Protest Report: Occupy Westminster Bridge

Protesters block the bridge next to the Houses of Parliament
It's our future David. Hands Off
Crowds on Westminster Bridge
Block the Bill: Symbolically, St. Thomas Hospital lies across the river
Protesters don scrubs and surgical masks
Our NHS!
Public Assembly held
Public debate and civil disobedience
Anarchist Soundsystem
Down with this sort of thing
People of all ages and from all walks of life get involved
Don't Cut the NHS
Hands off our NHS
The closest thing to democracy Big Ben has ever seen
Walls of Police look on
Peaceful protest despite Black Bloc contingent
Protester dons the V for Vendetta mask under the Anarcho-Communist flag and the London Eye

Protest thins out after the first hour
Mark Thomas and Josie Long talk to the crowds

Awesome percussionists
Wake up! Occupy your world
The battle for democracy begins
I’m beginning to get a bit fucked off at the mainstream media in this country (and the rest of the world for that matter). The BBC may as well rename itself the Tory Propaganda Network. The Occupy movement in the USA is still going largely unreported, and now British protesters are getting equally ignored. I would have thought thousands of people illegally occupying Westminster Bridge, right under the noses of Parliament, would have been worthy of a news report. A small footnote at least. Especially when you consider the protesters are trying to save one of the UK’s most precious and important institutions (the NHS), which is in practically everyone’s interest. The news is being filtered. Fact. Why aren’t they reporting these protests?

As far as I am aware, Channel 4 news was the only program to feature proper coverage of this event – please feel free to correct me in the comments section if I am wrong (I hope I am). Their report claimed only 2000 thousand people were on the bridge during the “Block the Bridge, Block the Bill” occupation – it seemed at least treble that to me, but of course it is hard to judge these things from the ground. Suffice it say when we first arrived at the bridge it was full. From end to end. Admittedly, within an hour or so this number had dropped considerably.

Still, a significant number of people stayed all afternoon, and it was a great occasion by all accounts. The atmosphere was positive and defiant and the tactics playful and imaginative. A large assembly was held where anyone could speak out and get involved, and this was followed by comedians and live music on the bridge. Spirits were high for the whole event, and the police were wise enough to let it all happen without confrontation. More protests and occupations were planned for the near future and everyone was home in time for tea!

But what will come of all this? Will the protest go unheard? Is the NHS doomed to privatisation??

The effectiveness of protest politics is indeed questionable. I lost faith in it myself after the Anti War movement failed to stop thousands being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know many others that felt the same. But the climate is changing. Millions of people are very angry. They are sick of austerity measures, banks and corporations calling the shots, the destruction of public services and the environment. They want real democracy, where people’s needs are put before corporate profits. From Tahir Square, to Wall Street, to Westminster Bridge – people are taking action, occupying public spaces and refusing to leave. A new people’s movement seems to be beginning… not that you’d have any idea from watching the news.

Can we do more to help save the NHS?

What’s next for UK Uncut? 

Channel 4 News bucks the trend

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Corporate Armies

Yesterday, in The New York Times, it was revealed that the UAE (the United Arab Emirates) have hired the services of a private army, run by Erik Prince, a Christian Fundamentalist and the billionaire founder of Blackwater, a private military corporation. The Emiratis have paid $529 million dollars for this secret army, apparently to respond to terrorist attacks, uprisings amongst the countries largely foreign workforce and to defend themselves against Iran.

 and  write: “The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.”

You can read the full article on this in the New York Times here.

Blackwater Mercenaries in New Orleans

Mercenaries are not a new phenomenon, their use is as old as war itself. Neither is American security investment in the Oil states or wartime contracting. But something really troubled me about this news, particularly in the wake of watching The Corporation, a documentary on the psychopathic nature of big businesses, and their pathological pursuit of profit and power (see Matt Jones’s article on this here). It may seem like the dystopic fantasy of a science fiction geek, but we may only be a few years away from the corporations tooling up. Currently the military-industrial complex is armed by the state, governments are in the hands of big business, and corporations can get governments to do their dirty work – those caught in the crossfire are considered ‘externalities’. But what if this was to change? The corporations would seek to defend themselves without the aid of powerful western governments. Companies akin to Blackwater could provide the firepower, and war itself could be privatized. This may not be that dissimilar to what is happening on the ground as we speak – in exactly whose interests is it that we have troops across the Middle East – who benefits from this? The difference is, our governments are supposedly still accountable.

As our precious fossil fuels gradually run out, the scrabble for the last remains of these dwindling resources is bound to get messy. And if corporations can fight these “resource wars” without the armed support of national governments, it removes any accountability for that military action – you can’t vote a CEO out of office  – who would be liable? I realise that a lot of this is conjecture, but we need to look into these sorts of possibilities now, to prevent them from happening, especially in the light of this latest development, as it appears these sorts of deals are already going on behind closed doors.

Why 10 O’Clock Live is Important

10 O'Clock Left

Channel 4’s 10 O’Clock Live has been the subject of much criticism, some of it justifable, some of it not. I’m not writing this to defend the show because I think it is perfect, I’m defending it because I think it is sorely needed.

Christopher Hooton of the Metro has commented that the show is “as overtly partisan as Fox News.” I wonder which party Hooton believes the show is Partisan to? It is heavily critical of all the major political parties as far as I can see. I suspect he is deriding the show for being overtly left-wing – a horrible sin as that may be, comparing the show in any way to Fox News is obscene bullshit.

It pisses me off when people equate a bias for the left with a bias for the right. These are not equal, comparable opposite ends of a single political continuum as some would like to have us believe. The right serves to protect the status quo, the hidden agenda is exploitation. Extreme right wing views are often moral perversions born of fear. Fear of change, fear of outsiders, fear of losing material possessions or status. They come from self-interest, patriotism and nostalgia. People who harbour right-wing views tend to want to preserve privilege and protect the inequality of capitalism.

People who sympathise with left-wing idealogies are not immune from self-interest, they are not saints and they certainly aren’t always right. But their ideas come from a desire to make the world fairer – their hearts are in a more altruistic place. So when someone says that something has a left-wing bias as some sort of a criticism, I can only assume that they are a cunt. Balance in this case is an illusion – and frankly impossible. The news is biased to the right, most newspapers are biased to the right, most political parties are biased to the right, and are there to preserve the status quo… so when something comes along that isn’t, I say, well, good. About fucking time, in fact.

10 O’Clock live is biased to the left. Great.

The program has also been criticised from the left – for not being left enough, for being too soft on certain issues, and missing opportunities to give people who deserve it, a good grilling. For example, the interview with Alastair Campbell in Episode 2 of the first series was painful to watch, as David Mitchell was obviously in awe of him, and seemed unable to take command of the situation, ask any pertinant questions, or hold him to account in any way. This isn’t that surprising though. David Mitchell is a comedian (albeit a politicially astute one), and Campbell was the UK’s Spin Doctor in Chief – not a fair fight.

To those on the left who criticise this show, I say, give it chance. Hopefully it will get a second series and continue to mature into a quality vehicle for political satire. In Tory Britian (sorry, Coalition Britain… pfft), we need a mainstream left-wing voice that is actually heard by people in their living rooms. People saying these important things in an inclusive, funny way that is accessible and entertaining – and this show does just that. If you want to keep your left wing views undiluted and pure in your little middle class left-wing clique, you may as well surrender this country to the fuckers who want to carve it up, and sell it off in bits, to their friends, for a tidy profit.

Most importantly 10 O’Clock Live is hilarious. David Mitchell is in his element – self-indulgent ranting that is cheered because it is heart-felt – often you can’t even be arsed to listen, the guy is so verbose, but you know it was probably fucking excellent. Charlie Brooker has shit hair, but who cares, the man is a miserablist genius. Jimmy Car is much funnier than I ever thought he could be and even Lauren Lavern is getting better.

So long may it continue. We need it in these dark times.