During the "Kill the Bill"protest in Bristol on Friday, police in riot gear and on horses charged into a group of protesters sitting down outside Bridewell police station. Thousands of mostly young workers and students had gathered to demonstrate against the new "Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill", which gives police powers to break up protests if "causing public nuisance".
The cops’ violent attack on the protesters showed yet again what a free hand they have in breaking up public demonstrations, whenever and wherever they see fit - under current “law”! In fact “Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary” has just found that cops "acted appropriately" when they violently waded into the Sarah Everard vigil 2 weeks ago.
It’s no real surprise: police violence is endemic, as “sussed” black youths know all too well. The “bill” are licenced to kill (18 deaths in their custody last year), and just like in the USA, where the cop who killed George Floyd is today on trial, they mostly get away with it.
One aim of this new law is obviously to allow the police more water-tight “legal” immunity. But it also provides cover for their actions should “unrest" break out in the future: something which the bosses and their government are rightly afraid of. They know full well what the crisis of their capitalist system and its total inability to deal with a pandemic means, in social terms.
Of course, this law is also conceived as a vote-winner, aimed at their City “law and order” constituency, who expect the state to protect their wealth and private property under all threats and all circumstances.
Patel’s other “vote winner” is her “New Plan for Immigration”.In the same vein, she claims it will offer migrants “protection from dying at sea". As if she could care less. In fact it turns refugees who manage to get to British shores, but without the proper legal paperwork, into illegal immigrants, liable for immediate deportation - tearing up the (albeit) minimal protection provided under the 1951 UN refugee convention.
Yes, under the guise of protecting the public, the government is enhancing the protection of the police, its own establishment and the sacrosanct private property of the rich against the “public”.
And irony of all ironies, when the public really did need “protection” 12 months ago when coronavirus first hit, there was none.
The capitalist protection racket - administered by Johnson and Patel - put the interests of profits and big business first. It still does. And no belated “success story” on vaccines can bring back the 127,000 who just died, unprotected.
“Pardoning” 24 strikers - 47 years later!
Last Tuesday, the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of 24 building workers who had been prosecuted at Shrewsbury Crown Court 47 years ago, for nothing more than going on strike.
Of course that wasn’t the charge at the time. In 1972, more workers were going on strike than at any time since WW2. The workers in question had helped to organise the very first national building workers strike - something that had always been regarded as too difficult to do, because of the practical problem of co-ordinating action across all the small and big sites across different companies, right across the country. And by the way, they did this before the advent of the mobile phone!
What’s more, after 12 weeks on strike, they won the highest ever pay rise in the history of the building industry! And they resolved to carry on fighting, until they had got rid of the so-called “lump”. The “lump” was construction bosses’ way of avoiding hiring workers as employees. Instead, they were considered as “self-employed” and paid a lump sum for their work (hence “working on the lump”) and had to pay their own tax and NI. Of course, today’s bosses have reinvented a form of this “lump”. Many workers, including in the car industry, will recognise it!
Five months after the construction strike ended, its organisers were arrested and charged with 240 offences: intimidation, criminal damage, affray, you name it! Six were charged with “conspiracy to intimidate”. Yet there hadn’t even been pickets during this strike, let alone confrontations with cops.
In the end, 4 were sent to jail. Des Warren, a member of the Communist Party, got the longest sentence of 3 years. He served it in solitary confinement and under the so-called “liquid cosh” - injected tranquilliser drugs - as punishment for his refusal to stop fighting against his treatment. As a direct result, he died prematurely with Parkinson’s disease in 2004.
It was his death that revived a campaign to appeal against the convictions of the original 24. And now at long last, they have all been vindicated.
Undoubtedly, getting the courts to right the wrongs of this biased, anti-working class, judicial system, even after nearly 50 years, is a moral victory.
But for Des Warren and the building workers who so boldly struck and won in 1972, a fitting tribute would be for all workers - including today’s 21st century “lump” workers - to come together and fight casualisation and bogus self-employment in all its modern forms, on the ground. And to take on board the lesson of the Shrewsbury 24: that real victory for the working class will only come the day we get rid of the whole rotten system, including its police, its courts and its prisons.