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Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Issue 145, Friday 28th November 1997
GRANARCHY IN THE UK!"Most of our members are very angry. We have a lot of experience and we've learnt a lot about civil disobedience and one thing and another over the years - we've been in unions, working in different campaigns. We don't want to go and stand in Hyde Park and talk, because nobody takes any notice. We're involved in actions now because direct action is the only way to get anywhere."
- Chris Frith, Pensioners' Rights Campaign
Pensioners involved in the 3,000 strong Pensioners' Rights Campaign have been involved in direct action across the country demanding decent pensions and an end to discrimination against older people. Just before the election 30 of them in Leicester stopped city centre traffic for more than an hour. The have blockaded a television centre, forcing the TV station to give them air-time and most recently they blockaded the Humber Bridge, the biggest single-span construction in the world.
Chris Frith told SchNEWS what happened: "We wanted to draw attention to the erosion of pensions and get more people to join us, blockade the bridge. Seven of us met up one morning, and thought `Is it worth it?' and then we thought "What the hell, we're here, why not try it. We just stood in the road with our placards and stopped everything for half an hour, holding the bridge, getting a massive traffic build up, and then we left We got some harassment."
One of the bridge staff pointed me out to a van driver and said, `Go on, run the bugger down.' The driver stopped when I got on my knees in front of his van.
"We want pensioners to have enough money to allow them to live in reasonable comfort and security without having to suffer the indignity of means testing." Pensions used to be tied to the average national wage but this link was broken in 1980 and since then the single pension has fallen to a fifth of average male earnings. The current state pension, on which a half of pensioners depend for at least 3/4 of their income, is £62.45 for a single person and £99.80 for a couple. If the link with wages had not been broken single pensioners would be more than £20 and couples more than £30, better off per week. The fact that Labour can announce this week that they are giving pensioner households between £20 and £50 per year shows just how little is on offer to pensioners from politicians of all parties.
The growth of middle class consumer culture has not been kind to most older people. Increasing numbers of out-of-town hypermarkets at the expense of local shops have meant real suffering for many pensioners. "Most pensioners don't have cars for a start. We have to buy small amounts of food, and supermarkets don't cater for that."
The Pensioners' Rights Campaign is currently involved in planning an action in early December demanding an upgrade of the £10 Xmas bonus given to pensioners. This bonus was brought in in 1971 and has not been upgraded since. If it was indexed in line with wages it would now be worth £115.45 - but for politicians so keen not to tax the rich, keeping pensioners warm in winter is not a high priority. Details of the protest are being kept under wraps for now, but SchNEWS will keep you up to date.
"Since we blockaded the Humber Bridge we've had enquiries from all over the country from pensioners wanting to get involved. We're starting new groups in Doncaster and Barnsley soon. We know that unity is important and we'd love to co-operate with other groups. One thing we'd like to do is block three or four places like the Mersey Tunnel all at once."
Don't be Shy - Occupy!As SchNEWS went to press students at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) were in their 7th day of occupying their library. They have been keeping it open 24 hrs a day in protest about the lack of open access to the University of London library and general lack of funding for Higher education. SOAS is part of the University of London, but they are not allowed to use the library, unless they have a special ticket. However last year, SOAS management only bought 682 tickets for 2000 students, so the majority cannot use it unless they cough up £80 from their own pockets.
The School's director, Tim Lankester (who used to be the top civil servant at the Dept for Education) has refused to supply all students with tickets, and has only offered another 150 tickets (with maybe 300 more if there is enough demand). Since the occupation began management have shut down the computer lending system, so no books can be issued out, switched off photocopy machines, and took the occupiers to Court.
On Thursday, the day after nearly 10,000 students had a rather dull march through London to protest against the introduction of tuition fees, SOAS students decided by a majority of 2 to 1 to continue occupying their library indefinitely until management agreed to their demands. Bailiffs could come at any moment, but University workers have pledged to stand between them and the students if they turn up. Other students are being encouraged to "do it the French way", and come out and occupy in solidarity to fight against Labour selling out on its election promise of making education a priority.
For more info contact the SOAS Student Union on 0171 580 0916, or the Committee for the Continuation of Occupations c/o Sussex Uni Student Union pigeon holes, Falmer House, Sussex University, Falmer, Brighton BN9
Crap Arrests of the Week
Gandalf UpdateThe campaign to free the three editors of Green Anarchist (see SchNEWS 143) gathers momentum. They were given three years apiece for `conspiracy to incite criminal damage' - purely for reporting about direct action. As the news of the trial verdicts has rebounded around the world, disbelief has sharply turned in to action, and world-wide solidarity has burgeoned. Index on Censorship, more used to focusing on repression in far-off regimes, has instigated a co-ordinated Internet response, asking groups to re-publish on their web pages the offending paragraphs from GA that were central to the prosecution case. So far six groups around the world have done so, and the number is rising... The police in their urge to clamp-down, may find that they have once again shot themselves in the foot, as more and more people adopt the attitude: if anyone is guilty, we all are! The McLibel Support Campaign and London Greenpeace have organised a public meeting on Wed. 17th Dec. at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC2 (Holborn tube) 7pm to discuss "where do we go from here?"
SEND LETTERS OF SUPPORT:Saxon Burchnall-Wood CK4322, Steve Booth CK4323, Noel Molland CK4321
HMP Winchester, Romsey Rd., Winchester, SO22
KangaroosIn a bizarre but related development, nine people were nicked last Thursday after taking part in a trolley run at Sainsbury's to protest at the company stocking `exotic' meat. They were hauled in for criminal damage after allegedly spoiling meat with household bleach and children's lollipops! They were all held for 18 + hours and six had their homes raided. One young hunt sab - a student with no previous, had her bedroom searched by six cops, one with a video camera, removing such inflammatory items as SchNEWS and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Police zeal could be explained by the involvement of Paul Rogers, the editor of Green Anarchist (GA) severed from the Gandalf Trial. While in the cell, he chanced to overhear the coppers discussing possible charges of ....conspiracy. Paul commented "These latest raids by Hampshire cops are just a fishing expedition for ARNI (the Animal Rights National Index ) and a further attempt to intimidate GA."
SchNEWS in Brief
New Deal for DolitesUnemployed and under 25? Single parent? Been on the dole for two years or more....well, we suggest you get along to the Hobgoblin Pub on London Rd, Brighton next Monday (1st December) for the low down on the New Labours Welfare to Work. There's gonna be a mass picket outside the Brighthelm Centre in North Road on Saturday 6th December. It's been organised by Brighton Against the Job Seekers Allowance who are targeting the Brighthelm because of their enthusiastic support of Project Work.
Dockers Christmas FundChristmas is approaching once again, and what better at this time of Yule-tide good cheer than to send a donation to the sacked Liverpool Dockers and Hillingdon Hospital Strikers (See SchNEWS 136). Call the Hillingdon Strikers Hotline on 0956 135311, and the Dockers Donor Line on 0151 207 3388.
A Picket and Rally takes place on Saturday 6th December - meet 11am Philips Road, Blackburn - to protest at PolyGram's policy of casualisation. Last year they ditched 550 workers in favour of £3-an-hour-labour despite sales of nearly £3 billion. M&S Packaging, the company who now pack CD's for PolyGram, expect employees, including pregnant women, to stand throughout 12-hour shifts, day or night, and put up with owners' dogs messing in their canteen. Nigel Cook has been sacked, at PolyGram's request, for protesting at these conditions and will be speaking at the rally, along with: Liverpool Dockers, Hillingdon Strikers, TGWU and the Revolutionary Communist Group.
Garden Tree PartyThere's a BIG shout going out for more climbers (but no lunch outs or kettle watchers) to help save 76 poplar trees in Canbury Gardens, Kingston-upon-Thames. Permission has been given by the Liberal Democrat Council so that the residents of plush new housing development can get a better view of the river! The brochure plugging the high-class flats presumptuously cites the river view as a selling point, even before the fellings have happened. Possible eviction on the horizon... Call the camp mobile 0378 498257.
The + FilesIn Bath, the UK's first Farmers' Markets have gone down a storm. Local farmers and producers who brought in goods have almost sold out by the afternoon. There is another of these community markets taking place on Saturday 13th December @ Green Park Station, Bath.
and finallyAnglo-French Relations Award of the Week goes to Antoine Hurel, chief executive of Connex Trains. Bemoaning the recent spate of late trains due to `leaves on the track' he complained about our country's irrational love of trees, and thundered "Is it so important, this attachment to trees, that we take the risk of delaying every year so many passengers? There are too many trees."
disclaimerdisclaimer: The SchNEWS warns all readers to grow old gracefully, sit passively in nursing homes, playing whist and having bed baths. Be thankful for your ever vanishing pension, and while away your final days safe in the knowledge that all your hard work and cash has gone to funding tax cuts for the rich. Then you will feel grey. Honest.
Sorry for the delay in sending out the Inspector Bailey vs Free Speech Radio 5 tapes - 100s of requests!
SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 2DX, England
Last updated 5 December 1997
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