Guantánamo detainee, acquitted on 284 of 285 charges, faces 20 years

In a blow to the Obama administration’s effort to manipulate the civilian justice system to achieve guilty verdicts for alleged terrorists, a New York City jury on Wednesday unexpectedly acquitted a Guantánamo detainee, Ahmed Khaifan Ghailani, on 284 of 285 charges. The case was related to the 1998 terrorist attacks on US Embassy in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, which killed at least 11 people and injured another 85.

Ghailani, 36, was convicted of only one charge, conspiring to destroy government buildings. The 12-member jury was unconvinced by government charges related to allegations of murder. Ghailani nonetheless faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Ghailani, who is Tanzanian, was abducted from Pakistan in 2004 along with his wife and children. He was then turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency, which transported him to “black site” prisons, including one in Poland, and then ultimately to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2006. Like most prisoners caught up in the global dragnet known as the war on terror, Ghailani was repeatedly tortured by US intelligence personnel during his imprisonment.

From any ethical and rational legal standpoint, this makes information extracted from Ghailani by his interrogators inadmissible in court, and, indeed, all of the proceedings against him illegitimate. However, the presiding Federal District Court judge in the case, Lewis A. Kaplan, earlier in the year overruled defense requests that the trial be dismissed because Ghailani had been tortured. Kaplan also quashed another motion requesting dismissal because the court proceedings, taking place six years after his arrest, violated Ghailani’s right to a speedy trial.

The Ghailani case was handpicked by the Obama administration to test whether or not the civilian court system could be entrusted to produce guilty verdicts in terrorism cases, with Attorney General Eric Holder all but guaranteeing it would be prosecuted to a successful conclusion. It was to serve as a trial run for the prosecution in federal court of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged ringleader of the 9/11 terror attacks. Mohammed was extensively tortured―it is documented that he was waterboarded at least 183 times. The Ghailani verdict now makes it more likely that Mohammed will face a military tribunal.

While the one count against Ghailani may well result in a life sentence, the government’s failure to convince jurors of the other 284 charges was quickly seized on by the media and both Republicans to assert that alleged terrorists should be processed at drumhead military tribunals such as the one at Guantánamo Bay.

As always, this was dressed up in the hysterical language of “national security.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech from the floor of the Senate that the verdict is “all the proof we need that the administration’s approach to prosecuting terrorists has been deeply misguided and indeed potentially harmful as a matter of national security.”

“The Obama administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war,” said Liz Cheney of the pro-torture group Keep America Safe (and the daughter of the former vice president Dick Cheney.) “It’s dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war.”

The verdict was also criticized among Obama’s Democratic and liberal allies. Virginia Senator Jim Webb said in a statement that the case shows that “those charged with crimes of war and those who have been determined to be dangerous law-of-war detainees do not belong in our courts, our prisons or our country.”

The New York Times struck at the same theme, asserting that “the result may again fuel debate over whether civilian courts are appropriate for trying terrorists.” For the “newspaper of record,” decisions that do not realize the pre-designed aims of the state are illegitimate.

The Times blamed the result on Judge Kaplan’s refusal to hear testimony from Hussein Abebe, who the government claims was prepared to tell the court he had sold large quantities of the TNT used to blow up the embassy at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Ghailani revealed Abebe’s name while he was tortured at Guantánamo.

There were also those who celebrated the case as an example of the effectiveness of the US justice system. Ghailani’s lawyer, Peter Quijano, called Wednesday’s verdict “a reaffirmation that this nation’s judicial system is the greatest ever devised [and] is truly a system of laws and not men,” he said.

This is absurd. Had Ghailani been convicted on all counts, the celebration of the supposed greatness of the US judicial system would have been trumpeted even more. In fact, the court case was largely pro forma. As Judge Kaplan himself declared, the defendant’s status as an “illegal enemy combatant”―a legal chimera invoked by the US under both Bush and Obama―meant that whatever happened in federal court, Ghailani would remain “a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end, even if he were found not guilty.”

Obama ran for office on the promise to quickly close down the Guantánamo prison camp, and soon after his inauguration he issued an executive order that it be closed within one year. The Obama campaign articulated concerns among elements in the US foreign policy establishment that America’s standing abroad was threatened by the Guantánamo prison camp, which will be forever associated in the popular consciousness with torture, men bound hand and foot on their knees wearing orange jumpsuits, unsheltered from the sun. Obama and his powerful backers hoped to effect a change in appearance, while continuing nearly all of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies.

Even this symbolic change has proven impossible, however. Guantánamo remains open with 170 prisoners, and the Obama administration appears set to end the civilian judicial system’s role in the prosecution of alleged terrorists, with Attorney General Holder earlier this year suspending civilian trials for 9/11 suspects that were scheduled to take place in Manhattan. It is noteworthy that the White House has so far been silent in the face of the criticism of its handling of the Ghailani case.

If ruling circles find even heavily rigged civilian trials for alleged terrorists intolerable, it is not because of the supposed dangers they pose to the population.

A separate system of justice is being constructed under the control and discipline of the military, immune to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Geneva Conventions, in which hearsay evidence and evidence solicited through torture will be admissible. The president and the executive branch arrogate to themselves the right to declare anyone in the world, even US citizens, enemy combatants and subject to arrest, rendition, torture and indefinite detention without trial―that is, if the president does not order summary assassination instead, a right the Obama administration has also proclaimed.

There is no room in this setup for the vestiges of an independent judiciary or the rule of law. What is being built, in short, is the judicial machinery of a military dictatorship. This will inevitably be deployed against those in the US and abroad who resist the policies of the American ruling class.

Tom Eley

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The Surveillance State

Full Fact recently researched the claim that “council-run CCTV cameras have trebled in the last ten years.” It established that FoI requests to all 428 UK Local Authorities resulted in a combined total of 59,753 council-run cameras in 2009 – more CCTV cameras per capita than any other European country. The best figure for 1999 was 21,000, likely an overestimate as it included planned cameras as well as extant ones. If you feel that the number of CCTV cameras surrounding us has been increasing to oppressive levels, the impression is not unfounded.

I can remember when CCTV was first introduced in this country. Initially, it was used primarily in large department stores, limited to locations in town centres and on London Underground routes. It’s hard to argue against measures to discourage crime and record evidence of specific incidents for use in prosecutions. But these days, it can feel as if the CCTV cameras are more ubiquitous than police officers.

There will always be those who could not care less whether or not they are filmed by a CCTV camera. But no-one likes being talked about behind their back, and who is to know what is going through the minds of our those doing the surveillance? Even when their observations are not officially recorded, comments on the observed must inevitably be shared by the watchers. You don’t have to have something to hide to want a right to privacy.

The potential exists for database records which the public know nothing about, compiled using images or related data from CCTV recordings. This may be speculation, but do you trust the state to tell you what they’re doing with your image?

Many authors, including George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, have predicted authoritarian societies in which all are watched, watching or both. The idea of the camera as a tool of social control is entrenched in our consciousness. And yet, we justify acceptance of increasingly oppressive surveillance on the basis that they help reduce crime. The huge expense of public money, the intrusion of privacy, the authoritarian overtones of the all-seeing eye of the state – all are tolerated as a means to an end. But a Home Office report released in 2002 indicated that CCTV has a negligible impact on reducing crime.

The expense is considerable, and all the more shocking in the light of recent scrutiny of public spending. Heather Brooke reveals that “a House of Lords report published in January this year estimated that during the 1990s the Home Office spent 78 per cent of its crime prevention funds – estimated to be in excess of £500 million – on CCTV”.

As for its efficacy:

According to the two meta-analyses of CCTV conducted for the Home Office and published in 2002 and 2005, video surveillance has had only limited impact on crime prevention and detection.

The most frequently cited and comprehensive review of CCTV is the detailed Home Office study by Professor Martin Gill and others, published in 2005. Gill and his team evaluated 14 CCTV systems around Britain and concluded: “Only two showed a statistically significant reduction relative to the control, and in one of these cases the change could be explained by the presence of confounding variables. Crime increased in seven areas but this could not be attributed to CCTV. The findings in these seven areas were inconclusive as a range of variables could account for the changes – including fluctuations in crime rates caused by seasonal, divisional and national trends and additional initiatives. ( Source)

Brooke suggests that government officials are seduced by a symbol of technological crime prevention which makes them seem to be “doing something”; and the symbol is apparently powerful enough to override the evidence.

Julian L Hawksworth

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In defence of the action at Millbank.

10 11 2010 upwards of 50,000 students marched against the Con-Dem onslaught on education, which will result in massively increased tuition fees, a declining standard of education with job cuts and departmental budget cuts and potentially a more class divided society, with many being cut out from the chance of attending university.

Such a large demonstration is indicative of the massive feeling of anger that students feel toward the Tories and the spineless LibDems. For the most part, it was a peaceful demo too, which was loud and vibrant, with messages of ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts’.

 

However the march passed by Conservative party HQ in Millbank. This became the focal point of action for many thousands of students. The building was battered to pieces, with hundreds infiltrating it, and many reaching the roof, with thousands in the crowds outside cheering.

 

However the action has produced a hysterical reaction from the right wing media, with arguments about how the action was “despicable” and “marred” the demonstration. I wish to take on these arguments head on, and also to provide a synopsis of some of the events too.

 

The first media argument is that a “small minority” had “hijacked” the demonstration. It is true that the demo was “hijacked”. So surely a useful media should be asking ‘why’? The reason is that students wanted further action than just a simple march. There is a genuine feeling of anger, and the NUS proposals have seemed at best fairly innocuous to building a movement to fight back against cuts. Very simply, one demonstration would register student disquiet about what the Con-Dems are doing, but here comes the first difference, how do we STOP the government measures? It won’t just be from a single demonstration, what is needed is a united fightback across campuses and universities, and to link to wider struggles of working people who seek to defend their jobs, their pensions, their pay and conditions, their services and their welfare provisions.

 

This leads to the second aspect, the “small minority”. It almost certainly was not “small”. The hundreds who managed to get into the building could not have got there if it wasn’t for the thousands outside. Many thousands witnessed the actions, which struck a chord with many who wanted to see a more visible method of fighting back against the Tories. The “small minority” was in fact very sizeable, and could be crucial to radicalising thousands of students into action to fight back against the cuts. What is also significant is how much media coverage this attracted. Without the action being taken, it is almost certain that the demonstration would have been largely ignored by media, and also disregarded with contempt by those in power. However the radical approach taken at Millbank has put the student movement at the vanguard of resistance to the cuts, and made the action the object of all front page headlines today. This method of resistance will resonate amongst wider layers of people who will be taking action to resist the Tories onslaught in the coming months. Furthermore, the damage and destruction caused, and the feelings from which these actions emanated, cannot be ignored by the Con-Dems, this is the POLITICAL price they pay for THEIR vandalism of the welfare state and education.

 

Who comprised the “small minority”? The NUS and media are trying to paint the picture that “dedicated anarchists” and “unemployed members of the Socialist Workers Party” were the small group involved, and that no students were involved with the Millbank actions. This simply isn’t true. The anarchists, worker’s power, Socialist Worker members and others were themselves students, and furthermore, many hundreds who got into the building were not aligned to any particular political ideology. The vast bulk, [about 99%] were students. I spoke to many, who said it was their first demonstration ever. It was certainly not a motley crew of “non-student” radicals, but largely a spontaneous decision to take radical action to bring the message home to the Government. Such an action would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the support of the thousands who left the NUS demo to join in the action.

 

DAMAGE

The damage caused was extensive. Firstly many infiltrated through the front windows of the building, which in the end were completely detroyed. Many more also outflanked the thin line of police by going round to the left of the building. Lots of windows higher up were damaged, and the fabric of the building was destroyed. Bonfires lit in the square will also have to be dealt with.

 

To many, this sort of destruction will seem like “vandalism”, like “hooliganism” and an incorrect method of going about confronting the government.

 

I disagree. Whilst such actions may not appeal much to bourgeois gentility, they are significant and important for many reasons:

 

As I have already mentioned, one single demonstration will NOT BE ENOUGH to break the coalition government. It is the angry action of thousands, which cannot be disputed, which will rock this government to its core. I believe that if we really seek to stop the cuts, then we have to realise it is our own actions that will make the difference. We have the power. Thousands of students have been radicalised, and it is an opportunity to build strong campaigns across the country. The more people involved, the stronger it will be, and the more likely that cuts can actually be STOPPED, by bringing down the government, rather than waiting until future elections, when damage will be irrevocable.

 

As for the “vandalism” charge. Glass, metal, windows and doors cannot feel pain. They are inanimate objects. They can be made and re-made. They can be replaced. Contrast this to people. People can feel pain, hardship and strife. This is something that Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, with their cabinet of millionaires cannot comprehend. We live in a country  where 5 people seek every 1 job available, and yet are being further punished by slashed welfare payments. Disability discrimination exists massively, with those disabled more likely to be made redundant first by employers, then to find that Cameron and co regard them as “scroungers”, “workshy” and making a “lifestyle choice”… all so as to cut back on £30 a week. If we want to know what is despicable… THIS IS DESPICABLE… and this is what we should be remembering in all of this.

 

At the same time, a conservative estimate of £120 billion is not collected in tax from the richest individuals and corporations. Vodafone for example have had £6 billion of tax owed written off by the treasury. Add to this companies like M&S, Tesco, etc… all of whom dodge tax on a vast scale. If we are “all in this together” why aren’t these companies forced to pay their tax? Very simply, they are all chums of the Tories, which is why both before and after the election, big bosses wrote in support of George Osborne.

 

In essence, the “vandalism” shown by students toward some glass and a building [which cannot feel pain] are nothing compared to the misery being unleashed by the Tories, who are vandalising higher education and the welfare state. They have sought to do this for generations, and now they feel they have their chance. It is up to students and workers to do all they can to protect the gains which took 160 years to implement [free education, welfare provisions from taxation, the vote, the NHS, etc etc]. From Thomas Paine to the Attlee government, people have campaigned for protections against the most exploitative and oppressive aspects of capitalism. The Tories and Con-Dems have set out to wreck this.

 

A potent example is Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion to get benefits claimaints to do unpaid labour. It is not necessarily a bad thing to get people to acquire skills, but to go UNPAID for this is slave labour, and something akin to the chain gangs in America during the 30s. No doubt benefits claimants will have to wear stripey black and white tops and be chained to each other by the ankles as they break rocks for no particular purpose. Look closer and it is also much more sinister. With council provided services such as gardening and community maintenance jobs being cut, they have suddenly found a supply of cheap labour to do these tasks, without the benefits of employment rights protection in the law, or the miniumum wage. What is this if not DESPICABLE?

 

Finally, SOLIDARITY with Millbank activists.

 

Many of whom were young and at their first demo. Buildings can be repaired and maintained, but once the welfare state has been vandalised and destroyed, the damage cannot be repaired. For political reasons we should support those who face charges against the Millbank action. We should remember that if we fail to support them, then we are intimating and sending a message that our side is not prepared to take effective action to stop the cuts. This would be a terrible message. Aaron Porter would have been far wiser to be neutral, and to have said something like “this shows the anger of some students to the Tories”. Instead he has taken up the lead of the right wing press and is doing the Con-Dem dirty work, by dismissing radical action as “despicable”. This will mean that taking actions like strikes, occupations and student .actions in future will be made more difficult, as the media will be looking to its responsible darling, the President of NUS, to diffuse students from realising their power to make a difference.

 

I believe that those arrested and detained also deserve our solidarity for other reasons. The fact is, 200 or so would not have entered the building if it weren’t for the thousands outside. Those thousands may be reeling under the media scrutiny, and questioning what happened yesterday. Have no doubt, that a radical flame was ignited in the hearts of the thousands yesterday, however it could possibly be expunged if we are not prepared to step in to justify the Millbank action and to set the early flames of resistance into a dedicated inferno burning in the hearts of those who seek to stop the Con-Dems in their tracks.

 

I therefore urge you to support the solidarity motion:

https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/11/467763.html

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-need-unity-defend-the-Millbank-protestors/128397300550227

 

and more info:

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/graphics/2010/keep/student.pdf

 

thanks comrades

 

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Friday’s terror nonsense US Intelligence Trades On Fear

We are in the grip of yet another so-called terror plot designed to terrify the wits out of everyone.

Anyone of a nervous disposition was sent in to a tailspin of panic over the increasingly dramatic news coverage … this manifested itself in a tsunami of 911 calls in America which paralysed parts of New York, Maine and Philadelphia for several hours.

Mercifully in Britain the majority of us refuse to get caught up in this bloody nonsense for many different reasons. The primary one being we had already endured more than three decades of this during the height of the IRA activities in London.

Virtually every single day for 30 years there would be some terror alert in the English capital – it was called shoestring terrorism. One telephone call could bring a halt to a section of the London Underground.

The police would make their necessary checks, the media would ignore it and we all got on with our lives refusing to be intimidated by Irish terrorism.

And that is exactly how we should have treated Friday’s terror nonsense – that does not mean to say people should be reckless or less vigilant but governments should stop trying to impose a fear factor on its citizens..

We can not sacrifice our freedoms and liberties just because America wants to impose its own neurosis, hysteria and paranoia on the rest of the world.

While British anti-terror police say no explosives were found in a suspicious package found onboard a UPS flight, the White House issued a statement completely contradicting this. Now the parcel has been removed for full forensic testing!

Call me cynical, but I find it too much of a coincidence that this bizarre alert came less than 24 hours after British Airways chairman Martin Broughton has accused the country of bowing to US demands for increased airport security measures.

Mr Broughton criticised the US for imposing more security checks on US-bound flights, but not on its own domestic services.

He urged the UK to stop kowtowing to demands for passengers to take their shoes off and to put any laptop computers through scanners to be screened separately.

The UK government said it would give airport operators permission to review their security procedures and I hope they stick to their promise despite all this nonsense.

One of the most ridiculous procedures we have to go through is to submit all of our potions, lotions and liquids to airport security.

This came about because of the so-called plot to blow 10 airliners out of the sky. That the fools behind this crazy scheme didn’t even have passports or a collective IQ of George W Bush mattered not.

A video was shown of an explosion onboard a plane if this chemical had been mixed with that chemical.

The fact the bombmakers would have had to create sub zero laboratory conditions onboard a plane which would take around 40 minutes, mattered not.

As a frequent flyer I can tell you no would would be allowed to hog the tiny toilets for more than five minutes.

Yet despite this nonsense we have to hand over our liquids, but can buy them in vast quantities minutes later having past through airport security.

Just recently I was stopped because I had a brand new 200ml jar of Eve Lom face cleanser and was told I could not take it through. I pleaded for some commonsense from the security officer and he even went to his superior when I pointed out that the jar cost more than my airline ticket.

A nearby passenger who had just wistfully given up his full bottle of Remy Martin brandy sympathized with me.

Since when did Eve Lom become a threat to Britain’s national security?

The British Government’s COBRA emergency committee is meeting as I write this. God only knows what will transpire but I hope this coalition government distances itself from these crazy security terror alerts coming over from the Americans.

US President barack Obama is facing his mid-term elections this weekend … if either he or his team have resorted to the “terror threat” ploy so often used by his predecessor to try and win votes then shame on them.

Of course what better way to divert voters’ minds from Afghanistan, Iraq and Wikileaks than to create a fresh new bogeyman … Yemen.

Any government which uses security and fear to win votes does not deserve to be in power.

Yvonne Ridley

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Robert Fisk: The shaming of America

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who’d been tortured and you’d be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or “collateral damage”, or a simple phrase: “We have nothing on that.”

Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday’s ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I’ve identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of indisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003.

It’s always tempting to avoid a story by saying “nothing new”. The “old story” idea is used by governments to dampen journalistic interest as it can be used by us to cover journalistic idleness. And it’s true that reporters have seen some of this stuff before. The “evidence” of Iranian involvement in bomb-making in southern Iraq was farmed out to The New York Times’s Michael Gordon by the Pentagon in February 2007. The raw material, which we can now read, is far more doubtful than the Pentagon-peddled version. Iranian military material was still lying around all over Iraq from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and most of the attacks on Americans were at that stage carried out by Sunni insurgents. The reports suggesting that Syria allowed insurgents to pass through their territory, by the way, are correct. I have spoken to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers whose sons made their way to Iraq from Lebanon via the Lebanese village of Majdal Aanjar and then via the northern Syrian city of Aleppo to attack the Americans.

But, written in bleak militarese as it may be, here is the evidence of America’s shame. This is material that can be used by lawyers in courts. If 66,081 – I loved the “81” bit – is the highest American figure available for dead civilians, then the real civilian mortality score is infinitely higher since this records only those civilians the Americans knew of. Some of them were brought to the Baghdad mortuary in my presence, and it was the senior official there who told me that the Iraqi ministry of health had banned doctors from performing any post-mortems on dead civilians brought in by American troops. Now why should that be? Because some had been tortured to death by Iraqis working for the Americans? Did this hook up with the 1,300 independent US reports of torture in Iraqi police stations?

The Americans scored no better last time round. In Kuwait, US troops could hear Palestinians being tortured by Kuwaitis in police stations after the liberation of the city from Saddam Hussein’s legions in 1991. A member of the Kuwaiti royal family was involved in the torture. US forces did not intervene. They just complained to the royal family. Soldiers are always being told not to intervene. After all, what was Lieutenant Avi Grabovsky of the Israeli army told when he reported to his officer in September 1982 that Israel’s Phalangist allies had just murdered some women and children? “We know, it’s not to our liking, and don’t interfere,” Grabovsky was told by his battalion commander. This was during the Sabra and Chatila refugee camp massacre.

The quotation comes from Israel’s 1983 Kahan commission report – heaven knows what we could read if WikiLeaks got its hands on the barrels of military files in the Israeli defence ministry (or the Syrian version, for that matter). But, of course, back in those days, we didn’t know how to use a computer, let alone how to write on it. And that, of course, is one of the important lessons of the whole WikiLeaks phenomenon.

Back in the First World War or the Second World War or Vietnam, you wrote your military reports on paper. They may have been typed in triplicate but you could number your copies, trace any spy and prevent the leaks. The Pentagon Papers was actually written on paper. You needed to find a mole to get them. But paper could always be destroyed, weeded, trashed, all copies destroyed. At the end of the 1914-18 war, for example, a British second lieutenant shot a Chinese man after Chinese workers had looted a French military train. The Chinese man had pulled a knife on the soldier. But during the 1930s, the British soldier’s file was “weeded” three times and so no trace of the incident survives. A faint ghost of it remains only in a regimental war diary which records Chinese involvement in the looting of “French provision trains”. The only reason I know of the killing is that my father was the British lieutenant and told me the story before he died. No WikiLeaks then.

But I do suspect this massive hoard of material from the Iraq war has serious implications for journalists as well as armies. What is the future of the Seymour Hershes and the old-style investigative journalism that The Sunday Times used to practise? What is the point of sending teams of reporters to examine war crimes and meet military “deep throats”, if almost half a million secret military documents are going to float up in front of you on a screen?

We still haven’t got to the bottom of the WikiLeaks story, and I rather suspect that there are more than just a few US soldiers involved in this latest revelation. Who knows if it doesn’t go close to the top? In its investigations, for example, al-Jazeera found an extract from a run-of-the-mill Pentagon press conference in November 2005. Peter Pace, the uninspiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is briefing journalists on how soldiers should react to the cruel treatment of prisoners, pointing out proudly that an American soldier’s duty is to intervene if he sees evidence of torture. Then the camera moves to the far more sinister figure of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who suddenly interrupts – almost in a mutter, and to Pace’s consternation – “I don’t think you mean they (American soldiers) have an obligation to physically stop it. It’s to report it.”

The significance of this remark – cryptically sadistic in its way – was lost on the journos, of course. But the secret Frago 242 memo now makes much more sense of the press conference. Presumably sent by General Ricardo Sanchez, this is the instruction that tells soldiers: “Provided the initial report confirms US forces were not involved in the detainee abuse, no further investigation will be conducted unless directed by HHQ [Higher Headquarters].” Abu Ghraib happened under Sanchez’s watch in Iraq. It was also Sanchez, by the way, who couldn’t explain to me at a press conference why his troops had killed Saddam’s sons in a gun battle in Mosul rather than capture them.

So Sanchez’s message, it seems, must have had Rumsfeld’s imprimatur. And so General David Petraeus – widely loved by the US press corps – was presumably responsible for the dramatic increase in US air strikes over two years; 229 bombing attacks in Iraq in 2006, but 1,447 in 2007. Interestingly enough, US air strikes in Afghanistan have risen by 172 per cent since Petraeus took over there. Which makes it all the more astonishing that the Pentagon is now bleating that WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands. The Pentagon has been covered in blood since the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and for an institution that ordered the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – wasn’t that civilian death toll more than 66,000 by their own count, out of a total of 109,000 recorded? – to claim that WikiLeaks is culpable of homicide is preposterous.

The truth, of course, is that if this vast treasury of secret reports had proved that the body count was much lower than trumpeted by the press, that US soldiers never tolerated Iraqi police torture, rarely shot civilians at checkpoints and always brought killer mercenaries to account, US generals would be handing these files out to journalists free of charge on the steps of the Pentagon. They are furious not because secrecy has been breached, or because blood may be spilt, but because they have been caught out telling the lies we always knew they told.

US official documents detail extraordinary scale of wrongdoing

WikiLeaks yesterday released on its website some 391,832 US military messages documenting actions and reports in Iraq over the period 2004-2009. Here are the main points:

Prisoners abused, raped and murdered

Hundreds of incidents of abuse and torture of prisoners by Iraqi security services, up to and including rape and murder. Since these are itemised in US reports, American authorities now face accusations of failing to investigate them. UN leaders and campaigners are calling for an official investigation.

Civilian death toll cover-up

Coalition leaders have always said “we don’t do death tolls”, but the documents reveal many deaths were logged. Respected British group Iraq Body Count says that, after preliminary examination of a sample of the documents, there are an estimated 15,000 extra civilian deaths, raising their total to 122,000.

The shooting of men trying to surrender

In February 2007, an Apache helicopter killed two Iraqis, suspected of firing mortars, as they tried to surrender. A military lawyer is quoted as saying: “They cannot surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets.”

Private security firm abuses

Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism says it found documents detailing new cases of alleged wrongful killings of civilians involving Blackwater, since renamed Xe Services. Despite this, Xe retains extensive US contracts in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa’ida’s use of children and “mentally handicapped” for bombing

A teenage boy with Down’s syndrome who killed six and injured 34 in a suicide attack in Diyala was said to be an example of an ongoing al-Qa’ida strategy to recruit those with learning difficulties. A doctor is alleged to have sold a list of female patients with learning difficulties to insurgents.

Hundreds of civilians killed at checkpoints

Out of the 832 deaths recorded at checkpoints in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests 681 were civilians. Fifty families were shot at and 30 children killed. Only 120 insurgents were killed in checkpoint incidents.

Iranian influence

Reports detail US concerns that Iranian agents had trained, armed and directed militants in Iraq. In one document, the US military warns a militia commander believed to be behind the deaths of US troops and kidnapping of Iraqi officials was trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Robert Fisk

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Policing report Brussels No Borders Camp 2010.

This report was written for Fitwatch by a no borders activist.

This report is a basic document gathered from direct witnesses, anecdotal evidence, footage, legal documents and statements after the incidents. It is no way entirely comprehensive or representative of everything that happened at the Camp and during the week. Anonymity is ensured. The report has been organised under these main headings which should cover all the points and incidents.

1) Pre-emptive Arrests
2) Undercover Policing+Intelligence
3) a) Brutality (demonstrations)
b) Brutality (detention)
4) Sexual Violence
5) Resistance

The Brussels No Border Camp (NBX) was organised as a week of actions, workshops, discussions and a space to come together against the (anti) migration policy of the European Union. It was a platform for groups and individuals to organise and share information as well as participate in actions against various targets, ranging from private companies to EU buildings.

Pre-emptive Arrests

It seemed that the Police in Belgium had learnt a lot about preventing protests and disorder from the Danish Police. Those of us who had been in Copenhagen felt the despairing feeling of a waste of time in Police detention. The policy of mass arrests began on the Wednesday the 29th. This was the day of the anti-austerity demonstrations in Europe. Tens of thousands of Trade Unionists from all over Europe including France, Spain and Poland descended on Brussels. The No Borders were invited to join in solidarity and people decided to go as an Anti-Capitalist Black Bloc. But the cops had other ideas and arrested around 300 people before they arrived at the demonstration. Anyone who looked like a NB activist was spotted and detained. The law of Administrative arrest in Belgium is that it is legal to detain people for 12 hours without them having committed any crime, only that they might in the future. This continued on the 1st with the evening ‘illegal’ demonstration called by a Brussels Anarchist group against the Police and Authority. Around 100 people were rounded up again and arrested, with the Police having banned all groups of over 5 people around the train station. Plastic handcuffs and the strange V-sitting position made infamous in Copenhagen were used.

“we were simply getting onto a bus when an undercover police car drove in front of the bus and stopped it. They got onto the bus and took us out, they refused to identify themselves and when one activist demanded to see his ID the officer pointed a can of CS into his face and screamed that that was his ID. They did not tell us why we were under arrest but instead cuffed us and dragged us away”

The policy extended not only to demonstrations but also to any activists walking around in the city at any time of day for any reason. The author witnessed several groups of people who were walking around the shopping area being chased, thrown to the floor and arrested. The Belgian Police used this ability of pre-emptive arrests to break people and destroy demonstrations, to great affect. Many people were too exhausted by the ordeals that they didn’t go on subsequent demonstrations.

Undercover and Intelligence

The use of undercover police was prolific during the camp. Every demonstration contained significant numbers of undercovers. They used video cameras to gather intelligence on specific activists or incidents. They were used to break up demonstrations and would identify during riots with orange armbands, but they would also simply attack people and were incredibly violent. They were noticed all around the city for the whole week and some were noticed in the camp itself, although they were quickly driven out. On the demonstration on the 29th they were used to splinter, attack and disperse the anti-capitalist bloc. They used batons and CS spray to arrest 50 activists, working with the highly visible riot cops. It was highly demoralising to people that the person standing next to them could just attack them when they got the order.

The intelligence gathering during the week was covert and effective. Many undercovers would roam the streets around the camp and direct visible police to any NB street presence. They were able to gain information on peoples whereabouts and their description without overt surveillance:

One group of German activists decided to attend the demonstration on the 29th. They dressed in civilian clothes and joined a 30 strong group of students who were walking in the direction of the demonstration. Within five minutes the police arrived and handpicked the five German activists out the group of 35 people.

The author witnessed several rubbish collectors giving information to the undercover police as to the whereabouts of NB activists. Other activists witnessed similar levels of civilian collaboration.

Intelligence gathering on demonstrations was also used. People would only be let out of kettles once they had been photographed. Activists had photos used against them in detention as proof of crimes. Forcible photographing was also used in detention with many people being beaten and seriously injured until they were photographed.

The suspicion of cross-border collaboration was confirmed when a prominent French activist working with Calais Migrant Solidarity (a sister group to No Borders providing practical solidarity along the Northern French Coast) was taken from his cell and interviewed by the head of Northern France’s undercover police. The activist in question refused to answer his questions and was put back in his cell.

Brutality (demonstrations)

The attitude of the Police throughout the week gave the impression that they had been given free reign to be violent, abusive and cruel without any recourse. Many people have testified to the brutality of the week.

Sunday 26th

The first demonstration of the week began against a close detention centre and as a commemoration for Semira Adamu who was killed in 1998 during her deportation. The detention centre was surrounded by specially placed barbed wire, water cannons, riot cops, horses and dogs. The demonstration concluded with incredible violence. People were surrounded and people taken out and beaten. One journalist had his ear drum ruptured from excessive beating. A cop was also kicked by a horse which led to the police retaliating by beating several activists to the ground and kicking one girl in the head until she lost consciousness.

Wednesday 29th

Those who managed to avoid pre-emptive arrest (see above) and arrived at the demonstration were confronted by highly edgy and violent police. They used undercover police and riot police to disperse and arrest demonstrators. The cops injured many people and several went to hospital with severe head injuries. They also used CS spray prolifically. People who managed to escape were later attacked in a park by undercover police who also beat them badly. The demonstration was attacked without provocation and the main objective seemed to be simply to attack No Borders activists:

“any association with the No Borders Camp and any desire to help those who live their everyday lives in the insecurity of having no papers and nowhere safe to turn, was a justification for severe violence. The police laid their values on the table for me, clear as day. For them the safety, physical and mental well being and the democratic rights of the human beings whose care they were responsible for was irrelevant”

Brutality (detention)

Whilst the Police certainly were violent on the streets, they saved their most brutal behaviour for the arrests and detention. An unbelievable amount of violence against No Borders activists went on inside the Police stations.

For fourteen unforgettable hours I was held in custody and subjected to their violence, their authority, their every whim. I was beaten, spat upon, repeatedly called a ‘dirty whore’ and chained to a radiator until 4am right outside the open door to the office of the chief of police, who observed it all and reacted only with silence. The police chief and I also witnessed the violent beating of another arrestee, also chained to a radiator, upon whom the police unleashed a fit of rage like none I’d ever seen – the young man fell to the ground screaming the only French word he knew, ‘non, non, non’. As I watched this, chained myself right next to the police chief, I wondered what country I was in, how such a thing could happen at all in this world, and where oh where had democracy and justice gone?

Those brought into the Police stations were held for many hours without charge, had property stolen, beaten, denied water and food and toilets for 12 hours, had false allegations made against them and sexually abused.

October 02, 2010 17:55 – According to a testimony of an eyewitness, six people that were arrested yesterday after 10pm near the attacked police station Place du Jeu de Balle were heavily mistreated inside. The beatings, kickings, spittings, insultings took several hours until they were brought to Palace de Justice. At least one of the arrested was visibly injured and constantly asking for a doctor. Dozens of police were present, the harassments took place in front of the office of the head of the police station. A detailed report will follow in the next days.

The Police seemed to use the opportunity of detention to retaliate for ‘losses’ on the streets, they beat people on the basis of nationality. The brutality was also not the actions of a few unhinged officers but seemed to come from the highest command. The testimony of being chained to a radiator outside the Chief of Police’s office seems to confirm that all officers were complicit, that there was a culture and attitude of acceptance towards brutality of detainees.

“The violence I experienced and witnessed was not the random act of a single police officer that had gotten out of hand. It was apparent from the very first beating that for these police officers, in this police station, this unimaginable violence was completely normal behaviour. They did not feel the need to hide me in a cell in order to beat me; they did not shelter their violence from the eyes of their superiors or their colleagues; their colleagues did not even look up from their paper work. Why would they? They obviously saw this everyday.”

People also lost many possessions to the Police. Cameras, passports, money, USB sticks, Dictaphones and personal property were stolen and some given back later but many were never recovered:

“When I was finally released by a judge fourteen hours later, I received a plastic bag with my belongings in it. But many items were missing. Most importantly, my Identity Card, but also my USB stick, the camera I had with me and twenty-five euros cash. When I returned to the police station to reclaim my items – together with friends because I literally feared for my life – they laughed at me and said they were keeping my money as ‘financial compensation’ and taking the camera and the USB stick for investigation. I asked for a written record that these items were being confiscated and received none. I requested my ID card back and they just laughed. When I returned two days later for my ID card, they told me they had lost it somewhere in a ‘combi’”

Those arrested on the street also faced a horrific experience. Many were forced to sit for hours, sometimes in the rain. Detainees on the street were forced to kneel and grovel in front of undercover officers, many were spat at, shouted at, verbally abused, beaten, pepper-sprayed and physically assaulted. Inside the vans detainees were also beaten, had their heads smashed into the walls or sexually assaulted.

Sexual Violence

Whilst many aspects of the Polices behaviour was abhorrent and outrageous it is the aspect of sexual violence that has worried and terrified many activists the most. The idea of physical harm is something that many activists have experienced and are prepared for, but sexual abuse at the hands of a Police officer is something that breaks many people. The reports suggest that all sexual violence was aimed almost exclusively at female activists, although there were male activists who were strip searched.

‘Operation Trouser’ is one part of this experience. Many female activists were forced to strip down to their underwear in order to humiliate them in front of male officers during interrogations. Many female activists were injured when they refused to do so but were forcibly stripped anyway. Eye-witnesses report that this technique was referred to as ‘Operation Trouser’.

“Later, two women from camp were picked up by police while walking in the direction of the Gesu squat. While in custody they were forced to strip in front of male officers. One woman refused and had clothes physically ripped off her. They were later released, again without charge, in a highly distressed state”

The most terrifying and worrying technique however is that the Police would pick female activists off the street and threaten to rape them inside their vans. One friend was picked up outside a squat and driven around the streets. The Police did not believe that she could speak French, but she was able to. She overheard them discussing whether or not to rape her, they decided not to and was thrown out of the van.

“Later, a man and woman out walking near camp were stopped by police. The woman was told she was going to be raped before being bundled into a van by five policemen and her hood pulled down over her head. She was released soon after on the other side of camp, highly distressed”

The gender violence also extended to the girls not having access to toilets whilst in detention. Female activists were forced to urinate into bottles or across the floor. The cells were not equipped with toilets for females and the Police refused to take them from their cells.

Resistance

As distressing and disturbing the violence was during the week, one thing that stood out from other summits, such as Copenhagen is that people did not let it stop them carrying out autonomous actions, retaliations against the police, resistance in the cells and intelligence gathering against the cops.

There are too many autonomous actions to list here, people took it upon themselves amidst the repression of the week to go out in small groups and disrupt, smash and attack all manner of targets. Here is an example of some:

Despite the repression, several other actions took place: anti-Frontex banners and flyering at the airport, Frontex windows and doors smashed and smoke bombs were let off, locks glued at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). A building of Sodexho – the French hotel and catering company with a 50% share in Corrections Corporation of Australia and UK Detention Services, had windows smashed and oil was spilled over another Sodexho building. Steria, the company that designed the Eurodac fingerprinting database – leading to thousands of migrants a year being deported – had its windows smashed and “Smash Eurodac” spray-painted across it. The Italian Embassy had excrement thrown over it.

Several autonomous actions took place, including BP’s headquarters which was blockaded, plus The Royal Palace Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Greek Embassy spray-painted with slogans like “You have blood on your hands – No Borders”.

This was the tone of the week. People refusing to be silenced by the repression and not losing the message of the camp to the simple ‘cops-vs-protesters’ that often mars many action camps.

Retaliations against the police was also prolific. Many people were enraged at their friends being so abused and took direct action against the cops.

In retaliation for the mass arrests and sexual violence, 30 people attacked a police station, breaking windows and doors, letting off smoke bombs and starting a fire. Police vans were also attacked with Molotovs. Six unrelated people caught up in the resulting turmoil were arrested.

Resistance in the cells continued all throughout the week. People cut their handcuffs, and helped other do the same. Cells were graffitied, lights were smashed, toilets ripped off the walls, plaster and bricks were ripped from the walls, doors were damaged until they would not lock, water and food were thrown at the cops. People did not remain calm in the face of Police repression and screamed and chanted for many hours. The police brought dogs into the station to control activists but people were still not deterred. Resistance to the fingerprinting was also done. Skillshares on how to remove fingerprints with different materials led to people damaging their fingerprints to the extent that they were unable to have them taken. The machines could not recognise damaged fingers.

People also resisted the intrusive behaviour of the undercover police. Photos and names of undercovers were circulated throughout the camp so that everyone could recognise them if they entered the camp or attended a demonstration. People also spent time in demonstrations searching for undercovers and ousting them, people held cardboard banners saying ‘civil police here’ if they found some. Many were chased out of the big demonstration on the 2nd to the chants and jeers of demonstrators.

Overall it felt like despite the police repression people were able to fully participate in the camp, attend meetings and workshops, participate in and organise autonomous actions without lasting legal repercussions, attend demonstrations and be part of a growing movement. The reactions of activists was more encouraging than in Copenhagen, people refused to the best of their abilities and moved away from the mass action to small affinity group actions. It seems that many people have had that feeling after the camp, that mass bloc actions are dead with the rise of mass police pre-emptive arrests. It felt like a success and full credit to the organisers of the camp and the No Borders as a whole which feels like an exciting and growing movement to be a part of.

Love and solidarity to all, especially to those who suffered at the hands of the police during the week.

No Borders Anti-National

Hundreds of articles, photos, videos and communiqués can be found here:

http://bxl.indymedia.org/articles/368

http://www.contre-faits.org/spip.php?article109&pas=1&textforum=x#doc2094

Pictures of broken windows and arrests here: http://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/26054

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Ratcliffe on Trial

21 climate change activists face a Crown Court trial for defending the future of the planet.

Their crime: Planning to shut down the UK’s third largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Arrested in a night-time police raid on the eve of their attempt to shut down E.ON’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power station, the defendants could face up to 3 months in prison for daring to act. RatcliffeOnTrial.org has been set up to to support them and communicate why they felt compelled to take direct action. Read the full story ».

“On the issue of coal-fired power stations they are right … carbon emissions will kill us all … As politicians we do not grasp the urgency of scientific warnings about how little time we have left to radically transform our whole thinking about sustainable energy systems. Inevitably, this leaves the challenge to be picked up by the public rather than by parliament. In doing so, it just doesn’t help if we end up locking up those who would save the planet rather than those who drive us towards climate crises.”

Alan Simpson, former MP for Nottingham South

The Story and What happened.

In the early hours of April 14th 2009 a highly expensive and widely condemned policing operation saw 114 climate campaigners arrested on suspicion of conspiring to commit aggravated trespass and criminal damage. In what has been deemed the largest ever ‘pre-emptive’ arrest, hundreds of police burst into a meeting room where plans were being made to safely shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK’s second largest coal fired power station.

Had the action gone ahead it would have stopped around 150 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere, while drawing attention to the failure of provided democratic channels.

Through invasive surveillance police had gathered information on the activists, pinpointed their location, and interrupted the meeting meaning the action never went ahead. The campaigners were held for over twenty hours before being released onto the streets of Nottingham in the middle of the night, many with their phones and money confiscated.

All charges were dropped for the majority of the 114, but 26 have been committed to Nottingham Crown Court on a charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. The maximum sentence for this offence is three months in prison, a fine of £2,500, or both. All entered a plea of not guilty.

Five of the defendants hadn’t decided whether to take part at the time of being arrested, but are still being dragged through a lengthy court process. Their trial takes place in January 2011.

The remaining 21 defendants admit that they planned to shut down the power station, but argue that they are not guilty because they were acting to prevent the greater crimes of death and serious injury caused by climate change. This is called a ‘defence of necessity’. Their trial starts on the 22nd November 2010.

Why Necessity?

In addition to slowing Ratcliffe’s carbon emissions, this action was to be part of a wider movement for global environmental justice. You only have to look at the floods in Pakistan and the droughts in Russia to see that climate change is hitting those least responsible for it the hardest while putting all of our futures in jeopardy.

Around the world governments are failing to address the climate crises. Instead they protect business as usual as they continue to compete for endless economic growth. This is in spite of increasingly stark warnings from the scientific community of the cost of inaction. By allowing the coal to keep burning at dinosaurs like Ratcliffe-on-Soar, the UK government continues to evade its legal duty to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.

As we face the worst spending cuts in decades we have to ask why so many resources are being ploughed into monitoring climate campaigners, while so little is being done to create an environmentally and economically just future.

From the suffragettes to the civil rights movements, direct action has long been the pathway to change the world for the better. Those on trial are ordinary people experiencing the failures of our present political system, who remain determined to see action taken on climate change.

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP?

1. Statement of Support

If you believe in the importance of acting on climate change, and the necessity of direct action, show your support by sending us a short statement we can publish here and elsewhere.

You can either email us your statement of support to info[at]ratcliffeontrial.org or, better still, write it on our Facebook Wall!

We’re keen to receive these from individuals and organisations.

2. Come to Court

Support in the courtroom is essential. It is very important that the public galleries are packed to show the strength of support for the defendants. If you can come to Nottingham, from 22nd November, for a day, week, or just half an hour, please do!

Email info[at]ratcliffeontrial.org for more information.

3. Donate

Can you help fund the Ratcliffe on Trial campaign?

Publicity materials, meeting space, travel costs and public events have all taken their toll on campaigners’ pockets. If you are in any position to donate, no matter how small or large an amount, you can do so by transferring funds to:

The Skint Fund
SC: 08-92-99
AN: 65385883

Or posting a cheque to:

The Skint Fund,
18 Stratford Street
Oxford
OX4 1SW

In both cases, please drop us a quick email to notitfy us of your donation: info[at]ratcliffeonsoar.org

4. Organise a Fundraiser

One of the best ways to raise much needed cash for the cause is to organise a fundraiser in your locality. These have already proved to be a massive success in the past, and a lot of fun.

If you’re thinking of organising one drop us an email at info[at]ratcliffeonsoar.org and we can help publicise.

5. Follow them Online

They will be continually updating there website and blog in the weeks leading up to the trial, and throughout the trial itself: www.ratcliffeontrial.org

Subscribe to receive email alerts for there blog posts: http://ratcliffeontrial.org/subscribe/

Follow us them Twitter: www.twitter.com/ratcliffetrial

6. Spread the word

They  need your help to get people talking about this unique case. Tell everyone you know, look out for media coverage, and feel free to copy and paste anything from here http://ratcliffeontrial.org.

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Some thoughts on The Sheffield Free School…

So you decide not to Squat, though Pisgah House is The Grade II listed building you took over at the same time of the return of Students, last year you just walked in with out any contact with community to talk over the issues you had not an issue then regards it being a squat and being abusive to The Community..

Background:

Botanic Garden Tapton Experimental Gardens

The new plans for the site are pretty much the same as the previous plans and do nothing to conserve the historic gardens and the plant collection on the site. The council are inviting comments and objections on this new planning application right up to the time it comes before the Planning Board.

On Monday 21 June 2010, The planning board, stated they wanted to visit the sight for it was put off for three weeks You can access the planning application 07/01380/FUL and submit your comments by following here.( http://planning.sheffield.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/DcApplication/application_detailview.aspx?caseno=JGFV80NYT9000 )

New to all of this and wondering what all this is about? The Secret Garden was saved from redevelopment as a housing estate last year, thanks to the Broomhill Action Neighbourhood Group vigorous and well-supported campaign to oppose planning permission for the site. Looks like we’ll need to do it all again.

Pisgah House is a Grade II listed (will be saved see 09/03207/CAC) residence constructed in the 1820’s, tucked away in a quiet backwater (Pisgah House Road) at the top end of Hoole Rd. It is next door to the Etruria House Hotel, which is also a listed building. Pisgah House has a fine 2-story coach house which is itself a listed building.

To the rear garden of Pisgah House is part of the Botanic Garden on the Tapton Experimental Gardens site. It houses a significant portion of the plant collection. When the Tapton site is redeveloped, whatever public open space remains on the site will adjoin Pisgah House’s garden.

This New aplication will see The Demolition of existing student halls of residence, annex, associated building including temporary structures around experimental gardens and Nos. 26, 28 & 30 Taptonville Road.

What is it?

Founded in 1951, The Botanic Garden contains more than 2000 species of plants and has provided an experimental centre for Sheffield University’s department of plant sciences. The garden is established in grounds that form part of the historic landscape around Hallamgate House (built circa 1780, now demolished), Tapton Elms (now renamed Hadow House) and Pisgah House (the oldest listed residence still standing in Broomhill). The garden contains a number of built structures including a ha-ha, a Victorian walled ornamental garden and a pond, in addition to many fine mature trees. The University want to sell the site to developers who plan to demolish many of the existing structures and build a housing estate, along with a larger development on the site of the Tapton Halls of Residence on the adjoining land.

Where is it?

Main entrance is at number 26 Taptonville Road, towards the top end of Taptonville Road, but the garden also has a second entrance from Hoole Road to the rear. The total land area of the garden is around 1 hectare (2.5 acres). Few people in the community know about it because it has rarely been open to the public.

Why save it?

It occupies such a sensitive site in the heart of our conservation area, and has importance as part of the historic landscape pre-dating (and contemporary with) the development of Broomhill.

It provides amenity for the surrounding houses, and an important habitat for birds, bats, rare newts and other wildlife, in addition to its unique plant collection.

Broomhill is desperately short of public green space and the loss of such a good potential public garden in the centre of our community would be a tragic missed opportunity.

Broomhill has suffered many detrimental changes to our local environment as a result of University expansion: surely the University could give something back by working with the community to conserve this garden?

The land in question was originally the garden of Tapton Elms, a fine house now owned by the University of Sheffield that was built by Alderman John Hobson and his wife Thyrza in 1853. Alderman Hobson and his wife had several children. Their second child, called Albert, who continued to live at Tapton Elms after his parents died, was awarded a knighthood around the turn of the century. He also served as Lord Mayor, Master Cutler and president of the Chamber of Commerce nationally and locally, and sat on the council of Sheffield University.

The general lay-out of the ‘Secret Garden’, as it is known , from old maps. There was an informal lawned area immediately in front of the house and a formal walled garden beyond that. Many of the original features of the walled garden still remain. The residents of Broomhall proposal, which was supported by the 1750 people who signed a petition, is to re-create the original gardens and open them as a small public park?.

This would showcase the time when Sheffield was becoming one of the industrial powerhouses of the world and some of the foundations for the city we have today were laid. Among the legacies of that time are the houses and gardens built by successful businessmen (in the days before Ferraris and helicopters), at least partly to show off their wealth. Re-creating the gardens The residents of Broomhall propose would place Tapton Elms once again in its original garden setting. It is proposed that the house itself should be converted into apartments, and The residents of Broomhall have no objection to that.

John Hobson, who might he be then?

John Hobson was in fact responsible for the development of much of Taptonville Road, where these gardens are situated, and it was the view up the road that prompted John Betjeman to describe Broomhill as ‘the prettiest suburb in England’ back in the 1960s.

Another reason for the proposal is that Broomhill is identified in the current Unitary Development Plan as being extremely short of public open space. Restoring the gardens of Tapton Elms would also address that problem to some extent. We see no other opportunity to do so, given that Broomhill is so densely developed now and almost all land of any size is also owned by the University.

Sheffield University have enough empty places, (over 20 in the area you rented) no you went and paid cash to a landlord.  Just another note mind: Did you welcome The Sex Workers from the area for food a chat and warmth, all so I ponder did you nip over the road to the move on accommodation for family’s invite them over?

What about those with drug problems? (they use of a lot derelict units as dens)

At present, society seems to be caught in the limbo between enforced rehab and virtual tolerance towards heroin users, and the Needle Exchanges are virtually giving intravenous drug use an almost acceptable status… they make it easy to be a junkie.

The least these outlets could do is make sure there’s more than enough places to deposit used syringes. sharp boxes everywhere would help educate and promote an awareness to potential users and sheltered members of society alike, the message: that more needs to be done.

Alright, choice being limited by social circumstance, it’s usually the poorest and most desperate souls who end up as junkies but there’s still a choice at the end of the day. i can remember a friend referring to heroin use back in the mining village where he came from, saying that it was the boring individuals with no hobbies or interests when they were younger who ended up as smack heads.

I’d love to see the drug addicts who work Sheff’s streets sort themselves out and get help (help themselves basically, as no one else is going to help them) but a lot of them gave up on life even before they had their first dig.

Who lets the shit into the country in the first place anyhow? smack comes from Afghani/Pakistan while crack/coke comes from South America…

Is this why the US wants to control these two regions – while a surplus of the populations back home (in the 1st world) are kept distracted/off their heads??

It is convenient for modern society to discard both buildings and people. The whole saga of the empty home/office/warehouse units is the story of discarding a lifestyle. Poor people could live like Croesus in such places provided they respected the buildings and the neighbors.

This causes envy on the part of the property speculators who put up those student flats in the city and rent them out to temporary residents at London prices. The Middle Classes just don’t want The Working Class to rise above their place in Sheffield and their envy and greed is more destructive than Osama Bin Laden.

Junkies are discarded people. Many veterans of Britain’s imperialist wars end up junkies and psychotics. And here are the rich, intent on leaving empty spaces fit for heroes.

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Communique from Class War HQ, The Cave, Sherwood Forest

Reply to Communique from Class War HQ, The Cave, Sherwood Forest:

Comrades if that is what you are.. Alcoholism in the UK (www.ias.org.uk) i do not want to come over as some precise fucking vegan animal rights moralist far from nothing like a good pint and Full English next day to cure the hangover and each to own.

But moderation on the self harm, then we can inflict more harm on The Middle  Class and I propose we buy them a round or two let them suffer alcoholism not the working class who it kills more..

 

‘Class War awoke from it’s semi-vegetative state at the Topuddle Festival in July. Some had declared the patient dead but a robust regime of heavy drinking ensured a lively presence on the Tolpuddle Martyrs march with particular invective being saved for the Prison officers Association pipe band.

The Class War banner was also to the fore at the Birmingham Tory Conference demo where a mob of about 50 former and present Class warriors enlivened the day later on by roundly abusing every tory in sight. So great was the press of the Class warriors at the pub bar that CW arranged a handsome collection for the single barman on duty.

Noticeably with the return of a Tory government many former Class warriors are returning to the Colours. Class war has always had a good relationship with its ex- members mainly due to our reciprocal liver transplant arrangements. .A new edition of the paper – first for two years – features a re-run of the infamous Thatcher with axe in head cover but this time featuring Snooty Cameron.

Class War’s aim over the next six months will be to recreate the kind of street opposition to the Poll Tax that is needed to stop the cuts. We aim to cause as much trouble, build a big street mob again and drink lots of alcohol. If you can find a better deal go for it.’

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So, who are the English Defence League exactly?

You have probably read all about the planned EDL protest in leicester on saturday, but do you know what the group really stands for? Adam Wakelin reports on their short but stormy history

If the cause was different, you might be tempted to call it a rainbow coalition. Football hooligans, neo-Nazis, gay rights activists, disillusioned BNP supporters who think the nasty party’s gone soft and more besides: protest movements have seen some rum old alliances down the years, but nothing quite like the disparate bunch who gather under the English Defence League banner.

You could equally call it an unholy alliance, if it weren’t for the fact that the EDL has Christian and Jewish supporters and has been trying to encourage Hindu and Sikh youths to join the group’s protest in Leicester this weekend.

What binds them all together? A common enemy. Islamic fundamentalism.

“We are fighting an extreme interpretation of Islam, people who have no qualms about killing themselves and other people in the process,” says Guramit Singh, event organiser and EDL spokesman.

“It’s a grass roots social movement.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has a rather different view. “Dreadful people,” was his verdict on the EDL during the election campaign.

Journalist Matthew Taylor, who followed activists earlier this year for an exposé in the Guardian, said the group acts as a “lightning rod for people with a range of grievances who appear to be coalescing around a rampant Islamophobia.”

“At each demonstration I attended, I was confronted by casual – often brutal – racism, a widespread hatred of Muslims and often the threat of violence,” he wrote.

And on Saturday, they’re coming to Leicester.

So what is the real driving force behind this group that will descend on our city in a couple of days, provoking a counter Unite Against Fascism protest, and costing hundreds of thousands of pounds to police? Who are the EDL?

The English Defence League was born in the aftermath of an ugly demonstration by a small extremist Muslim group in March last year against homecoming troops parading through Luton. Its growth since then has been rapid. The EDL now has between 200 and 300 divisions across England, claims Guramit, and is affiliated to similar defence leagues in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Links have also been forged with groups in Europe and the USA. Luton was the “spark that ignited the fire,” he says.

People were sick of the creeping Islamification of Britain and the failure of mainstream politicians to protect our “democratic freedoms” from the medieval dogma of militant Muslims and their Sharia law, reckons Guramit, who got involved with the EDL when it marched through his home town of Nottingham last year.

“There are more than 100 Sharia courts practising on a daily basis,” he claims.

Sharia law is a “racist, fascist, paedophilic law”, he insists; a law which condones child marriage, imprisons women behind burkhas, legitimises female circumcision and wants to take over the world.

Actually, it doesn’t. Sharia courts in the UK don’t trample over the laws of the land. They’re mainly a forum for resolving matrimonial disputes. In truth, they’re the Islamic equivalent of Relate.

The idea that the EDL arrived out of nowhere is wrong, reckons Simon Cressy, a journalist for the anti-fascist monitoring organisation Searchlight. Simon, not his real name, has been keeping a watchful eye on the EDL since day one.

The rump of the EDL, he claims, is a shotgun marriage of football hooligans and extreme right-wingers who have been lurking in the shadows for years. Its self-proclaimed leader is a man who is said to have taken the name of a notorious Luton Town FC football hooligan, Tommy Robinson, as his pseudonym.

Searchlight claim the man behind the pseudonym has a BNP past and a conviction for assaulting an off-duty police officer. “The EDL has quite a lot of unsavoury characters, not the sort of people you want to congregate around,” says Simon.

Football hooligan firms are the foundation of the EDL, claims Simon. They use Facebook and established hooligan networks to organise.

The EDL, which has no formal membership structure, has also been a magnet for neo-Nazis and older National Front thugs who’ve found themselves marginalised by the BNP’s desire to present themselves as more respectable.

But it would be wrong to dismiss them as a simple replay of the far-right street movements of the past.

“Black and white unite in Leicester,” says the EDL poster for this weekend’s protest. The group has launched a Jewish section, with its own Facebook page. There is also a “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender division,” says Simon, but their presence has noticeably thinned at recent marches.

“The EDL has made a number of representations to Hindu and Sikh youths in Leicester to come out and march,” he says.

Taking a stand against Islamic extremism might be the rallying cry, but Simon claims it’s just a front. “The majority of the EDL will be in Leicester for one reason,” he says. “They will be there to get drunk and have a fight. They are not serious people with a political agenda.”

Surprisingly, Guramit makes no attempt to play down the football hooligan element of the EDL. If anything, he’s rather proud of them.

“Most of the main football firms in the country are involved,” he says. “It’s the only time football hooligans have come together. One Saturday they are kicking the s*** out of one another, the next weekend they are buying one another a drink.

“At the end of the day, we need our army,” says Guramit. “We don’t need counsellors and school teachers against militant Muslim youth, we need our army, so I don’t have a problem with them. It’s nothing to me if they want to have a fight on a weekend basis. Some of them are friends and brothers to me.”

Guramit has visited Leicester “four or five times”.

He says he’s seen three to five-year-olds in burkhas and talks of no-go areas that have been “ethnically cleansed” by Muslims. Which is a bit odd because anyone who lives here and strolled through those “no-go areas” won’t have seen that.

“In some areas of Leicester there are more burkhas than baseball hats and that shouldn’t be allowed,” he says. “I’m not really a PC sort of person” says Guramit. “I may say things that other people might find offensive.”

Proof of that can be found on a video of him posted You Tube.

Guramit, brandishing a megaphone at an EDL rally, can be heard bellowing: “God bless the Muslims. They’ll need it for when they’re burning in ****ing hell”.

And he’s their official spokesman, someone who addressed that braying crowd as “one of the 12 leaders of the English Defence League”.

It was a slip of the tongue, says Guramit. He missed a word out. He meant to say “Muslim extremists… burning in ****king hell”.

It’s interesting that Guramit sees extremists everywhere. Could it be that it takes one to know one? “I say an eye for an eye,” he says. “If people want to behead me and take my mum and my grandma as war booty then I’m going to fight them.”

Take your mum and grandma as war booty? What? In Nottingham?

It could happen, believes Guramit. If people don’t take a stand, he claims, Britain will become an Islamic state.

“As a British-born Sikh I’ve learned about the 10 Gurus that sacrificed themselves to save India from militant Islam. Everything they fought for is being washed away by the third Jihad. I’m against any fascist ideology that wants to take over my life and my family’s life.”

The EDL’s core support “appears to be young white men who are often fuelled by drink and sometimes drugs”, according to Matthew Taylor’s report in the Guardian.

Simon, from Searchlight, says most are working-class, male and aged 16 to 40. Strongholds are Yorkshire, Lancashire, Birmingham and London. That’s where the vast majority will be coming from on Saturday.

Professor Colin Copus, director of De Montfort University’s local governance research unit, has interviewed 25 EDL supporters for a research project. Only half could be described bellicose nationalists on the fringes of the far-right, he says. Others were ordinary people who had voted for all of the major parties in the past.

For many the EDL was an outlet for their dissatisfaction with the “privileges” given to minorities by governments and public sector organisations. There was also a strong sense that such groups were almost above criticism.

They might not be the angry brigade who go on marches, says Prof Copus, but it showed how the league had tapped into growing resentment felt by a relatively broad base of followers.

“In some respects it’s a sign of how fractured and frightened some elements of society are,” he says. “They will associate themselves with groups they wouldn’t normally associate with because they are worried about what they see as a greater problem.”

The EDL’s Leicester division usually brings 30 to 40 supporters to a demonstration, claims Guramit. He expects up to 200 local activists in a crowd of about 3,000 when it mobilises in the city.

Simon believes the EDL will be “lucky” to get 1,000 out on to Leicester’s streets.

The EDL is already struggling to carry the weight of its contradictions and conflicting agendas, some observers claim, with friction between the hooligans and the right-wing elements.

At a recent rally in Bradford, dubbed ‘the big one’, only 700 turned up. Marches and demos might have seen the EDL commandeer acres of newsprint, but the tactic already seems to be running out of steam.

The idea of spending two hours on a bus and being corralled into a corner of a city centre for another two hours, before getting back on the bus is rapidly losing its appeal for a lot of EDL activists, says Simon.

That doesn’t mean Leicester can afford to be complacent.

“The number of arrests (on an EDL rally) doesn’t really tally with the amount of disorder,” he claims. “I was in Bradford and I saw what the EDL was like and what the locals were like. The police momentarily lost control. They just wanted to get the EDL in and out with the least amount of fuss possible.

“The BNP has had to adapt and portray a more moderate image. The EDL don’t have to answer to anybody. They can get away with doing what they want – they don’t want respectability.”

In total, Matthew spent four months filming the EDL for his Guardian report, The English Defence League Uncovered. He said it had only been possible to record some of “the most alarming scenes” with a hidden camera.

He joined EDL supporters at a pub in Stoke in January for their first demonstration of the year.

“They had spent the past four hours drinking,” he wrote. “The balcony around the top of the cavernous pub was draped in flags bearing the names of different football clubs – Wolves, Newcastle , Aston Villa – and the chants ‘we all hate Muslims’ and ‘Muslim bombers off our streets’ filled the air.

“The atmosphere was tense, and not just because of the growing anti-Islamic rhetoric. The pub was packed with rival football gangs from across the Midlands and the north of England. Twice, fighting broke out as old rivalries failed to be subdued by the new enemy – Islam.”

It will get ugly if the EDL an United Against Fascism are within shouting distance of one another, believes Simon.

“I feel sorry for the people of Leicester that they’ve got to put up with this in their multi-cultural city,” he says. “I’d appeal for locals to stay indoors. Don’t attend the counter-demonstration. Don’t get involved.”

If you doubt the wisdom of that then Guramit makes it crystal clear.

“We’re here for peace,” he says. “But we’re ready for war.”

See Matthew Taylor’s film for the Guardian here.

Leicester Mercury

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