Previous | SchNEWS 177 | Next | Index | PDF
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Issue 177, Friday 24th July 1998
Penn Wood near High Wycombe is the largest ancient woodland in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natrual Beauty, believed to have been in existence since the last ice age.
The public aren't welcome despite it once being common land, but a proposed golf course is, if developers GBS Estates get their way. Planning permission has been applied for before - and refused, but GBS have been deliberately 'un-managing' the woods in the hope that it will lose any special status. If the golf course plan falls through, the woods could still be sold off piecemeal, and will be lost forever. Penn Woods is just one example. The 'Keep Out' sign could be anywhere in the UK, and the threat of development just as real.
And that was just the beginning: the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and the parliamentary victory in the Civil War saw more and more land 'sold off' to 'professionals'- the ancestors of the landed gentry of today- and more and more 'little people' left landless. The 145 years preceding the General Enclosure Act of 1845 saw over 8000 enclosures covering 14 million acres. And when the land ends up in the hands of those who see it as a commodity, then in the name of 'efficiency' and the profit motive little things like the diversity of nature and freedom of access end up as just two more sacrifices on the altar of progress. And Penn Wood- is, again, just one more example.
But this tragic history did not, of course, go unopposed.: the peasants have always been revolting! The 'Ketts Men Revolt'-when 20,000 captured Norwich Castle in 1543, a month of sustained rioting in Northamptonshire in 1607 and- most famously- the 'Diggers' Revolt' of 1643 are just a few examples of literally hundreds of riots, revolts and insurrections that occured in response to Enclosure in the 16th and 17th centuries. And the recent upsurge of Direct Action in defence of Our Land in the past decade is simply the continuation of this noble tradition. Penn Woods MAY have a chance- the Woodland Trust, an organisation aiming to buy up threatened ancient woodland (it already owns 900 woods - 40,000 acres) - is desperately trying to raise money to save Penn Woods. Other places, without our actions, may not be so lucky...
"Stop letting these townie buggers grind us down!"
Earlier this year the Countryside Alliance organised a march in London to show not just their opposition to a bill that would have banned hunting, but to tell us townies that we just don't understand their country ways and we should let them get on with it. The CA is an 'alliance'orchestrated by rich and powerful -landowners-with their minions and employees 'encouraged' to join up. According to Friends of the Earth, the major threats to the countryside come not from 'townies, but developers, agribusiness, multinationals and large landowners, with the Alliance opposing any green policies that would help safeguard the countryside. It is the powerful landed gentry who are really at war with the land, decimating ecology in pursuit of a fast buck and denying people their birthright. From organic farmers worried about contamination by genetically engineered food, to greenbelt housing, to the right to roam on the land, to having to ask permission just to dance in a bloody field all night in a countryside full of Keep Out Signs, the message is becoming clear: The townies are shouting.
The Woodland Trust aims to raise £1 million to buy Penn Wood and put 'Welcome' signs at the entrance. Contact them at Autumn Park, Grantham, Lincs. NG31 6LL, or phone Penn Woods campaign organiser James Underhill on 01797 344794.
The Countryside Protection Group aims to provide a focus for those who live in the countryside but do not support hunting: The Countryside Protection Group, Oakleigh House, Oakleigh Court, Newbury,Gillingham, Dorset SP8 4HZ Confidential Helpline 01747 826633
The Land Is Ours - a landrights movement for Britain 111 Magdalen Rd., Oxford, OX4 1RQ 01865 722016 Web: www.oneworld.org/tlio
Mass Trespass on the South Downs Sunday August 2nd and 23rd. Meet Brighton Station 12pm, bring picnic, and there'll be an overnite camp for the intrepid (bring tent etc.) 01273 685913- also, stewards urgently needed!!
Read Chris Baines 'How To Start A Wildlife Garden'. So much of our countryside is now a green desert, that those of us with gardens should look at ways of encouraging wildlife into them
Natty Trust Gathering 1 - 28 August Experiemtn in low impact living with permaculture courses + lots more Community Base, 113-7 Queens Rd., Brighton BN1 3XG 01273 234035
Mark Thomas, whose Channel 4 Programme publicised this and have produced a list of sites, recently visited, (along with 100 'The Land is Ours'ers), Lady Lucy Phillips's 1500 acre estate nr Luton. To find out how you too can 'go a' wandering' in the countryside some rich bastard's ancestors squatted, write to 'The Lie of the Land', PO Box 4000, London, W12 8UF £1.00 or check out www.channel4.com/news/dispatches/crack.html
- Doreen Lawrence
Last week SchNEWS spent an afternoon at the public inquiry into the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, killed five years ago by racists. In a packed room we listened to Mike Mansfield QC making mincemeat of senior police officers.From day one, five racist scum bags: Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight, have been accused of stabbing Stephen Lawrence as he waited for a bus at Eltham, SE London. But none have ever spent a day behind bars. Later SchNEWS spoke to Barry Anthony, involved in the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign. He told us of an unbelievable catalogue of police racism, incompetence and corruption.
SchNEWS: Can you tell us about the previous private prosecution?
Barry: The Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute the five for the murder of Stephen because they said that they didn't have enough evidence, so Doreen and Neville Lawrence decided to go for a private prosecution, which was unprecedented at the time. The decision was a huge risk, as - had they lost - they would have had to have paid all the court costs. So a campaign was organised in order to raise money, should the prosecution fail. Neil Acourt, Dobson and Knight, were brought to the Old Bailey for private prosecution. Although this failed, the Judge refused to award costs against the Lawrence s because of the dignified manner in which they behaved. The prosecution only failed because of a lack of witnesses. Many local people came forward with information about the suspects, but were scared of recriminations. The Lawrence's had to rely on a secret video taken of the five accused, where they don't admit to killing Stephen Lawrence, but talk of every nigga being cut up, tortured, burnt alive. Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen at the time of his murder, was deemed an unreliable witness. This was originally because he was seen as anti-police, but then the police said he was in danger and needed police protection. However, the officer they assigned for protection was the same copper who had been seen drinking on three occasions with the father of David Norris - one of the accused! Clifford Norris is a big time gangsta, currently serving eight years for drugs and arms, suspected of at least murder with a reputation of jury nobbling and intimidation of witnesses. Duwayne had a breakdown, didn't give proper evidence, and so the case was thrown out. Duwayne wasn't even able to come to the inquiry - instead giving written evidence as he is so distraught by the case.
"I reckon that every nigger should be chopped up, Mate, and they should be
left with nothing but fucking stumps."
Sch: So this led to the Public Inquiry?
B: When Jack Straw became the new Home Secretary, he had to be seen to act on the Stephen Lawrence case, as it was so high profile. It was supposed to run something like a public relations exercise - I'm sure he never dreamed this crap would come out. Even if you're a police supporter the inquiry has shown constant police incompetence - it's like something out of the Keystone Cops.
Sch: Can you give us any examples of police incompetence?
B: When Stephen was stabbed he didn't die instantly. When the police arrived he was still alive, the officers had first aid kits in their car but didn't use them to stop the bleeding. In their evidence to the inquiry they said they were not sure whether it was a stabbing or a neck injury. However on cross-examination, the defence revealed through radio records that the police knew it was a stabbing! Over 24 hours several witnesses gave the names of the killers responsible for Stephen's death, but the police didn't arrest anyone for two weeks. At the inquiry a senior copper said they could not make any arrests unless they had evidence. Mike Mansfield and legal expertssaid this wasn't true - you can make arrests on suspicion. Then this senior officer who had been in the force for 30 odd years claimed he had no idea of these powers
The police carried out surveillance on the suspects house. During the surveillance they missed someone leaving the house with what appeared to be clothes covered in black plastic. The next day Neil Acourt was captured on film taking out a black bin bag. The police had no phone to call for back up, and so no one checked what was in their bags.
One of the witnesses who wouldn't give his name told the police who stabbed Stephen, gave a description of the knife and said it was hidden underneath their floorboards. The cops went to search the house but didn't look underneath the floorboards. At the inquiry more than one officer said that the carpets were so immaculate and the place so well decorated they didn't want to disrupt by tearing up the carpets! Can you imagine if someone said to the police that their were drugs under the floorboards in your house, whether they would worry about your carpets?
At one point Doreen gave the names of a couple of the boys that she d heard had murdered Stephen. She handed it to a copper who said thank you but when he thought she wasn't looking screwed the piece of paper up into a ball.
Sch: What about this wall of silence the police said they faced?
B: This was the main argument the police gave in their defence for doing nothing, that no one in the white community wanted to talk, but that has now been proven to be rubbish. So many people gave names, but were too scared to give evidence in court. People were scared 'cos David Norris dad is a big time gangster, two of the other boys Neil And Jamie Arcourt call themselves the Krays. In fact Reggie Kray wrote a letter from prison to Doreen saying these guys were nothing to do with him, and that he supported the Lawrences!
Sch: Why has this campaign been so successful? There have been lots of Black deaths in custody but the protests and anger seem to fade away after a while
B: A lot of it comes down to Doreen and Neville Lawrence. A lot of the families I work with who want to fight back are determined and they want justice, but after a couple of years they 've had enough, and they want to get on with their life's. The difference with the Lawrence s is they have never taken no for an answer, and had a few lucky breaks. Neville is a painter and decorator and on the Monday after Stephen's death rang the house he was supposed to be decorating, and told them he couldn't come in because his son had been killed in a racist attack. Well, it happened to be home of the editor of the Independent on Sunday who ran a sympathetic article which the rest of the press then picked up. Two weeks after the death, with still no one arrested despite all the police leads, Nelson Mandela came to visit Britain, heard about a black death and visited the Lawrence's (the police eventually made arrests 45 minutes after the visit of Mandela!)
Sch: Do you think the Lawrence family think the struggle to get this far has been worth it?
B: I think they do think it s been worth it but they know five guys got away with murder and they've pretty much given up them doing any time, so in that sense its never gonna bring their son back, they are never gonna get justice. But they've always said that the police are just as responsible as the killers, because if the police had done their job, the killers would have been behind bars years ago. They wanted to expose how the police fucked it up - and the inquiry has shown their incompetence racism and how they treat people. I can't say they are happy about it, but they feel it's been worth it. What they really want to see is discipline or sacking on the main coppers responsible, but even that's hard because they've all been given early retirement or sick pensions. The way Neville sees it, he's a decorator, if he doesn't do his work properly then he doesn't get paid. It should be the same for these police - they should get sacked without payoffs. They also wanted to make sure everyone knows who those five racists are. Even though they came to the inquiry and avoided all lines of questioning, by the end everyone knew that they were the ones who killed Stephen. What is pleasing is for years of walking round black people having to look over their shoulders, now its their turn to look over their shoulders. Everyone knows their faces.
Sch: What about the wider implications? Do you think this case will inspire other black people to stand up to this shit?
B: I think more people are willing to make noise about things now. It nearly kicked off at the inquiry the other day. Everyone who had been throwing bottles at the racists started throwing bottles at the police, because they'd heard over the last 50 days how racist the police are. In recent years, especially in the black community, there has been a lot of focus on police racism and corruption. People don't dwell on it usually, but this time the inquiry has brought attention back to the real issues. Maybe next time people hear about a death in police custody - like with Joy Gardner, people won't say "wasn't she an illegal immigrant" or wasn't she violent". People will say fucking hell - the police murdered her
Sch: How unusual was the Met Police's public apology?
B: Unprecedented. And by the way - the Lawrence's told them where to stick their apology. The families attitude is that this apology isn't worth anything. It's about action. What they gonna do about it?
Sch: At the inquiry Mrs Lawrence talked about the police treating them like "Gullible Simpletons", "Irritants", or "Criminals rather than victims because they were black"
B: One disputed thing that has come out of this inquiry is that police thought 'black guy stabbed, must be some drugs argument'. When they arrived at the murder scene they were told the five white guys driving around in a car had done it. Yet they never made any effort to drive around and look for anybody. Instead they investigated the Lawrence's and checked Stephen's background to see if he was a criminal. It was only when they found out they were a church going couple with an A - level studying son when they started to take it a bit more seriously. But as Neville pointed out - so what if his son had been in trouble with the police before, and was not studying - does that mean he deserved to die? Even if he was some tearaway, even if the Lawrence's weren't married and didn't go to church, what difference does it make? Someone still died and the police should investigate. Basically the police's main concern was shutting the Lawrence's up, not resolving the case.
"I think it's a third police racism, a third police incompetence and a
third police corruption."
"Basically, we were seen as gullible
simpletons...Presumably there is no possibility of me! being an intelligent
black woman with thoughts of her own who is able to ask questions for herself.
We were patronised and fobbed off."
When then police did their own review a few months after the murder they gave their investigation a clean bill of health saying it had "progressed satisfactorily...all lines of enquiry correctly pursued." However a Kent Police Complaints Authority investigation later talked of the reports' 'highly damaging' nonsense, identifying 'serious professional failings' and omissions- witnesses not promptly followed up, ID parades bungled, cack-handed surveillance, no attempt to arrest early andsecure forensic evidence, difficulties in handling the computer...
"Ricky's murder shows that nothing has been learnt." said Neville Lawrence.
Reading this interview, people involved in protest, putting on free parties or just living in a vehicle, might wonder at the seemingly endless levels of resources the police find to strop their activities while racist murderers get away scot free.
While people who fight back are labelled outside agitators , professional demonstrators , ecoterrorists etc.by the police, the Lawrence supporters were labelled black militants. But a can of racist worms has been opened and for white people it's an eye opener into what black people have had to put up with for years.
This country is riddled with institutionalised racism, where every asylum seeker is deemed bogus and England supporters subject us all to chants of Rule Britannia during the World Cup.
SchNEWS isn't asking for the police to be reformed, to get rid of a few bad apples; we are fighting for a whole new society to be built where people come before profit. That will take a lot of hard work, solidarity and organisation - but it can and must be done.
"We're paying them [the police] money to care for us, not to kill us. It's 5 years for the Lawrence's, and it's 5 years for me. They had my daughter on a life support machine in the hospital, stinking, pretending she wasn't dead. How could they kill my child, and have me there watching her dead? She didn't deserve to die. Look at that man Fred West; did they kill him? They went for him peacefully and took him to prison. Why did they treat her like that? Why? I can never forget - and I'll never forgive because they didn't have to do what they did. She wasn't violent. How could she be violent against six people with a young child? They killed her in front of her child. The state needs to root out all the bad weeds - it wants to be cleared up."
The inquest into Joy Gardener's death said it was 'misadventure'. No-one was ever charged.
The Headquarters of NATO came under siege last week from activists calling themselves 'Citizens War Crimes Inspectors'. Activists climbed and cut through fences at the headquarters of the defence alliance in Brussels, on the hunt for 'evidence that might later be used in a prosecution for war crimes'.
The actions were part of the Abolition Days campaign, an international campaign of direct action against nuclear weapons.
The action began when around 15 activists went into the centre of Brussels to leaflet the shoppers but were prevented by police. The next day they recieved a phone call from the old bill who had orders to keep the demo 50 metres from the NATO HQ. This means the other side of a four-lane carriageway. This was followed by a second call from NATO granting a meeting on the condition there is 'no repetition of last year'. They're referring to a citizen's inspection on Hiroshima Day where the front gate was shut down and people cut their way into the base.
The day of Inspection kicks off with a press conference. Outside a negotiator is on the mobile to NATO, outlining conditions: 5 people, plus a camera. NATO say yes - but with no sound. Teams head off for the fences but don't get very far. Police are greeted with questions about the 'Nuremberg Principles'. One cop responds,"Look, I don't think when I'm on duty. When I'm on duty it's my boss' job to think." Another says. "Stop confusing me with a nazi!" Two days later the activists, unannounced, cut their way through the perimeter fence and make their way to the main office buildings, someone spots an open window and they check out the translator's office. A poke of the head around the door and...
"We shut the door, and prepared ourselves. Took a deep breath, gripped our clipboards, opened the door and went for it. Once in the corridor, we went up to people and started asking them questions."
How long have you been working for NATO? Has NATO ever informed you about the Nuremberg principles? Do you think that you would be held responsible if you carried out an illegal order?"
"One woman was happily answering questions when security came up shouting "Don't talk to these people! They came in through a window!" The woman looked very confused and shocked and said "I can't talk to you any more. I'm scared of you!" Security are then told that any arrests would be against international law. By this time the other inspection team had also been apprehended - some of them handcuffed. "Can you imagine if this was the way they treated UN weapons inspectors?" one of the citizen's inspectors commented. Police confusion and chaos ruled for the next few hours with innocent backpackers being pulled and legal observers taking Tango lessons in the police foyer.
Abolition Days, c/o CND 162 Holloway Road, London, N7 8DQ, tel: 0171 700 2393 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SchNEWS 141). When thrown out, they sealed off the front of the offices to preserve the crime scene to the annoyance of the local Metropolitan police, who told them to move on or risk arrest. Some people just don't like being told how to do their own job! For copies of the search warrant contact: ARROW, c/o NVRN 162 Holloway Rd, London, N7 8DQ. Phone no. 0171 6072302.
The Movimento is one of the most radical and militant mass organizations in the world today, and according to Noam Chomsky "The most important social movement in the world."
Paul Rogers, another GA editor still up on the same ridiculous charges told us it was a "hammer blow" for the authorities, who have spent over £4 million of taxpayers money getting nowhere fast trying to silence the underground press. Ha!
SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 2DX, England
Last updated 24 July 1998
@nti copyright - information for action - copy and distribute! SchNEWS Web Team (email@example.com)