of a global movement," said the protesters, with complete disregard to the co-ordinated struggles that have been underway for land rights, food security and the resistance of new world colonialism in South America, Europe and the Indian subcontinent for many years. It was telling that though American people joined in opposition to the WTO, the real anger and subsequent unity was sparked by the authorities tearing up their First Amendment rights (right to free speech/protest). 'Fuck with my planet, but not my Constitution'. However mobilising grassroots opposition in the homelands of the world's worst corporate offenders, may yet prove to be some kind of watershed.
The coveted 'new round' of trade agreements sought by the EU and US never happened. The coalition of developing nations said they were empowered in the conference centre by what was happening on the streets. Tens of thousands of people with wholly disparate concerns from deforestation to Tibetan oppression came together with a clear understanding that global capitalism was the root cause of all their problems. "This is a global war," Susan George told the great and good at the Benaroya Symphony Hall. If Seattle can see the connection between all these struggles and global capitalism, so can any other city. The word is spreading. See you on . For detailed reporting on the N30 actions and the WTO's threat to people and environment see www.squall.co.uk
The N30 International Day of Action against the WTO and global capitalism saw a live game show on the streets of Bristol.
"WORLD TAKE OVER" pitted contestants such as doctors, farmers, the environment, teachers, workers and others who don't benefit much from 'free trade' against Max Profits from the WTO. It became clear as things progressed that the game was rigged from the start as the right answers were declared wrong and Max Profits scored every time. As consolation prizes of poverty, disease, no choice, pollution and no rights were dished out, contestants became more unruly, ending up chasing the WTO man off and taking back the star prize; the world.
This bit of street theatre was really simple to get together over a few days, and a very effective means of communicating anti-capitalist ideas. Also there was some billboard improvement in the centre of the city... "STARRING THE WTO: END OF DAYS - YOUR LIFE IN THE HANDS OF CORPORATIONS."
To celebrate N30 a coalition of activists from Exeter Left, FoE and the GenetiX group formed the Exeter Anti-Globalisation Alliance. Activities on the day included a scary Tradasaurus Wrecks dinosaur and an info stall in the High Street. Over a thousand leaflets were handed out and the Alliance are hoping to build on this success for a local contribution to 2000. ffi: Exeter (see contacts)
Activist pranksters got globalcapitalism on the local agenda for November 30th in Yeovil.
Bright yellow posters put out by the Red Squirrel collective proclaiming "n30 - Global Day of Action - Smash Global Capitalism - Act Locally - Think For Yourself" appeared across the town after a moonlit flyposter frenzy. On 25th November the Yeovil Express raged that "Extremists call for action against capitalism" on their front page, whilst the Western Gazette reported that South Somerset District Council were "furious that anarchists have used their logo to give the notices bogus authority". The local Tesco's - mentioned on the poster as the end point for a march - were said to have consulted with head office security experts.
When the day passed without the promised anarchy and chaos on the streets, the media were even more outraged: "Fury over demo that never was" spluttered the Gazette on 2nd December. In the absence of any riot to write about, the media was forced to actually mention the WTO summit and global capitalism. Police claimed to be hot on the trail of the Red Squirrel, but all Sergeant Roger Blanthorne could say was "It caused a lot of unnecessary concern for traders and shoppers, particularly the elderly as it was pension day and Denner's discount day. The perpetrators should be ashamed of themselves." Or alternatively rather amused.
•GLOBAL HOT SPOTS
Indigenous protesters stormed the Ecuadorian parliament on January 21st causing President Mahuad to flee, leaving a power vacuum in his place. The rebellion, kickstarted by a movement of indigenous peoples with the support of many workers closed down the whole country by blocking roads, occupying streets and seizing provincial governments, leading to the takeover of the capital Quito.
Protestors have set up People's Assemblies, organised their communities, rearranged food supplies and developed an organic alternative to neoliberalism. Although some of the military support the revolt, General Mendoza stated that any further protests will be put down with force. Meanwhile many indigenous people who left the capital have warned that if the government's policies don't change they'll be back.
The Dutch Embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta was occupied by West Papuan students on January 14th and 17th. Once inside, students talked to Embassy officials, and called on Holland to fulfill promises to help West Papua gain independence from Indonesia.
Since West Papua passed from Dutch to Indonesian hands in 1962, thousands of West Papuans have been murdered and tortured, while many more are deprived of their lands and livelihoods by programmes organised by the Indonesian government and supported by the World Bank and multinationals such as the British-based mining company Rio Tinto Zinc. ffi: OPM Support Group
Westcountry activists joined three thousand grassroots activists from the Americas gathered in North East Brazil in December for the second Americas Encuentro. Groups such as the Hip Hop movement (politicising young people in Shanty Towns), the Quilombos (descendants of escaped slaves who set up autonomous communities in the interior), indigenous Indians from various countries fighting to save both their environment and way of life, Zapatistas, Brazilian anarcho-punks and others all came together under the blazing Amazon sun for what turned into an interesting week of discussions and networking.
Brazilian grassroots activists have asked for international solidarity on April 22, when the state will be celebrating the 500 years of discovery and the resistance movements will be active celebrating 500 years of resistance. There was also talk of an International Day of Action in the year 2001 based around the idea of reclaiming land. Watch this space for more details.
•WCA WINTER GATHERING
The WCA network's Winter Gathering in the Cornish town of Calstock November was a great success and saw over a hundred activists share information and skills to help them with actions and
. The Gathering was more relaxed than previous events, with mature discussion on topics such as globalisation and the WTO summit, where disagreements didn't grind the debate to a halt but instead added to it. Practical sessions on computer and e-mail security, affinity groups in practice, legal support and researching companies were all well received, and the Saturday night knees up left most hanging the next day - though there were enough walking wounded for a wide game on the moors.
The large number of families, and for many the first chance to meet activists from the other end of the region made it a great weekend. A big shout out to everyone who organised it. WCA Spring gathering planning meeting see diary.
•FAB SABS JOIN FORCES
Dorset and Somerset Hunt Sabs have joined forces to create a united front against the local hunts. Despite the increasing levels of violence from the hunt members and protectors, the combined forces have resulted in a successful season.
The Boxing Day Portman Hunt was visited with success and few hitches. The West Somerset Vale was paid a visit on New Year's Day with much disruption of the hunt. Hounds were taken from right under the hunt's nose and the whole area was swathed in the sweet smell of citronella making sure that no fox scent could be detected. The police and hunt seemed dazed and confused and did not know what had hit them. One sab was arrested but was released later without charge.
The recent South Dorset Hunt was a success where sabs were befriended by many of the hounds, unfortunately the hunt members were not so friendly and attacked the sabs. In one case five hunt protectors attacked one sab, who defended himself and evaded injury.
The new coalition journeyed to West Sussex and successfully disrupted the Chiddeston hunt; later on Crawley and Horsham hunt supporters were greeted on their way to the local hunt ball. Heavy handed policing was the order of the evening and the sab's photographer was arrested for taking photos. ffi: Dorset Hunt Sabs/Somerset Sabs (see contacts)
The campaign to close down the Hinkley 'A' nuclear power station has stepped up the pace. The Stop Hinkley campaign has united with the Welsh Anti-Nuclear alliance to raise awareness of the everyday threat that hangs over the heads of people living in the South West and Wales.
Hinkley 'A' was built in 1965 with a life-expectancy of 20-25 years. Since April last year it's been dogged with troubles, leading to closure, extensive work on the coolant ducting and a safety probe into reactor 2. Corroded reactor cores, deterioration of the garter assembly which contains the reactor core, dust filling the coolant channels and a build up of 'Winger Energy' all add up to serious doubts over the plant's safety. Two million people live within 35 miles of Hinkley and are under constant threat.
A series of talks have been planned to raise the profiles of the safety issues and there will be an HTV documentary on Tuesday 1st February. The next campaign meeting is on Friday March 3rd at the The Old Library Pub in Corporation Street, Taunton. John Large, a Consultant Nuclear Engineer who helped design the Hinkley reactors, will discuss the various problems at the plant.
ffi: Stop Hinkley (see contacts); Welsh Anti Nuclear Alliance, PO Box 1, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5AA 01982 570362 e-mail: email@example.com
•MUMIA ABU JAMAL
Bristol's Free Mumia Group spent the winter supporting US political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, who faces execution.
The Disney Store in Broadmead was chosen for a daily picket to highlight how American corporations are accomplices to this injustice; many leaflets were given out, and several shoppers, after hearing about Mumia, protested against Mickey Mouse justice by boycotting the shop.
Fifty people came to a demo on 6th November, carrying banners and placards proclaiming "Mumia Must Live!" and chanting slogans in support. As the march ended in the heart of the city's shopping precinct, many Saturday shoppers saw a piece of street theatre in which two dodgy-looking Secret Service-types kept chasing after Lady Justice to gag her as she tried to speak the truth about Mumia's case. The police weren't too happy at having to pursue the actors, and didn't see the irony in threatening to arrest Justice.
Bristol also hosted an exhibition, 'Art For Mumia' and conscious pirate station Interference FM put on several special Mumia broadcasts. Mumia is still on Death Row, and still needs your help. ffi: Kebele (see contacts) for local events, or Mumia Must Live!, BM Haven, London WC1N 3XX.
•CARRY ON CAMPERS
Locals are calling for a protest camp to be set up in a last attempt to save a North Devon beauty spot. The area of outstanding natural beauty is threatened by a proposed landfill site near the Taw/Torridge estuary. After a ten year long battle with locals, developers are due to start work this Spring and if they succeed, an SSSI, part of the Tarka Trail and the local RSPB Isley Marsh sanctuary will be transformed into a refuse dump. Also in the area, Rolls Royce have been sniffing another proposed development site but have said they want no controversy and sound like they could be swayed by some direct public opinion. ffi: Joanne, The Conifers, 38 West Yelland, Barnstaple, Devon, EX31 3HF tel: 01271 860989.
Eviction is imminent for the Gorse Woods protest site in Essex, which is calling for help. The woods are home to several badger setts, mature oaks and other flora and forna, and lies in the path of the A130 by-pass a strategic section of the new outer London orbital. It is one of the last patches of green space left in the area.
Bodies, tat, donations, food and energy are needed to resist the bailiffs. There is plenty of communal crash space in a warm, well equipped Longhouse but please bring bedding. Location: Just off the A130 at Rettendon, between Southend and Chelmsford. Find the All Saints Parish Church walk along the gravel path to the stile and follow the track to the site. ffi: 07957 915977 (camp mobile)
•SMASH THE FASCISTS
SCARF - Sedgemoor Campaign Against Racism and Fascism - has set up to monitor right-wing extremist activity in the area. The BNP's SW organiser Bruce Cowd is based there, the BNP has recently attempted to intervene in the 'asylum' issue locally.
SCARF also aims to form a rapid reaction unit to respond to racist attacks in the area and to act as a support group for refugees who will be brought into the area under new government regulations from this April. They will be isolated from their communities, and at the mercy of local nutters and nazis. ffi: We've not got a contact point for SCARF yet so any mail send c/o Action SW and we'll pass it on.
SWARM (South West Active Resistance Movement) emerged from last year's Earth First! summer gathering. It aims to increase communication and activity between groups in the South West through coordinated SWARM actions. The idea is that a local group prepares an action and is supported by others in the region through SWARM. The hope is to increase mutual support and practical solidarity, and strengthen links through direct contact with each other.
SWARM has already carried out two successful actions through the occupation of Rio Tinto's offices in Bristol, and a squatted anti-WTO info-cafe in Totnes.
Remember the more we communicate, the greater our effec will be, so if interested or your campaign needs a boost call the SWARM to your area. ffi: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Exeter solicitors Tozers are in bed with profiteering landowner Henry Morrison, who is squeezing mobile home residents for as much as he can. The Independent Park Home Advisory Service, 17 Ashley Wood Park, Tarrant, Keyneston, Dorset would love any titbits about both Tozers and Morrison come across by SW snoops.
Bath EF!; PO Box 426, Bath 01249 713742
Bath GE; Group 01225 447323Bath Hunt Sabs; PO Box 426, Bath 01225 312688
'Bristle' (Bristol's activist mag); Box 25, Green Leaf, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
Bristol AFA; c/o London AFA, BM 1734, London WC1N 3XX
Bristol Benefits Action Group, Box 11, Green Leaf, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
Chiapas Link; Box 19, Green leaf, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
Cornwall Hunt Sabs; PO Box 8, Newquay, Cornwall 01736 332527
Dorset GEN; The Old Library, East Street, Bridport, Dorset 01308 482548
Dorset Hunt Sabs; PO Box 1119, Dorchester DT1 1ED
Earth Circus Network; c/o KebeleGlastonbury GE Group; 01458 834787
Greenline; PO Box 5, Lostwithiel, Cornwall
I-Contact Video Network; 0117 914 0188 email@example.com
'Interference' (Conscious radio/media network); Box 6, Green Leaf, 82 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
Kebele Kulture Projekt; 14 Robertson Road, Eastville, Bristol BS5 5BB 0117 939 9469 firstname.lastname@example.org
North Devon Animal Defence; c/o 63-64 Boutport Street, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 0QB 01271 830842
Penzance Anarchists; PO Box 19, Penzance, Cornwall TR18 2YP 01736 711378
Plymouth Anti-Fur Campaign; PO Box 180, Plymouth PL4 8YG
Plymouth Hunt Sabs; PO Box 129, Plymouth PL1 1RY
Radstock Against GE; 01761 435563
Set Up For Life; 125 Southgate Street, Gloucester 0121 246 0703
Somerset Against GE; 01373 831020
South Dorset Anti-Bloodsports; PO Box 1119, Dorchester DT1 1ED
STARR; c/o 84 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BB
South Devon EF!; Totnes Community office, Birdwood House, 44 High Street, Totnes, Devon
Somerset ABC/Sabs/GEN; c/o PO Box 478, Taunton TA2 7YR
Torquay Hunt Sabs; 01803 299509
Totnes Genetic Group; 01803 840098 email@example.com
This article produced by: WEST COUNTRY ACTIVIST, BOX 80, GREENLEAF BOOKSHOP, COLSTON STREET, BRISTOL. Tel: 07931 268966 BS1 5BB WCA99@hotmail.com