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Hong Kong protesters in UK say they face pro-Beijing intimidation

The Guardian | Protest -

Police have been called to intervene and separate groups at events in university cities

Supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests say they are being intimidated and harassed by pro-Beijing Chinese students and others at their events around the UK, forcing police to step in to separate them from counter-demonstrations.

Below-the-radar tensions have boiled over into incidents that include the arrest of a 19-year-old Chinese student after bottles were thrown at a Sheffield event, while police and university security have intervened in other town centres and campuses.

Re-edit: Was at @hoccgoomusic's concert on Fri to photo pro-Beijing protesters. They had Chinese flags and signs which say, "It's everyone's duty to eradicate pests."

This flag ended up on the floor and squished by one of their signs.#Photography #Photojournalism #China #爱国 pic.twitter.com/aZTvT0gHkR

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New generation, new tactics: the changing face of Catalan protests

The Guardian | Protest -

Attempted occupation at airport was called by new group using an app to bring young people on to streets

Until this week, the images habitually projected by the Catalan independence movement were of its red, yellow and blue estelada flags and of the huge crowds that have gathered on the region’s national day over the past eight years to make earnest, enthusiastic – and fruitless – calls for a separate republic.

By Monday night, however, the pictures coming out of Barcelona and elsewhere had begun to tell a different story. Infuriated by the Spanish supreme court’s decision to jail nine pro-independence leaders over their roles in the failed push for secession two years ago, thousands of young Catalans marched on Barcelona-El Prat airport in an attempt to occupy it.

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Queensland claims cabinet confidentiality to block release of climate protest details

The Guardian | Protest -

Details of photos used to justify new protest laws blocked from release

The Palaszczuk government has blocked the release of basic information about climate protests – including dates and locations of photographs used to justify controversial proposed laws – by claiming the details are subject to cabinet confidentiality.

At an inquiry hearing last week, the Queensland police tabled photographs of “locking devices” that are proposed to be banned by the new legislation.

Related: Annastacia Palaszczuk is cracking down on protesters – she is likely correct about public sentiment | Tony Koch

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A growing anti-racist network takes on the rise of far-right politics in Germany

Waging Nonviolence -

Since its founding in 2013, Germany’s far-right parliamentary party, Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, has profoundly shaped anti-refugee politics. International headlines hone in on the pending controversies of AfD politicians’ connection to street-based Nazi movements in Germany and throughout Europe. That the AfD recently gained 37 seats in the Saxony state government is formidable. Yet, what is too often missed in these accounts of racism in Germany is the growing network of organizations working to assert the will of an anti-racist majority.

This network is making critical interventions in the particular ways racism operates in Germany. For starters, they consistently point out how racism is built into governance and national security. At the same time, they also work to connect anti-racist and anti-fascist movements with artists and students.

Previous Coverage
  • Anti-fascists won’t let Germany return to normal after weak verdict in neo-Nazi trial
  • Laura Frey and Vincent Bababoutilabo are two activists in this important network. I met them in 2018, during the final months of the NSU trial, as they continued to work on the Tribunal — a people’s court that was set-up to protest the systematic exclusion of families whose loved ones were killed by the National Socialist Underground, an organized terrorist network that targeted migrant communities with serial murders and bombings from 2000-2007. Laura and Vincent worked on the NSU as part of their political education efforts. While Laura had previously worked in schools with students on racism, anti-semitism, sexism and neo-Nazi ideology, Vincent had experience organizing Afro-Germans. This brought him to the Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland, or the Initiative for Black People in Germany, known as ISD, which is where he now works.

    With far-right governance sweeping across Europe, the United States, Philippines, India and Brazil, I spoke with Laura and Vincent to learn more about the key aspects that animate the anti-racist movement in Germany.

    Laura Frey and Vincent Bababoutilabo before an anti-racist march in Dresden in August. (WNV/Hilary Moore)

    What are some of the anti-racist strategies you see in Germany?

    Laura: On the grassroots level, a lot of anti-racist work is organizing support for and together with refugees who are crossing E.U. borders, through Turkey, Greece, North Africa, as well as Spain and Italy. What is happening there is murder at the borders of the European Union. A lot of people are crossing with ships, and a lot of people are dying.

    Anti-racist education is a common intervention point in Germany. The organization I come from — Network for Democracy and Courage — started in Saxony, historically an area in Germany where neo-Nazis are living. The organization was founded because racism, antisemitism, sexism, and neo-Nazism are only taught as historical issues and not referred to as contemporary problems. The idea is teaching children how to recognize and intervene against these ideas and people promoting them.

    Vincent: Germany signed the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. And the U.N. has a commision, a group of people who go into Germany and speak with activists and initiatives, and they write a report. Every time they report on Germany, Germany always gets very low grades because of how it sees the problem as “foreigners” — xenophobia — and not racism. So, these U.N. delegates come into Germany and say that racism is actually happening. They are pushing the German government to recognize it’s a problem and to develop better, more committed anti-racist strategies and laws.

    Laura: For anti-racist groups, a part of the work is trying to shift the discourse. Until about 10 years ago, you were not able to talk about racism because racism did not exist according to the public. We would talk about xenophobia, but that would not cover what is actually happening. There was a lot of racism happening not only against people who did not have a German passport, but against people who do have a German passport but do not “look” white. This tendency — to talk about xenophobia but not racism — put conversations into more of a nation-state and citizenship discourse, but it was actually racism that was happening. Still, people are fighting [to ensure] that racism is recognized and [seen as] a problem in Germany. Calling it xenophobia is pushing the problem to the borders, making it a border issue. We are fighting a lot to name things like attacks on houses where refugees are living or former guest workers. We’re still trying to push the boundaries, trying to talk about racism on these terms.

    How has Germany’s history shaped anti-racist struggles today?

    Vincent: Today in Germany, we are fighting for a society that believes migration has always happened. We’re in the fucking middle of Europe! Throughout history there was always a Polish person who said, “Hey, I want to go to France” and stopped in Germany along the way. The German nation is not that old. But right now, the nation is the point of reference and not migration. So we’re trying to take migration as a starting point for all anti-racist organizing. Here it gets interesting, because many black anti-racist and anti-colonialist struggles tried to use nationalism as a tool for liberation. It didn’t turn out very well in my opinion.

    We also have a complicated relationship to U.S. influence in our politics. For a lot of black people in Germany, the United States is a reference because the history is tied together. Many founding members of [my group] the ISD were descendants of black American soldiers. The orientation toward the U.S. discourse seemed natural. Also, Audre Lorde came to Germany in the 1980s and organized black women. Some people even see her as a founding mother of the young black movement in Germany.

    But still, African migration always was and is the biggest factor. This state of purity that right-wing nationalists try to imagine, where the right people lived at the right place, never was a reality.

    The meaning of blackness changed a lot too. A lot of people of color in the United Kingdom used to just identify as black. And in Germany, many radical emancipatory Turkish and Kurdish people (heavily influenced by the Black Panthers) thought about calling themselves black. It’s amazing how influential the radical black tradition in the United States was for oppressed people around the world.

    Laura: The influence of U.S. perspectives on racism is important, but — at the same time — there are a lot differences [between the two countries], particularly the history of migration. There were a lot of so-called “guest workers” from Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey coming to Germany during the 1960s. Their children and grandchildren are organizing in a different way than people in the United States because the idea of dividing society into black and white doesn’t work for them. However, there are a lot of similarities between the experience of black people in the United States and guest workers in Germany, especially when it comes to the intersection of race and class. These guest workers, similar to other migrant workers in Germany, experienced a loss of status when they started to work and live here. Yet, they — along with their descendants — are often perceived as white, which is why, as Vincent said, some Turkish and Kurdish groups discussed calling themselves black.

    We had an intense history of German colonialism from 1884-1914. Within a really short time, Germany became the fourth biggest colonial empire in the world. Until 10 years ago, people in Germany didn’t think it was important to talk about this time, as it was perceived as a very small, and an unimportant part of German history. However, it shaped the German state in different ways. Immigration and emigration shaped Germany differently — ranging from mass emigration in the middle of the 19th century to the Americas, labor migration to Prussia in Imperial Germany, foreign students studying in the Weimar Republic, to the mass migration in different directions connected to World War I and World War II, and the guest worker regime in the 1960s and 1970s.

    What are some challenges you find in anti-racist work today?

    Vincent: We are constantly trying to reframe racism differently than how the media and politicians talk about. They focus on neo-Nazis saying that they are the only racist ones. People believe neo-Nazis are on the fringe of society. As if, “They are from poor sites in Eastern Germany. They are poor and angry, and so they turn to racism.” There is a strange thing in Germany that we call poor people: “Bildungsferne Schichten,” or “people far away from education.” By saying “neo-Nazis are poor desperate people, the losers from the reunification of Germany, this is why they are Nazis and why they are racist,” they are basically saying only dumb poor people can be racist. But what we see now is that the huge rise of right-wing populism here is a very, very bourgeoise project. There are poor people in nationalist racist, right-wing organizations, but also people, who are very educated. It’s a strange thing in Germany where people think that racism has something to do with your level of education — as if when you go to school and get the right level of education, you cannot be racist. That’s ridiculous.

    What opportunities are people mobilizing around?

    Vincent: The NSU Tribunal was a great example, where anti-racist and anti-fascist groups put the in-fighting aside and the perspective of the victims’ families were at the center. We mourned the people killed by racists together. We condemned the system and the people responsible together and stood for a new society together.

    Laura: The NSU case joined all the different aspects of anti-racism — it was about the state supporting neo-Nazis, neo-Nazis killing people, and the media and police with their racist ideas about Turkish people supporting the neo-Nazis [who killed them]. Every group could find their topic within the NSU complex. Sadly, it showed really well how all these fights are connected. And we haven’t stopped, the investigation and the work continues. For instance, the third NSU Tribunal will take place in Chemnitz in November 2019.

    What kinds of collaborations would you like to create or grow between anti-racist organizers in the United States and Germany?

    Laura: I think it would be very fruitful to have an exchange on strategies used by organizers in the struggles against racism in the United States. [It would help us] get a different perspective on the strategies we are using in Germany and might give us ideas on how to reframe our struggles and develop new ideas to continue the fight. Also, the right is organizing transnationally, so we have to try to find common answers to the right-wing populist backlash we are experiencing globally.

    Extinction Rebellion has built up so much goodwill. It mustn’t throw that away | Gaby Hinsliff

    The Guardian | Protest -

    The incident at Canning Town station exposes the movement’s lack of empathy with society’s least well-off people

    Early in the morning, the sky still dark behind him, a man climbs on to a tube train in one of the less wealthy patches of east London and prepares to make a stand. After weeks of climate protests across the capital, its commuters have arguably grown used to navigating scenes such as this. But what happens next, in the footage shot by an ITV journalist and spread virally across social media, is disturbing on many levels.

    Passengers on the packed platform, sensing they’re now going nowhere, react furiously. A voice can be heard shouting: “I need to get to work! I have to feed my kids!” One man, boosted by the crowd, grabs for the protester’s legs; the protester appears to kick out towards his head. The protester is white. The man below him is black. The protester is quickly dragged down into a surging crowd, rescued only by the intervention of other passengers and a London Underground worker. And suddenly, we are a long way from cheering scenes of giant pink octopuses being escorted down Whitehall, or grey-haired pensioners submitting courteously to arrest.

    Halting the climate crisis is obviously urgent – but for most people, being able to pay the rent is a different degree of urgent

    Related: Today, I aim to get arrested. It is the only real power climate protesters have | George Monbiot

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    'It has been polarising': tube protest divides Extinction Rebellion

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Disrupting London trains was opposed by 72% of activists in poll, but has boosted coverage

    The climate protests during which one activist was dragged from the roof of a London Underground train by angry commuters had been discussed within Extinction Rebellion [XR] for weeks.

    But it was not until Wednesday morning, when a note was posted on the group’s website, that a decision appeared to have been taken.

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    Catalan president blames 'infiltrators' for violent protests

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Quim Torra says people trying to damage reputation of independence movement

    The Catalan president, Quim Torra, has condemned the violent protests that have erupted across the region this week but blamed the unrest on “infiltrators” seeking to undermine the peaceful image of the pro-independence movement.

    The violence, which began on Monday night after the Spanish supreme court jailed nine pro-independence leaders over their roles in the failed push for secession two years ago, escalated sharply on Wednesday night.

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    Chaos in Hong Kong chamber over violent attack on activist

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Carrie Lam abandons chamber again after lawmakers decry assault on protest leader

    The Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, has again been forced from the legislative chamber because of protests by opposition members after a violent attack on a leader of the nearly five-month-old protest movement.

    Pro-democracy lawmakers shouted and waved placards depicting Lam with bloodied hands, prompting their removal by guards and the suspension of proceedings.

    Related: Hong Kong leader forced to deliver key speech via video after protests

    (February 1, 2019) 

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    Extinction Rebellion activists disrupt London Underground

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Police attend incidents at Shadwell, Stratford and Canning Town during morning rush hour

    Activists from Extinction Rebellion have targeted rail and underground services in east London, with pictures on social media showing protesters sitting on trains during the morning rush hour.

    British Transport Police said they had responded to incidents at Shadwell, Stratford and Canning Town, near the Canary Wharf financial district, on Thursday.

    Extinction Rebellion begin their planned disruption of the tube on the Jubilee Line at Canning Town pic.twitter.com/oN8LDO1G0o

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    Extinction Rebellion arrests and the effectiveness of active nonviolence | Letters

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Symon Hill of the Peace Pledge Union on George Monbiot joining the hundreds of climate protesters arrested in recent days, and Rose Harvie on the importance of older people in demonstrations

    As George Monbiot highlights (Today, I aim to get arrested. It’s the only way to save the planet, 16 October), nonviolent civil disobedience has been a vital part of achieving political and social change. Examples in the UK range from votes for women to the rights of Welsh speakers. Progress comes from below, not from above.

    While some may be more critical of Extinction Rebellion than others, the police’s outrageous attempt to ban its protests in London is a reminder that active nonviolence disturbs the powerful and those who maintain the status quo. Extinction Rebellion is one of several major examples of nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action over the last year, including the school climate strikes and the resistance to the DSEI arms fair in London in September, which itself resulted in over 100 arrests.

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    UK: The Social Centre Bulletin. The Ups and Downs of the Cwtch

    House Occupation News -

    Eight years ago, near enough to the day, a handful of activists and homeless had some plans. The rain was chucking it down as we were stood outside our goal sizing the building up. It had been sitting empty for years, neglected and falling apart, a local icon left to fade. It was a suitable candidate for a pop up social centre, with a dozen large rooms, kitchen space, a welcoming atrium and, like I say, it was bloody pouring it down. Three of the crew would be sleeping on the streets that night, the city centre location was ideal and we were wet. So we jumped the gun. On finding a way in, we left out plans to the wayside and squatted the old Odeon cinema in Manchester and named it the “Cwtch Centre”.

    It would be our home for a few hours tho, as after a very exciting urban exploration we discovered that it was asbestos ridden. While we started to gather the crew together, the place echoed with the banging of the police on our fire escape entry. We informed them of our squatters rights, they smashed the huge steel doors out of their frame. I had to kick the doors open to eventually let them in and was greeted with a pistol in my face, several armed men from S019, a couple of TAU vans, dog unit and a night kip in Swindon police station.

    We had been armed with twenty minutes reading on squatting law and high spirits for establishing a pop up social centre in Manchester and our naivety was telling. It was an educational experience and one that I aimed to do better with next time.

    I’ve spent part of the past week sharing thoughts and advice with the squatters of Hamilton House in Chester, who, like the legends they are, having been turfed out of their makeshift home, moved onto another building. They’ve realised that there is absolutely no reason why anyone needs to be out on the streets in the rain and the cold and are taking action. Our cities are rife with abandoned commercial and industrial units and they are there for the taking. Their crew is held together by the protest campaign which they’ve put together, they want the Local Authority to do better by the Chester’s homeless, provide support and housing. Until then they are going to squat the lot.

    You should too.

    If you are on the streets, get yourself off them and squat an old unit. Heck, even if you have a house, if you are able to secure a roof for others, Do it. Those of us with the privilege of secure accommodation and resources are in a position where we can establish pop up social spaces with relative ease and let’s be honest, relative security. Most police forces will think very little about chucking a couple of rough sleepers out into the rain again, whether that’s from a tent or an old shop. A group of relatively privileged anarchos who know the law? Sometimes it’s a bit different.

    Taking us back to eight years ago, a small band of us did this very thing. The notion was simple a pop up social centre, in the heart of the city (Now Swansea) that would be an open and welcoming refuge for all who would need it. In the end we would establish four squatted social centres over a few months and here is a brief account of the ups and downs, shared with the hope that you will realise you can do it too (and better).

    The first thing we were going to need was a crew, so up went a Facebook post, a couple of friends given a nudge and a random time picked to meet in the pub. Over two meetings we put together a crew of near 30, with 5/8 people willing to spend a serious amount of time running the place. We ranged from 16 to 60 and came from across the political spectrum. As the crew came together, the vision developed and by the time we were gearing up to squat we had established that the “Cwtch Community Centre” would be a city central pop up social centre that would be open daily to provide a warm refuge and creative space. We would essentially be a free cafe and a port in the storm with a lean towards arts and rebellion.

    The first task would be to find and secure a building. I’m not getting too much into the art of squatting here but least to say, this time around we did our research. If you are planning a hit, do your research, read a squatting guide and scout places out. Over the course of a couple of weeks, we investigated every building in Central Swansea that fit our requirements for size and quality. A few of them required being a bit inventive to get access into, but there were dozens. I hadn’t realised it until I was looking but our cities or littered with such buildings. Once you get that squatters eye, you can’t help noticing the open windows, boards ripped off, doors left ajar etc.

    Eventually it came down to a few buildings: an old bingo hall, a Pizza hut and a old hotel. All three had open windows, the crew had a vote and we went for the The Dolphin Hotel; a vast building in the heart of the city. This kind of recon is vital, don’t just jump on the first opportunity. If you are planning to be there for a while, check it out first. If you have the means, look up who owns it, are they liable to be trouble? If it’s owned by some bank or the council (who tend to have lists of their “available” properties on their websites btw, you’re probably golden. Check for asbestos, do the electrics work, is is a shit hole? That kind of thing. Do a tally of what you’ll need to secure it, what kind of locks are on the doors? What’s the best way to remove and replace them?

    At six in the morning quite blazon we walked with our ladders down the main shopping street of Swansea, climbed up to the window and gained access. Bosh.

    For the crack we had broken ourselves to three teams.

    The cracking team were to go into the building armed with the gear to secure it and lock the building down. The very first task they had was to secure the front door, then move onto the fire escapes, roof access and, as the hotel sat above a bank of shops and a markets, they made sure to close any access. This team was composed of fit and healthy people who were steady and calm in their manner and experienced with a bit of DIY. They were also responsible for sticking up the Section 6 “squatting notices” on the window and mapping out the building.

    The second team, composed of warm and welcoming faces, set up a table out the front, prepared to offer a brew to anyone passing by and announce our presence. Being slap bang in the middle of the main shopping artery of Swansea we were never going to be clandestine – tho that’s well worth exploring depending on your location – so we decided to confront that by centring our most fierce volunteers. Three grans armed with a kettle and some cake.

    It was actually quite a few hours before the police even took note. We had deliberately chosen 6am on a Friday morning because we knew the police would be in a quiet lull after a busy night. In reality they hadn’t even noticed. Eventually however the councils rangers came along to see what the hell was happening outside the market and on seeing the situation called the police.

    This is where the third team came in. Erudite and educated in the law, the final crew were to be the legal face of the Cwtch crew. See, here’s the thing, the police do not know the laws around squatting, so you must. In Manchester, we were not only unsure in ourselves but we did not engage the police in a dialogue they could work with, and the results were telling. In Swansea, the moment they turned up two of us, plus someone with a camera approached them and politely informed them that the building was now being occupied by “The Cwtch Community”. We told them our size (inflated) and composition (so they didn’t think it was simply a bunch of young lads they could get away with smacking up) and informed them of the law. We handed them a section six notice as well as a print out of the government regulations themselves. We walked them around to the window we had used for entry, told them the time we entered, showed them video of our entry and informed them which CCTV cameras we had waved at as we entered.

    They requested entry “for safety purposes” which we kindly declined. If we gave them entry, and they then refused to leave, we would be scuppered. Instead, we told them to come back tomorrow when we open to the public. Left with the optics of barging past some folk handing out free tea to smash down a door and violently eject some peaceful, legally savvy occupiers and coming back the next day having had time to assess the situation they chose to declare it a civil matter and go home.

    Meanwhile, the first team had taken to making sure the fuse box was safe and getting the electrics running. They also gave a business-like call to the water company and informed them that there were now families in residence. They were out by the end of the day to switch us back on.

    The cards were now in our hands.

    (I’m sure many of our Squatting comrades are pretty horrified at that methodology and such blazon tactics are HIGHLY subject to the kind of crew you have. A city over in Cardiff, The Red and Black Umbrella was taken some time before, and they made no such allowances and were very successful at providing a community hub. They however were composed of healthy young renegades with a lot of experience is causing trouble, their situation was different and the folks in that position today around the country don’t need so vague guide on a website to tell them how to get on it.)

    We opened up the next morning at 9am, a free cafe in the heart of town. When to police rocked up expecting resistance we handed them a cup of tea and invited them inside. This was a massive gambit and only possible due to out perceived privilege set and passive manner. We chose to present them with a timeline and tick their boxes. As their inspection finished, the conveniently timed journalists began arriving. They said they would be back and left us too it. Over the next few days, they would return with various support, first it was the fire brigade who told us they would shut us down the next day if the building wasn’t fire safe, so we drew an evacuation plan, fix the smoke detectors and had a friendly spark connect up the fire alarm system. Then it was the council, concerned about the water system. So we organised the delivery of barrels of drinking water from a nearby small holding each day. Then they gave up.

    During this time we set about doing the good work of a social centre. Through the day, we provided a safe refugee for anyone and everyone equally. Whether you were a sex worker looking for a break or just out grabbing your bits, homeless and looking for warmth or a busker after a break, we had a free cup of tea and some grub waiting for you. In the evenings we hosted small classes, open mic nights and general spent the time winding down.

    This wind down time is vital. Running a social centre is hard work and a squatted one even more so. The pressure tends to mount on a hand full of people and it can boil over. Personality conflicts can happen and peoples energy waxes and wanes. The best fix for this is a mixture of casual meetings to share responsibilities and crew stepping away and taking down time. We took a bit to long working out the rhythm of “day time rules” and “night time rules” and had the odd bit of drama but that’s all part of life, nothing is perfect and you shouldn’t expect your political actions to be either. Just approach it with an attitude of mutual aid and compromise and you’ll be alright. Try to make every discussion and tiff a progressive one, always looking for the way forward. Can’t say we always managed this, but it’s still the best protocol to have.

    You have to ask yourself “What is the aim of this space?”. Our initial place was to simply have a free cafe and a community arts space more than anything. What we actually became was a safe refuge for the cities forgotten. This went from people trapped in substance misuse to lonely older people, “feral youth”, to those isolated by mental health issue. We decided to do our best to adapt of provide the space the city required rather than arrogantly pursue our somewhat whimsical intentions.

    Instead of arts space, we forced of soft furnishings and day time events. Instead of stirring up an some rebellion, we provided support and advice. We began a safe space for people who had never heard the concept and a conduit between themselves and services they did not know exist. This isn’t to say we were a success on all grounds. Our internal politics were torn between those who were dedicating vast portions of their time and those who only turned up for the odd meeting. Their was informal authorities building up and difficulties in keeping collective unity. This ranged from silly things like policing decisions not to smoke or drink in the building as per the collectives decision up to quite serious failings such as having a vast hotel available and not letting people outside the collective use it. This being a compromise between the council’s concerns over “fire safety” and the wider collective who felt keeping the communal space not worth risking. The result being that we only ever used a very small portion of the space.

    As the legal challenge to our stay, we attempted to turn the issue to forcing the local council to provide a community hub. We invited them to a meeting, which they refused to attend. We sent in several requests and even a formal application at one point, to no response. This was a Labour council which promotes itself on being “progressive” and very modern. Like the rest, they are in the hands of the corporations and their political parties. If I learnt anything during that time it’s that you cannot trust the council. No matter the platitudes, they are not going to help you or support you in any way. Their support only comes when they can politically profit from you and it is locked behind red tape and bureaucracy that will never be accessible to most. Our communities can only rely on ourselves.

    We eventually had our day in court and were given an eviction order.
    Very shortly after we had squatted other two buildings.

    The first was a local Pizza Hut, which we did on request of an individual member who wanted to branch out. The second one was JP Morgan which sat opposite the Magistrates’ Court and the Central Police station. Splitting like this was a massive error. The former very quickly became a residential squat and tho it stuck around for few months, it was quickly put into tension with the latter which remained “Cwtch” due to the fact that it was a much better suited building and free of the collective manner and social justice motive was, frankly, more fun. JP Morgan was a vast and empty shell of a building which we did not recon enough.

    The owners of JP Morgan said they were about to make a deal with the building, so we agreed a three week time line with them and made it a holding space and, for a spell, an art gallery. With escalating personal drama and tension, we needed a fix. The core group took an executive decision to take a fourth building.

    An abandoned care home on the edge of the central area named Earlsmore.

    We squatted this with the support of more practised comrades and did so very efficiently. When the private security turned up, all irate, they were met with two reasonable capable lads who knew their law. The police told the security that they were not even going to bother coming as we had a proven track record of keeping it above board.

    The place was, quite frankly, perfect.
    We renamed it Serfsmore.

    If I have an ideal building for a social space it is this.

    Three points of entry, one into a secluded back yard, the other heavily secured and the third we used as it had a “air lock” between two lockable doors. The building had a dozen separate rooms, a kitchen space, multiple bathrooms, two large rooms, and multiple storage space. It was in great condition and the corporation that owned it had just stepped back from re-development because they local community didn’t want it changing into a block of flats. It had roof access, it’s own off-road parking and, notable, was small enough to manage efficiently. If I can suggest any venue for a social centre it would be abandoned care homes, seconded by things like doctors offices and older style pubs, both of which I’ve seen done with great success.

    Sadly success wasn’t in our cards. One third of the initial crew was now hanging around the Pizza Hut just getting on with life, another third had been burnt out by the high pace of activity and the reality of Winter concluding meant there was less “social imperative” to provide such a space. Half dozen of us had the ideal space and nowhere to take it. We held it for a couple of weeks, one night we had to leave it empty due to duties elsewhere and low numbers and the next day we had found that someone else had gotten in. We could have stayed but after a few months, we needed a bit of kip.

    If I was in a position to do it again, it would have been Serfsmore in the first place, while the energy was high. We discounted it because we felt it lacked footfall and would anyone come? The answer it YES!, provided you ain’t out up in the sticks, people will wander a bit for events and the like at their local social centre. You don’t need to be slap bang in the thick of it where the local plod and busy bods in the council a going to have conniptions.

    So anyways, that’s the ups and downs of a pop up social centre. We made plenty of mistakes sure, however, I still bump into people at demos who tell me it is the first place they encounters notions like Anarchism, where they realised they CAN take action and do things. I know on the back off it there were three residential squats in the city and at least four people managed to use the time to get themselves together and off the streets, one of whom told me “It was the first time in months anyone cared about what happened to me”, which, heck, isn’t that the entire point of these things? We live in a society with thousands of people stuck in a most horrific cycle. It can happen so quickly and take so much of who you are away over just a few nights. It’s October, The rain has already been coming down hard and we’re looking to have a cruel and brutal winter. If you have the politics, passion and capacity, now is the time to start thinking about what you can do in solidarity.

    I would spend a long time looking to groups like Streets Kitchen who have done some blinding actions in London and maintain several hubs for support and grub at the moment. Setting up a space, whether it’s to be a social centre, bunkhouse of hub for rebellion is one of the most difficult and rewarding tasks an Anarchist can take on. Don’t wait until the snow is two foot thick to plot and plan, and heck, don’t wait for the snow at all. The abuses of the city are not seasonal and whether your focus is on providing respite for the downtrodden or provided a hub for your community, anytime is a good time.

    You are going to fuck up at times but keep cracking on.
    These spaces are vital for our communities and those who operate them, whether temporary or permanent show some of the best praxis you’ll find. The Cwtch Community were at the end of the day, a pretty naive bunch of folk with Anarchistic tendencies but what we did shook up the conversation in Swansea for quite some time and it set quite a few people off on journeys that would forever change them, friendships were built and ideas exchanges and quite frankly every city should have such places.

    Only you can make it happen.

    Looking for a bit of inspiration tho?

    The Social Centres Network is having a gathering in Liverpool next month on the 2nd and 3rd at Next to Nowhere. The SCN provide a conduit which Social Centres use to liaise and develop the wider community, pooling resources and having a shared voice.

    If you have interest in getting you and yours together and setting up such a space whether short lived or eternal it is well worth giving them a nudge and perhaps heading along to Liverpool to share your thoughts and get some advice.

    Finally, we have The 1 in 12 in Bradford, who has been kicking ass and chewing bubblegum since 1981 has a few days left of their Fundraiser which is currently falling somewhat short of the mark. Their gaff is in need of extensive work to repair, maintain & upgrade the facilities in order to keep their doors open. It’s looking like a £12,000 bill and so far it’s just under £3.400. Given that they host so many fundraisers, benefit events and heck even the recent radical bookfair it would be nice to see some solidarity back! So do them a solid and share it around with your networks and social media pages etc. If a thousand people slipped then a cheeky tenner they’d be laughing.

    Here is a link to their fundraiser on chuffed.

    I recon we’re looking at a Bulletin every couple of months at the moment so expect the next one in December heavy seasonal cheer powered by home-brew mulled wine.

    Peter Ó Máille

    Social Centre Network https://socialcentrenetwork.weebly.com/

    Groups in UK: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/GB
    Events in UK: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/GB

    https://freedomnews.org.uk/the-social-centre-bulletin-the-ups-and-downs-of-the-cwtch/

    Extinction Rebellion lawyers apply for judicial review over protest ban

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Request for expedited hearing comes after Metropolitan police impose section 14 order

    Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion have filed an urgent application for a judicial review hearing at the high court in London, as the number of arrests in 10 days of demonstrations rose to 1,642 with 133 charged.

    The request was filed at the royal courts of justice on the Strand just after 10am on Wednesday. It comes after the Metropolitan police imposed a section 14 order on Monday night, in effect banning all protest by XR in the capital.

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    'It's barbarity': clashes in Barcelona after Catalan separatists sentenced – video

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Police and protesters clashed in Barcelona and other Catalonia towns on Tuesday over the jail sentences handed to nine Catalan separatist leaders. A peaceful candlelit protest outside the offices of the Spanish government in Barcelona escalated and the central government warned that violent demonstrations would be met with a ‘firm, proportional and united’ response

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    Police clash with Catalonia protesters in second night of violence

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Spanish government warns of ‘firm response’ to pro-independence unrest

    The Spanish government has warned that violent protests in Catalonia will be met with a “firm, proportional and united” response after the jailing of nine pro-independence leaders triggered a second night of unrest in the region.

    In Barcelona, peaceful, planned demonstrations erupted into running battles with the police on Tuesday.

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    Why China fears sending the tanks into Hong Kong | Howard W French

    The Guardian | Protest -

    A crackdown could alienate the mainland’s middle class and damage Xi Jinping’s standing

    Two decades ago, many scholars began predicting that as China’s creation of wealth continued to speed ahead, the country would cross a threshold. Once a substantial new middle class had been created, they reasoned, politics would tip decisively in a more participatory, possibly even democratic, direction.

    But while robust economic growth continued, the first decade of this century came and went with no severe challenge to China’s authoritarian model. And under China’s present leader, Xi Jinping, who took office in 2013, it has only become more entrenched: last year he changed the longstanding rules of succession to allow himself to remain in charge for life.

    (February 1, 2019) 

    Related: Hong Kong: Carrie Lam hints at further measures to suppress protests

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    Today, I aim to get arrested. It is the only real power climate protesters have | George Monbiot

    The Guardian | Protest -

    By putting our bodies on the line and risking our liberty, we make this great neglected issue impossible to ignore

    A few hours after this column is published, I hope to be in a police cell. I don’t yet know what the charge will be, where I will be arrested or when, but I know that if I go home this evening without feeling the hand of the law on my sleeve, I will have failed. This may sound like a strange ambition, but I believe it is a reasonable one.

    Related: The climate revolution must be accessible – this fight belongs to disabled people too | Hannah Dines

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    Barcelona hit by more unrest over sentencing of Catalan separatists

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Police and protesters clash in city centre, as well as other Catalonia towns

    Clashes between protesters and police erupted in Barcelona late on Tuesday after peaceful demonstrations over the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders descended into running battles.

    Protesters lit fires and erected makeshift barricades in the centre of the city before the crowd was dispersed by baton charges by Spanish and Catalan police, as far as Passeig de Gràcia, the elegant boulevard that is home to many of the city’s most exclusive shops and hotels.

    Despite the long sentences handed down by the supreme court on 14 October, some of the nine leaders convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds could soon be eligible to apply for “semi-liberty”, allowing them out of prison on a regular basis.

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    'It doesn't have to be scary': veteran protesters on Extinction Rebellion and getting arrested

    The Guardian | Protest -

    The best advice for nonviolent climate protesters under arrest? Stay calm, know your rights and bring ear plugs

    It’s hard to keep track of how many people have been arrested in the past year at climate rallies. In the past week alone, more than 200 people have been arrested at Extinction Rebellion rallies in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

    If you get arrested at a rally, what do you do? Police powers differ slightly across the states and territories. Policing styles, rally permits, laws of assembly, and the names of charges vary. But broadly, the process of getting arrested across Australia is fairly similar.

    Related: Parliamentarians deserve our wrath for 30 years of inaction, not climate protesters | Greg Jericho

    Related: Extinction Rebellion: who are the protesters, and why are they doing it?

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    'To do nothing is criminal': XR activists on defying the police

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Extinction Rebellion gatherings are continuing despite a police ban. Five activists explain why

    Extinction Rebellion activists have defied a London-wide ban on protests to demonstrate for a second week as they continue to call for action on climate change. The environmental pressure group, which described the ban as a “disproportionate and unprecedented attempt to curtail peaceful protest”, said its lawyers had sent the Metropolitan police a letter threatening legal action. On Tuesday, the group protested at the Department for Transport, had a spontaneous gathering in Trafalgar Square, and demonstrated at Millbank Tower. Five protesters have told the Guardian why they have defied the ban and continued demonstrating.

    I have superglued myself to the bottom of the caravan because I am deeply concerned at governments’ complete lack of appropriate action on the very obvious climate emergency that all life on Earth is currently facing.

    I am here to highlight the real threat of food insecurity. I can’t tell you how many other places I’d rather be, but I don’t feel I have any choice.

    The UK group of Extinction Rebellion has three core demands:

    I have been protesting with Extinction Rebellion since last August. I came out as a response to what’s happening, but as well as climate justice, this is about civil liberties. The state is going in the direction of over-policing and taking away our liberties. That is why I’m out here, because banning people in London from protesting and searching people with XR badges is a bad direction for us to be heading in.

    I’m not scared of being arrested. I got arrested on Monday and was held on remand for 16 hours. It was OK. There were lots of singing and meditation.

    As the environmental system breaks down, food and the supply of food is going to become an issue. Something needed to be done 20 years ago, but that’s why we are here.

    We’re starting to understand the interconnectedness of the planet and the laws of physics and numbers which we are playing with. We can’t live on credit. We’ll meet a crunch. It won’t just be the people in the global south or marginalised people. We can see it’s not an isolated event. It is a global phenomenon.

    I’m here for my kids and for everyone else’s kids and the kids who haven’t been born yet.

    It’s a relief to be able to do something. Brexit is such a black hole and really painful, but this is a chance to come together to do something constructive and align ourselves with reality.

    I’ve been thinking about climate change for a long time and the severity of it didn’t hit. There was the feeling of the powerlessness and no one doing anything about it.

    Protesting doesn’t make me feel more hopeful as such, but it makes me feel like I couldn’t be anywhere else. There is a duty to make some agency and do it. To do nothing is criminal. I turned down a master’s place this month because I couldn’t sit in a classroom.

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    How older people became the heroes of Extinction Rebellion

    The Guardian | Protest -

    It is a generation that contains veterans of Greenham, the miners’ strike and the poll tax and anti-Iraq war protests – and, with no need to worry about damaged CVs, they are perfect ‘arrestables’

    Protest hits its mark when campaigners look as ordinary as possible, such as the platoons of grandparents swelling the ranks of Extinction Rebellion. Cameras seek out the picturesque – the luminously dreadlocked, tie-dyed stereotype. Although few and far between, they let the rightwing press dismiss the whole huge global uprising as “not people like us”.

    But anyone who was on Saturday’s London march or joined this week’s protests has seen how the great majority are unphotogenic “normals” of all ages, with battalions of those well past retirement. Nor are there many of the usual bothersome far-left groupuscules trying to hijack a mighty, mainstream event.

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