Posts Tagged ‘ activism ’

(Almost) live from Manchester occupation

On Wednesday, after a 6000 strong march through Manchester against the higher education cuts and rise in tuition fees, I was among a group of students who occupied part of the Roscoe building. We got loads of press coverage, my flatmate who has never been particularly involved in activism before got on TV, and we have pretty much been constantly giving radio interviews.

A small group of people who came out to meet the BBC reporter. You can see me if you look closely.


The has been minimal disruption to lectures, with many lecturers continuing normal timetabled lectures in the theatre. We figure that while we are using the space to organise against the attacks to our education, we should allow the space to continue to be used as a place of “normal academic learning” as much as possible. On Friday afternoon, when there were no timetabled lectures, we held our own. One in particular was a talk by Japhy Wilson about the crisis of capitalism which was fascinating. I have recorded the talks and discussion as audio files that are available to download below.

A group of students are continuing the occupation over the weekend. I’ve been delegated to go to the national co-ordinating meeting for the Education Activist Network on Sunday, so the best way to find out more about the occupation is to check out and follow us on twitter at @mancoccupation You can also follow the Education Activist Network at @edactivistnet

Download the following file to hear Japhy Wilson’s talk today:

Download the following file to hear the open floor meeting:

Note that the files might take a few minutes to become available on megaupload. Also note that I’m not really totally sure how reliable megaupload is on a large scale. I’ve only used it to distribute files quickly to mates before. We don’t really have anyone tech-savvy here!

these files are also available on the Roscoe Occupation website. www.

Fun and Games at Manchester Airport

On the 24th of May, along with 5 other people, I was arrested whilst air-side at Manchester Airport after chaining myself around the wheel of an aeroplane. 10 other activists were arrested that same day for blockading the road into the Airport’s “World Freight Centre”. I’ve been charged with “conspiracy to cause criminal damage”, and am currently on bail until late August. For legal reasons, I can’t discuss the hows of the action, but I can discuss the whys.

The aviation industry is one of the few industries which has expanded under the global recession and is a significant contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. A 2005 conservative study attributed 6.3% of British CO2 emissions to aviation, with more recent studies concluding that 17% of the UK’s “climate change effect” is caused by aviation. With the greenhouse effect, there are lots of altitude-sensitive effects to releasing emissions, which actually increases the negative effect on the environment of emissions from aviation due to those emissions being at a high altitude.

locked on around the wheel of a plane

The government and some less progressive NGO’s encourage us to focus our attention on our individual greenhouse gas emissions, whilst ignoring the ever-expanding environmental impact of industry. Whilst cutting down on our individual carbon emissions is all very well, an individuals personal use of the aviation industry pales into nothingness when compared to that of the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport which handles 170000 tonnes of freight a year, and the business giants that use such services. Climate change is a huge problem, but it is only a symptom of a greater disease – that of capitalism, the economic system that seeks infinite growth on a planet of finite resources.

Our action was one in a series of actions by the environmental movement targeting airports due for expansion. In 2007, the Camp for Climate Action targeted Heathrow Airport, blockading the headquarters of the British Airport Authority, whilst Plane Stupid activists boarded a barge transporting an Airbus A380 wing. In 2008, 57 Plane Stupid activists occupied a runway at Stanstead Airport, shutting it down and causing 56 RyanAir flights to be cancelled. In 2009, the Climate9 occupied the taxiway and terminal roof at Aberdeen Airport. They wore golfing clothes to highlight the millionaire Donald Trump’s support of  expansion in order to bring more business to his nearby golf course. The group have since launched a public campaign and have been harassed by the police and private detectives. Along with the hard work of local campaigns, these direct actions have been instrumental in stopping airport expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead. Whilst its important that our movement celebrates its success’, we must not rest on our laurels and let airport expansion through the back door at regional airports such as Manchester, East Midlands, or Aberdeen where there is less media interest.

(I'm on the right)

Its not just environmental problems that airport expansion at Manchester would cause. Airport expansionists argue that the plans to make Manchester the “Heathrow of the North” would support the local economy by bringing money into the area and providing more employment in the area. However, in his recent report, the economist and former advisor to the Treasury, Brendon Sewill calculates that Manchester Airport currently represents a total deficit of £2.2 billion to the local area, set to rise on airport expansion. Indeed, the construction of the Terminal 2 in the 1990’s promised to create 50000 jobs, but fell short; creating fewer temporary jobs that in no way helped create the sustainable, meaningful local economy it promised to do.

Our action coincided with the scheduled 5-day BA cabin crew strikes. Willie Walsh and British Airways turned to the courts to ban the action, a threat to everyone’s right to strike, which was later overturned by an appeal on behalf of the BASSA, the cabin crew union. The strikes arose out of a dispute over pay and conditions. BA has in turn harassed more prominent members of BASSA, and removed “travel perks” (considered essential by most workers) from those engaged in previous industrial action. At the time of our action, 5 BASSA branch officials had been fired by BA during the current dispute, and over 50 workers currently face disciplinaries relating to the strike, mostly on ridiculous issues such as participating in discussions on union forums or receiving and forwarding emails from private accounts. It is important to show solidarity with airport workers, especially those involved in the industrial disputes, whist arguing for a just transition to stave off global climate change. The changes needed to prevent climate change should not be used as an excuse to restrict workers rights and extract more profit.

World Frieght Centre blockade

The airport is by the Manchester Airport Group, which Manchester City Council has a 55% stake, and the other 45% is made up by 9 other local authorities. Manchester City Council plan to reduce Manchester’s carbon emissions by 41% by 2020, but refuse to take into account the airports emissions. With the council being complicit in the airports destructive behaviour, it seems that there is little that Mancunians can do within the “legitimate” channels of local democracy. Whilst the residents of Hasty Lane face loosing their homes, and the ancient woodland surrounding the airport facing the chop with the proposed plans of expansion, the council refuses to listen to the residents concerns in any meaningful way. With the councils lack of caring, and the urgency of the need to prevent climate change, concerned citizens have no choice to take direct and illegal actions to protect workers rights and the future of out planet.

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IDAHO Kiss-in attacked by riot cops and neo-fascists

On Tuesday May 18th, LGBT activists held a kiss in against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Saint-Jeans Place, Lyon, characterised by growing tensions between Kiss-in participants and counter-demonstrators. The Kiss-in was originally planned to take place on Saturday, to mark IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, but the demonstration was deemed illegal by the council in Rhone for “administrative reasons”. Lesbian and Gay Pride of Lyon (LGP Lyon) consequently denounced the “lack of firmness and courage of the Rhone council” considering them to have “yielded to the pressure of the right wing catholic movement”, who organised an intense campaign to ban the “gathering of homosexual extremists” and calling for public funding to LGP Lyon to be halted. Young People for France, the youth wing of the right wing conservative Movement for France party, which forms part of Nicholas Sarkozy’s presidential majority, made up part of the counter-demonstration.

300 participants of the Kiss-in gathered around Saint-Jeans Place, but were blocked by riot cops barring access to the square, apparently to avid a confrontation between the Kiss-in and the hundred young catholic extremists and fascists who had taken the right hand side of the square. The two groups held banners and placards, chanting slogans at each other, “Enough of this gang who don’t respect transpeople, dykes and fags!” and “Enough of catholic-phobia” (They don’t translate well from French). The president of the LGP Lyon said “Our demonstration is authorised, not theirs. I don’t see why it should be shocking for us to embrace in public. And we shall be back again next year, especially if Cardinal Barbarin (The archbishop of Lyon) does not condemn the actions of the counter-demonstrators”.

Some kisses between participants could be exchanged before the police issued an evacuation order at 21.30. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the square with tear-gas, and two catholic extremists were arrested. The Kiss-in participants left quickly, but the catholic extremists resisted the order.

LGBT Associations have said that they are pleased with the amount of people who mobilised for the Kiss-in, but question the management of the demonstration by the council of Rhone, calling it “calamitous”. A joint press-release signed by various LGBT, human rights and anti-fascist organisations was published asking ”Why wasn’t the right to demonstrate peacefully for gay rights not respected? Why were the extremists, gathering illegally in Saint-Jeans Place, allowed to spread their hate? Why were the demonstrators for human rights, acting non-violently, violently evicted by the police without reason?”

Videos and the original report from the event (in French) can be found here. Apologies if I messed up the translation! 🙂

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