DAY 264: New times?

December 14th, 2018 § 0 comments

4243So today we have some upcoming, boring old news  of what may or may not be decided about the so-called United Kingdom and its future. This story has been going on so long, with so many turns in the plot, that I expect my readers have, like me, lost said plot and forgotten what, if any, were the issues. Who were the good/bad guys? What outcome, if any, might we applaud? Will ‘Great Britain’ remain attached to the so-called continent of ‘Europe’? It is, after all, a relatively short time since ‘Britain’  was separated from the ‘Continent’  by water; a mere 500.000 years ago, our ancestors used to saunter across the 22 miles of the Weald-Artois anticline, Dugue_Tiglienbefore the Anglian Glaciation. [Nit-pickers have been pointing out that the ;phrase ‘our ancestors’ only correctly refers to people descended from the  Paleolithics, which excludes Anglo-Saxons,and maybe even Celts].   And then, once they’d been forced to cross by water, they started insisting on constructing tunnels to connect the two sides; and then, yet again, having gone to the great trouble of making that connection, they set up barriers and border posts and using the CRS and CS gas  to repel anyone who tried to get across. It is, by now, so difficult to care, as the story becomes increasingly reduced to a fractious squabble among Tory MPs. dnd what is the point of it all? Since there seems to be very little relation to the class struggle, I (like Mr. Corbyn) find it difficult to focus on what might be a momentous decision for our island as I try to think of how it might relate to the concerns of miners in North Yorkshire.

Elsewhere, the important news today  is that in Greece Sarah Ezzat Mardini and her friends Sean and Thanos  are free on bail; remember that they have been unjustly imprisoned for over 100 days on fabricated charges of people smuggling. The charges have not been dropped, so that they could well still face a prison sentence – it’s a  temporary withdrawal by the state only. So where do we go now? I’m afraid I have my own aches and pains, and oncoming operations, and  such like to worry about; and a change in the insularity of Britain will not affect them in the near future. But I wish all the rest of you well as we tread down the slippery slope towards Christmas. Could we hope for the ejection of Old Corruption, and the institution of a rule of the losers, the desperate, the trodden-down, whether in ‘Europe’ or outside it – where solidarity will be rewarded and not punished; where the lonely and miserable will not have to rely on charities and handouts? Could that happen, without Europe ceasing to be ‘Europe’? I’m not clever enough to know the answer to such questions. I look at the future and what do I see? The looming prospect of jail sentences for the Stansted 15 Stansted-15-trial
(in particular), whose crime was to try to obstruct deportation flights

Fight against violent forced removals will go on, campaigners say, because ‘Home Office hasn’t changed its brutal policies’

The Stansted 15 activists at the opening of their trial in Chelmsford. Photograph: Kristian Buus/In Pictures/Getty Images

The Stansted 15 expected to face retribution for their protest. They never expected to be found guilty of terrorism offences.

But on Monday, the group became the first activists involved in a non-violent direct action protest to be convicted under laws that were formulated in response to the Lockerbie bombing. After a judge told the jury to disregard evidence put forward to support their defence that their attempt to stop a deportation flight was intended to stop human rights abuses, the defendants must wait until February to learn if they will face custodial sentences.

Alistair Tamlit and Benjamin Smoke, both from London, told the Guardian that they continued to believe that their action was necessary. Both said their concerns about the hostile environment and the Home Office’s secretive policy of deporting people on charter flights were as strong now as before they decided to take part in the direct action at the Essex airport in March 2017.The Stansted protesters saved me from wrongful deportation. They are heroes<

“We were charged with endangering life but we took the actions at Stansted to try to protect life. That point needs to keep on being put into the spotlight,” said Smoke. “As a result of what we did, 11 people who were on that flight are still in the UK appealing against their removals. That’s something for us to hold on to.”

He expressed alarm at the draconian convictions, the first time activists involved in a non-violent direct action protest have been convicted of such offences. “Our convictions today represent an unprecedented crackdown on the right to protest,” he said. “The Home Office hasn’t changed its brutal policies. The inherent racism and violence of these forced removals remains. He said that activists would continue to fight against the hostile environment. “This fight is about seeing people as people not as collateral damage of the Home Office’s policies. Today is a dark, dark day for the right to protest in a non-violent way.”

Both activists said they had been lucky to not only have a mutual support network among the 15 who stood trial and have now been convicted, but a much bigger support network, too.

‘On a personal level it has been horrendous and has taken a huge mental and physical toll,” said Smoke.

Tamlit said: “We’re all in a state of shock, sitting around and letting the news filter through. Our action has brought the issue of Home Office charter flights into the public domain in a way that they weren’t before.

“One of the women from a migrant solidarity group told me that her applications to remain in the UK have been rejected for eight years in a row. Hearing about things like that really puts our situation into perspective.

“People like that woman are really at the sharp end of the hostile environment. People are still being rounded up and put on to charter flights, but the fact that 11 of the people who were taken off the charter flight we stopped are still here is something that is going to stay with me. The fight against the hostile environment will continue.”

The Home Office removes thousands of migrants including asylum seekers each year. Following the action to stop the charter flight at Stansted airport, the ministry is increasingly using military bases such as Brize Norton and often uses the services of Titan Airways for these flights. Titan does corporate work as well as operating charter flights for the oil and gas industries and the military.

Tamlit had been involved with activism in support of migrants since his student days, including a few actions prior to Stansted such as supergluing himself to a door and lying in a road to protest.

“Stopping a charter flight is an intervention that keeps people in the country,” he said. “It was very nerve-racking on our way to Stansted but we read out testimonies from Detained Voices, a group of immigration detainees, which gave us strength to do what we did.

“We were singing and chanting when we were locked on. When we were arrested and each of the activists walked out we all felt incredible love and solidarity for the others. We were shocked when the initial charges of aggravated trespass were increased to terrorism-related charges. That made me realise that government don’t want us to be doing these protests.”

Smoke described the ramping up of the charges as “a bit of a curveball”. He said that, as a member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, he knew what it felt like to be scapegoated. “I couldn’t stand idly by,” he said. “I felt it was important to use my voice and my privilege to speak up about how migrants are being treated by th

aside from chaos in the British Parliament, who still can’t make up theit mind over the so-called backstop on the Irish border (where is it?). The sailings of the Aquarius, which has saved countless lives in the Mediterranean, have been stopped via the machinations of the European right and Sig. Salvini and the far far right (see https://www.msf.org/aquarius-forced-end-operations-europe-condemns-people-drown). Some of  my friends, who cling to some kind of a desperate belief in logic, are still trying to make sense of all this nonsense;  but it same to me much more appropriate echo the words of Matthew Arnold on the same Dover Beachdover (at a time, it’s true, when there were neither immigration officers nor migrants, but still well after the Anglian Glaciation had created white cliffs and pebble beaches):

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
There will, as Jimmy Cliff reminds us, still be many rivers to cross.

 

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