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On the afternoon of august 17th, police raided a house in central Bristol where an editor of local newspaper The Autonomist lives. Riot police kicked down the door of the property without warning, detained the inhabitants for two hours, and seized articles relating to the production of The Autonomist. Delighted journalists from the Evening Post swarmed around outside, trying to photograph the detainees and remaining in contact with an officer inside by telephone at all times.

The grudgingly-produced warrant for the raid attempts to link the occupants to recent disorder (as did a frankly libellous sign erected outside by the police). It authorises the seizure of “rocks (may by having glass samples upon)” and “white paint”, and refers repeatedly to “domestic extremisim [sic]”. The list rounded out with such incriminating articles as “pedal cycles”, “clothing”, and “literature”. Several other items not listed, such as passports, were also illegally seized.

The Autonomist is a popular but controversial local paper, produced by a small group of mainly homeless local people and distributed for free. They’re dedicated to reporting unheard voices in the community, but this principled stance has caused problems in the past. Refusal to censor reports of the rising tide of sabotage attacks around Bristol, or to stick to police statements when reporting the riots in april, has earned the enmity of the police.

Collective member Lucy Parsons says “The seizure of phones, computers, and paperwork relating to the production of The Autonomist just as we start to compile the september edition is a clear, worrying, and damaging attack on journalistic independence. The demonisation of those who report the news as “domestic extremists”, and the willingness to use violence to silence them, does not fill us with confidence in the police or the future of liberty in this country. Regardless, we will continue to produce The Autonomist, using computers at the library if we have to, and you can expect the september issue at the turn of the month.”


Dr. Sofia Himmelblau

My previous post appears to have sparked a huge amount of controversy compared to anything else previously published on this blog. The average amount of views for a piece posted on this blog is usually somewhere around the low hundreds, so far this post has had around 13,000 views and counting- as well as many passionately argued comments both in favour and against. Due to this response I therefore felt that I should briefly respond to some of the issues raised.

  • The post does not make the accusation that those cleaning up their streets are in some way all fascists, the point that it does make, and that I stand by, is that significant sections of the public discourse surrounding both the clean-up, and the response to the riots more broadly, has come from an implicitly, and occasionally explicitly, far right direction. As stated in the post, the language of ‘rats’, ‘scum’ and various other dehumanising rhetoric, applied only not to rioters but often implicitly, and occasionally explicitly, to whole sections of society bears this out. The Left is often accused of crying ‘fascist’ too lightly (often particularly by those who feel stung by the accusation), and whilst I agree that this may on occasions be true, in this case however I feel that the strength of terminology is borne out by much of the political response that has sought to solely blame the moral, cultural and physiological (ie.’sickness’) deviancy of sections of society rather than examine any structural socio-economic issues within society as a whole that may lay behind the unrest. To paraphrase a somewhat over-quoted line – with their photo-op response to the unrest, the media are seeking to aestheticise politics; in my blog post on the other hand, I was seeking to politicise their aesthetics, to draw out what it is within it that has clearly political overtones. Contrary to what the Right claim, to examine socio-economic issues such as inequality and gentrification is not a moral deviancy either, it is also patently not somehow an excusing of the genuine human misery or suffering caused by rioting, in fact I would argue conversely that to take the very position which the politicians and media are falling over each other to adopt, dismissing debate about economic and social exclusion, is in fact an incredibly immoral- if you want to follow a consistent logic of morality -excusing of the genuine human misery and suffering wrought through their economic policies over the past 30 years. The far right nature of their discourse, the state of exception which I have argued they seek to create (and which via the media has been widely adopted by the public at large) is evidenced in the fact that their response to the unrest is to call for militarised policing, politicised sentencing, and further social exclusion. The far right dimension is likewise more superficially evident in the fact that just such a rhetoric has already brought gangs of far right EDL supporters onto the streets of SE London, who have clashed with police whilst looking to hunt down and attack those they deem responsible for the unrest (and we can guess, and as is evidenced by several accounts of the disturbances, the specific demographic they will be seeking to target). It is likewise indicative that the individual who Cameron was so keen to trumpet for starting a facebook Met police fan club has been proven to be an out and out racist. That is not to say that everyone that joined the group was a racist, that is clearly untrue, but it is simply to point out what motivates much of the public discourse is often very far from being ideologically neutral.
  • We now hear that many people are clamouring for those convicted for their part in the unrest to be stripped of their entitlement to claim state support in terms of benefits and access to housing, several councils have stated that they intend to take this position (although I am not sure of the legal ramifications). This is a further extension of the state of exception that I mentioned, a further exclusion from citizenship such as I have described, and it represents the thin end of the wedge. In calling for such a policy not only is the implication made that those who rioted can be directly correlated in the public perception with benefits claimants (and in terms of housing this also clearly feeds into a certain far right discourse that has been bubbling under the surface in recent years regarding access to housing and immigration), but it also represents the further dismantling of the principle of universalism in the welfare state. What next? all those with a criminal conviction stripped of benefits? Further down the line perhaps access to healthcare on the NHS? What are the implications of this when you consider that the government’s social policies have often resulted in the criminalisation en masse of a large section of certain socio-economic or racial groups? It potentially implies the declaration of whole swathes of people as non-citizens, even further excluded from society. Whilst this might be popular on the Right, I fail to see how this can not lead to further poverty, resentment and logically further crime and social unrest.
  • Contrary to most of the commentary on my post, some perhaps from people that didn’t read further than the title, this post was not primarily about race but class. To whitewash something, although it connotes a certain racial dimension in this case, more broadly, as we all know, means to cover over, to conceal or to mask. This is what I argue the mainstream discourse, in this instance through its co-option of the clean-up activities, has been keen to do in the wake of the riots. And whilst that mainstream discourse has been so keen to close down any discussion on the events through anything other than a moral framework, it fails by its own logic. I would wager that the average haul of a looter caught up in the recent unrest would weigh in significantly below the average fraudulent expenses claim made by MPs in the recent controversy. Let’s take Michael Gove, clearly appearing outraged in various media appearances at all of the theft that has gone on. This is the man who got his houses mixed up in order to steal £7000 (or £13000 depending on which house was the real one) from the taxpayer. Perhaps he should be stripped of his entitlement to housing? – but then it might not bother him too much, he’s a millionaire. Or there is Hazel Blears, also moralising in the extreme, who also couldn’t remember where she lived and managed to loot £18,000 from the public purse. All those flatscreen TVs looted must look familiar to Gerald Kaufman, who fiddled the rules to the tune of an £8,000 flatscreen TV himself. Or Jeremy Hunt, who having obtained £22,000 by dubious means generously agreed to pay back half the money before going on to negotiate a fatally flawed stitch-up with Murdoch over BskyB which to many looked somewhat corrupt. Perhaps the looters should also be allowed to pay back half of what they took? Hmmm, clearly I am being facetious but you get the idea, perhaps the politicians should leave the moralising to the moral and concentrate on what after all is their (well remunerated) job, ie. social and economic policy – an area that unlike morality, they can directly influence, and that ultimately is a significant factor in the recent unrest. Cameron claims that this was ‘pure criminality’ but even if we take him at his word we must therefore assume that he has never read any criminology, the overwhelming majority of which would point to a significant and proven link between poverty, inequality and crime. The main difference it seems to me between theft of pair of trainers or Ed Vaizey’s £2,000 in antique furniture mistakenly ‘delivered to the wrong address’ appears to be a matter of class. You might state that these riots were not an act of class warfare, and I would be inclined to agree with you, but the response to them from the media and mainstream public discourse most definitely has been. Just because the rioters themselves may not have had a conscious or unconscious class motivation, although that is debatable, does not mean that the response to them has not. We have seen an uncompromising and ‘robust’ reassertion of control and order in a physical sense but also of social order in an ideological sense, by a bourgeoisie that felt threatened. If you cannot see the class dynamic at play here you either are not looking hard enough, you don’t want to see it, or you buy into the glib Blairite assertion that Britain is somehow now a classless society. You might believe that to be the case, but I would have to disagree.
  • As for the Empty Shops Network, perhaps it was unfair to single that guy out alone, I have been aware of the ESN for about two years and have taken some interest in their activities, of which I have been somewhat critical for the reasons stated in the post. I do not claim to be an expert on their activities however, and if anyone behind the group would care to explain more fully what their activities entail I would be happy to enter a discussion with them and to put their side of the story across on the blog as well as simply my critique.
  • In terms of the vitriol expressed below by those who don’t like their world view questioned, perhaps they would care to tune in instead to the overwhelming majority of media and public discourse presented on this issue which will no doubt reassuringly confirm their ideological positions. With Labour and the (il)Liberal Democrats seeking to outflank the Tories on the right, somebody has to make the argument for seeing these traumatic events as a catalyst for more and not less equality, social justice, and indeed just plain justice (note this is not the same thing as shooting looters onsight or locking them up and throwing away the key), an argument that mainstream politics is so demonstratively unwilling to make. Like I say, if you don’t like it, there is plenty of other commentary out there you can read that will confirm your existing opinions.

Taken from UFSO

as much as we enjoyed that parody post, we are not sure who posted it up. many people have the login for this blog..what a mystery..

News has come through that after 81 days of detention Ai Weiwei has been released on bail with restrictions on his movements. We are glad to hear he is out, but this struggle is all but over.

More details can be found here and here

Sign and circulate the petition

On late Monday afternoon, a hundred students and staff from SOAS and the University of London assembled to protest against Universities Minister David Willetts’ visit to the college.

In order to avoid a repetition of what happened to A.C. Grayling’s lecture at Foyles bookstore, or Richard Dawkins at the Institute of Education SOAS management had not listed the event on its website. In addition, SOAS management flouted the fact that both the Students’ Union and UCU at SOAS have voted motions of no confidence in David Willetts. Instead they invited the police onto college grounds to guard the door to the Brunel Gallery.

Asserting their democratic right to protest, students and staff entered the building and occupied the foyer of the lecture hall in which Willetts was speaking. Once the occupation had ended the police arrested a student, and went over to arrest three more. Police were using batons, they erected metal barriers outside the Brunel Gallery and one plain clothes police officer was spotted giving hand signals to the police. The police’s actions were provocative, violent and turned a good-natured protest into a scene of mayhem.

The events of yesterday are indeed worrying as they show once again the brutal methods the police will employ in order to quell dissent on the streets and on our campuses. It seems that now, every time the students’ and trade union movement calls a protest, the police abuse their powers to intimidate and attack people taking part.

On June 30, up to one million public sector workers will be striking in defence of their pensions and livelihoods. Yesterday’s attacks on our right to protest resemble the arrests before the Royal Wedding and in the run-up to March 26.

We pledge to defend and assert our right to protest, and demand

  • SOAS management instigate a full independent investigation with the involvement of student and staff from the college into what happened at the demonstration
  • The police drop all charges against the arrested protesters
  • An end to political policing


Mark Bergfeld, NUS NEC & Education Activist Network
Jim Wolfreys, UCU Kings College
Jelena Timotijevic, UCU and Defend the Right to Protest
Clare Solomon, ULU President
Sean Rillo Raczka, ULU Vice-President
Ruby Hirsch, NUS NEC (FE place)

Support the June 30th STRIKE and come to 272 High Holborn WC1V 7EY ground floor Blueprint Bar from 1pm till late for banner making session.

Saturday 18th of June

Some materials will be provided but bring paint, material, good ideas etc.

Please get down to Holborn Police Station ASAP to support those arrested today for protesting at SOAS #Solidarity

David Willetts puts his faith in space, dinosaurs and the ‘absorptive capacity’ of British science.  Image: Cian O’Luanaigh/Guardian

It is extremely disappointing when the news was revealed that David Willetts, the UK Minister of Universities and Science has been booked to speak at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre. This has not been publicized on the Official SOAS Website, nor has it been circulated among the members of SOAS. Our Director, Paul Webley, has ignored any questions regarding his opinion about the Vote of No Confidence against David Willetts for 9 …days now. He has also claimed ignorance about the establishment of the New College of the Humanities that is planned to become part of the University of London in September 2012. This has all happened while Mr. Willetts has been booked to speak here for at least a week and while our Director has been the deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. Its difficult to make a balanced opinion about this because he still has yet to host a Students’ Address.

The lecture is part of the Neville Butler Memorial lecture Series titled: ‘The Public Benefit from Science and Research’. I can only imagine this is going to follow a paradigm that stems from a dominant power structure that continuously tries to self-justify itself. This is research based on statistics, demand curves and expectations that are linked to past results, endemic failures and methods of social control. This has enormous potential to continuously narrow the amount of diversity that can happen in the future since the future is being carved out of average results that have been been gathered through manipulated method interpreting past action.

We need people here on Monday. If you were unable to attend the EGM and agree that David Willetts, the Governments’ Policy bias policy against the arts and humanities and the new tuition fee regime are all socially detrimental we need you to come and protest with presence, music, ideas and debate.

Until then, SOAS SU

Facebook event

Join the public forum on the 8th of June 7pm (venue TBC – Central London)

Speakers Include:

  • Jody McIntyre
  • Alfie Meadows
  • Tony Benn
  • UK Uncut
  • Bryan Simpson (arrested for occupying Millbank)
  • The Guillotine 3 (under suspicion for conspiracy to commit street theatre during the Royal Wedding)
  • John Mcdonnell MP
  • Sara Tomlinson –NUT & Stop Kettling our Kids

The right to protest is under serious threat. From the student protests to the M26 TUC anti-cuts demonstration, the police are resorting to extreme tactics including kettling, mounted horse charges and battering.

These actions are designed to intimidate and undermine the movement against government cuts. They represent serious attacks on our right to protest – that we can beat.

The best way to defend our right to protest – is by protesting. But we must also campaign to make sure no one is left behind – not Alfie Meadows or Bryan Simpson or the Fortnum & Mason occupiers all of whom face prison terms for taking a stand against cuts.

Support arrested protesters

The meeting has been called to build support for Alfie Meadows, Bryan Simpson, Fortnum & Masons occupiers and other protesters facing hearings over the next few weeks.

Show your support for them.
9th June (Alfie Meadows)

10th June (Bryan Simpson)

Westminster City Court, 70 Horseferry Road, at 9am on each day.
More info

Alfie Meadows & Bryan Simpson