Society needs to condemn a little more and understand
a little less. New age travellers? Not in this age! Not in any age!
- John Major, 1992.
It was ten years ago this month when Castlemorton Common became
home to the largest free festival this country had seen since the
Stonehenge celebrations in the early eighties.
Travellers heading for the Avon Free Festival found themselves up
against Avon and Somerset Polices all-new fun-stopping information-gathering
Operation Nomad with dedicated resources
gather intelligence in respect of the movement of itinerants and
travellers and deal with minor acts of trespass. So people
found themselves across the border heading for the picturesque Malvern
valley where a truly amazing free festival sprung up with around
forty thousand people partying for seven days and nights.
The Free Festival scene had been happening up and down the country
since the early 70s, and this new explosion was a fusion of
old style traveller culture and weekend ravers attracted to the
soundsystems of DIY, Spiral Tribe, Bedlam and a host of others.
One leaflet at the time explained To be at one of these gatherings
is to feel a surge of energy; to feel a people free from the restrictions
of rip-off clubs, crap pubs, dumb shit security, money-mad promoters.
Of course the authorities didnt exactly share this view and
with the press whipping itself up into a frenzy (Hordes of
Marauding Locusts and These Foul Pests must be Controlled
being a couple of classic headlines) - new laws we were warned,
were just around the corner.
The authorities in particular seemed to be going gung-ho for a group
of people who had pushed the free party boundaries for the past
two years - Spiral Tribe. 13 people were nicked and put on trial
for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance with the judge
promising two years in prison if they were found guilty. Thankfully
they werent despite a trial that lasted four and a half months
and cost the taxpayer £4 million.
As a result of the free festival scene, mixing with the first stirrings
of the road protest movement at Twyford Down and the M11, the Tory
Home Secretary ranted about getting Tough on rapists, tough
on armed robbers and tough on squatters a hotch-potch of a
Bill was introduced into parliament - the most draconian ever to
be aimed at alternative British culture. Its name - the Criminal
Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (which SchNEWS was a part response
to, but thats another story).
Fast forward 10 years. This years Welsh Green Gathering has
been cancelled for the second year running - thanks to objections
once again from the cops. Last year Dyfed Powys police objected
on the grounds that festival land would be contaminated with human
waste, diesel and cannabis. This year the gathering, in the
planning since June last year, was to take place in Margam Country
Park, South Wales and all seemed to be going well. Until the Detective
Inspector of Port Talbot police stuck his oar in and said he feared
serious public disorder so £60,000 to police the crowd of
just four thousand had to be coughed up. The Council, fearing a
riot, cancelled the booking.
Er, public disorder at a Green Gathering? Maybe if you count people
overdosing on lentil flapjacks or being trapped in dozens of deadly
dream catchers or perhaps a pack of pedal-powered powder peddlers
pelting police with a barrage of crystals. In fact, the event was
going to be so riotous members of the Welsh National Assembly were
planning to take part in green forums and the Centre For Alternative
Technology along with other such axe-wielding maniacs were to busy
themselves at the event promoting sustainable living. Not to mention
the festival helping to restore the park and converting to solar
power the presently disused road-train.
The Welsh Green Gathering is now seriously out of pocket and threatening
to sue the Council. Organisers reckon the decision was linked to
a yearlong direct action campaign against an incinerator in Swansea.
Yesterday the incinerator was given the green light. Green Party
spokesman Martin Shrewsbury commented Port Talbot council
are supporting an incinerator to poison us all and cancelling a
festival about alternative sustainable energy.
Glastonbury has now gone to the Mean Fiddler dogs, with licensing
regulations stating that the same sort of surveillance techniques
ironically first used against travellers ten years ago now will
now be used at this years event. So its watch towers
and CCTV and infra-red cameras for gatecrashers and ticket holders
So what are we gonna do about it? Isnt it time to rediscover
the free festival spirit? Perhaps keeping our shit together and
looking after each other at Stonehenge again this year can be a
start to build on. As Tash, a free festival veteran, told SchNEWS
People nowadays expect to pay their money and for everything
to be provided. In the old festival days, people had to do things
for themselves such as sorting out the infrastructure such as toilets
Of course, the state has now all the laws it wants to deal with
any unregulated fun, so weve got to be cunning and weve
got to be organised. But if we are to once again break away from
the bureaucrats, cops and corporate leeches then what other alternative
* For more on Castlemorton and the history of free festivals http://tash.gn.apc.org/
* Party and protest throughout the summer SchNEWS Party & Protest
* Festival Eye out soon. Send £3 to BCM 2002, London WC1N
3XX (out end of May). www.festivaleye.com
- Making Life Taste Better
The day SchNEWS hits the street the squatted community centre at
the old Harvest Forestry organic shop in Brighton is due to be evicted.
The centre, which has been open for two months and used as an info
shop, occasional café, art space and for childrens
activities, was occupied in protest against the proposed Sainsburys
led New England Consortiums development due to be built there.
The proposal includes a car park, two posh hotels, yuppie flats,
inadequate key-worker bedsit style accommodation and, a massive
There has been massive local opposition to this plan and residents
have vowed to resist the eviction by barricading themselves inside
and are willing to risk arrest. They have put out a call for Brightonians
to come down to show their support for community centres not corporate
developments - as early as you can get down to the ex-Harvest Forestry
building on New England St (near Hobgoblin pub).
The Uwa tribe of Colombia were celebrating last Friday, after
it was announced at Occidental Petroleums AGM that the company
were giving up drilling oil on their ancestral land. According to
Occidental, after spending $16 billion on exploration drilling they
have decided there is no oil at that particular site. When Occidentals
plans became clear in the early 90s, the Uwa became
a symbol of resistance to oil exploration. Using tactics ranging
from blockades at the drill site, lawsuits, shareholder resolutions
and non-violent civil disobedience, the Uwa along with activists
in over twenty countries have confronted Occidental and its major
The Uwa at one point threatened a mass suicide if and when
Oxy moved in to their mountains. The tribal leaders said that many
would throw themselves off a high cliff in an act of mass ritual
suicide. In a statement they said the Uwa way of life
is not negotiable - an alien concept to corporations who believe
that everything ultimately has a price. Unsurprisingly Occidental
responded with the might of the US backed Colombian military who
have violently repressed them and their supporters, killing activists
and Uwa children in the evictions. Perez, President of the
Uwa Traditional Authority said about the struggle, the
blood spilled will not go unpunished
It will be a bittersweet
memory that will remain in the minds of those who participated in
the most difficult moments of this process.
Occidental also finds itself centre stage in the growing scandal
around the Bush administrations military aid proposal to hand
over $98 million of U.S. taxpayers money to defend the companies
Caño Limon oil pipeline in Colombia, which runs through traditional
Uwa land. Operations have been suspended since February because
of intensive guerrilla attacks. This pipeline shows how oil drilling
destroys an area - an estimated 1.7 million barrels of crude oil
has been spilled since 1986, deforestation has occurred with forests
cleared for oil exploration, production and roads, opening the forest
to outsiders. The oil brought violence, with the Colombian military,
leftist FARC guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers
battling over resources.
The Uwa are still threatened by another oil company, Repsol.
As Kevin Koenig, from Amazon Watch. said this is an important
victory and a real milestone in the larger struggle to win recognition
and respect for indigenous peoples rights around the world. Unfortunately,
until we address our societys addiction to fossil fuels by
transitioning to renewable energy sources, the worlds remaining
pristine ecosystems and traditional cultures will continue to be
threatened by unscrupulous oil corporations.
More about the connection between the oil industry, threats to indigenous
populations and global climate change at www.moles.org/ProjectUnderground/motherlode/drilling/intro.html
Last Friday five of the seven WOMBLES had their charges thrown
out of court. On Halloween last year the seven were walking to a
party dressed in white overalls and Halloween masks when they were
set upon by the cops and then nicked. Two were found guilty of threatening
behaviour and were fined £100 each but both are planning to
The two who were found guilty answered police questions in custody,
this was the only evidence that convicted them. Remember if arrested
answer No Comment to all police questions.
- Police last night declined to comment on whether the 300-400
hardcore anarchist troublemakers they warned of on May Day,
had got on the wrong train and ended up at Millwall
- DAAWN (Direct Action Against War Now) have called for
an anti-capitalist bloc at the Palestine Solidarity demo on Saturday
18th May. Meet 12pm at Speakers Corner. http://DAAWN.cjb.net
- There have been protests throughout Europe at the inclusion
of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) being added to the
EU list of banned terrorist organisations. Yet they have given
up armed struggle over the past years, and are changing its name!
SchNEWS waits with baited breath to see if Turkey are added to
the list for its continuing military terrorism against the
Kurdish people. www.khrp.org
- This Sat (11th) there will be a mass trespass at Hatfield
Moor to protest against the commercial peat extraction. Only
last week power lines mysteriously fell down causing
havoc in the peat mine. Meet 12pm, Tyrham Hall Hotel A614 south
of Hatfield Woodhouse. 0778 778 2259 www.peatalert.org.uk
- On Sat 18th May there will be a demo against those baby killers
Nestle at their UK HQ in Croydon 11am 12 noon more
- That hotbed of anti-capitalism and socialism which is Surrey
is now publishing a monthly newsletter Black Star.
Offers of help call 07810 595392 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Subversive Sussex Walk takes in rebellions, sabotage,
squatting, etc. starts 2pm on the seafront outside the Old Ship
Hotel, Sat 11th and 18th.
Drinks Are On Us
Veterans for Peace was started in 1985 by ex-soldiers and peace
activists who dedicated themselves to setting up non-profit educational
and humanitarian projects in countries torn apart by war. As they
put it We know the consequences of American foreign policy
because once, so many of us carried it out. We find it sad that
war seems so delightful, so often, to those that have no knowledge
of it. We will proudly, and patriotically, continue to denounce
war despite whatever misguided sense of euphoria supports it.
Their latest project is to rebuild Iraqi water treatment plants
that were bombed during Desert Storm. They are trying to raise more
than $60,000 so that many Iraqi people can access safe drinking
On Wednesday AMEC, the company that wants to build the Yusufeli
dam in Turkey (SchNEWS 346) held its AGM at the Portland Hotel,
London. This time though the activist shareholders outnumbered the
non-activist shareholders, so armed with a share each, whistles
and red cards they messed up the proceedings. The plan was to have
3 different noise demos throughout the morning - so that everyone
wouldnt be thrown out at once- and to ask some quality questions
from the floor. The first noise demo started after about 20 minutes
leading to a dozen people being thrown out. Another happened about
half an hour later and led to more being forcibly evicted by the
now pissed off security. Each resolution was easily voted down by
the activists which meant the company would have to conduct a poll
after the meeting. Questions were raised about not only the Yusufeli
Dam, but also the Chalillo Dam in Belize and the Bingley and Birmingham
bypasses. One shareholder who had nothing to do with the protest
stood up to berate the board for dragging the company into this
sort of situation. These sort of demos serve as a warning to other
companies that grassroots movements wont take environmental
destruction lying down.
On May Bank holiday Irish activists held the biggest yet Reclaim
the Streets party in Dublin, turning much of the city centre into
a traffic-free party zone. That is until the thugs-in-blueTM put
24 people in hospital and arrested another 20, after repeated baton
charges on a peaceful crowd. The protest started with a Critical
Mass, which after causing chaos for 2 hours, met up with the mass
of party people at the pre-arranged point. Here crowd barriers were
d-locked together across the street to prevent the cops from following
the now 1000+ carnival to the final destination. Two sound systems
quickly set up and were joined by a samba band.
At 4.30pm RTS activists pushed a broken down car, which they had
bought and stashed nearby, into the party. This was the cue for
the pigs to steam in, batons drawn, but as they pushed people back
someone threw a flare into the car, filling it with pink smoke and
sending the pigs into a right tizzy. Lashing out with their batons
they repeatedly beat one man while he was on the floor, attacked
another who was on crutches and arrested people from Ireland Indymedia
who were filming what was going on. Even a photographer from the
Irish Independent was nicked after he refused to hand over his camera,
while others from the corporate press had the batteries taken out
of their cameras rendering them useless.
After a tense stand off, the crowd and a sound system moved off
with the cops baton charging them and making more arrests, including
on one occasion a man who had nothing to do with the protest and
was just walking past. Further up the road riot vans drove at high
speed at the front of the demo and tooled up cops charged into the
crowd smashing skulls and beating people while they were on the
floor. One youngster, who eyewitnesses put at about 14, was attacked
by five thugs-in-blueTM leaving him with a cracked skull. At 9pm
more people gathered at Pearce St. police station to protest at
the brutality and in solidarity with those inside.
For more info check out www.indymedia.ie
This Sunday (12th ) at 1pm, A-Spire the Leeds squatted social centre
will be leaving the Concord Street squat in a giant pirate ship
setting sail for the city centre. Once there they will be giving
out free coffee outside Starbucks, free info outside Borders and
free clothes outside Harvey Nicks. As they say They gentrify
our areas, we will downgrade theirs. www.a-spire.org.uk
With the American war on terrorism in full swing and busy checking
out anyone who dare question the status quo, then its reassuring
to know that the Denver Police Dept. have been playing their bit
to crackdown on dissent for years. Theyve been busy gathering
evidence on their local criminal extremists.
Dodgy characters like Sister Antonia Anthony, a 73-year-old Franciscan
nun and the American Friends Service Committee, a pacifist Quaker
group that has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its advocacy of non-violent
social change! These criminal extremists as the police
like to call them, now have extensive files with lists of members,
information about being seen at demos, physical descriptions, home
addresses, places these do-gooders frequent
you get the picture.
The American Civil Liberties Union are now suing the police for
all this unconstitutional spying, and trying to get a court order
prohibiting the Denver cops from making any more nosey-parky files.
SchNEWS warns all festival goers not to let the pigs treat you
like sheep. Honest boyo.
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