pics and report from counter olympics demo on satTagged as:
nearly a thousand people representing a smorgasbord of campaign groups marched together under the banner of the counter olympic network (CON) on saturday in east london. the march was followed by speeches in wennington green.
from midday on saturday, as people assembled on the slopes of mile end park, they were joined by an intrusion of police liaison officers in their baby-blue tabards, disarmingly chatting and joking with the more gullible members of the crowd, while carrying out their usual agenda of surveillance and intelligence gathering. meanwhile, a samba band tuned up, people made homemade banners, and friendly connections were made between the myriad campaign groups representing that day.
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shortly after 1pm, the march set off from grove road, heading east along bow road. at the front were several members of DPAC (disabled people against cuts) in wheelchairs, their beef being with ATOS, the private firm contracted by government to "assess" disability allowance eligibility, and sponsor of the para-olympics. ATOS has ruled people with terminal cancer as eligible to work, and even suggested one person in a coma should not receive benefit. they receive massive amounts of public money to bother and terrify the most vulnerable in our society.
the negative effects of the olympics reach out in so many ways and touch so many people - it was extraordinary to see so many groups with a common focus - among them, unions, anti-cuts groups, anarchists, local campaign groups from displaced communities, those invaded by olympic facilities or missile bases, civil rights and right to protest groups, police monitoring groups, anti-corporate campaigners against G4S, Dow chemicals, and BP, and of course the socialists with their newspapers.
as the march stretched out along the bow road, it was clear there were several hundred going on to a thousand people there, and there were also (given the UK media virtual black-out on anti-olympic protests) a surprising number of journos, although most were from overseas press.
as the march approached bow roundabout, it peeled off to the left along fairfield road and past the bow quarter buildings, where a controversial missile base has been stationed on top of the water tower above residential buidlings. there was quite a long wait there while the back of the march caught up. soldiers on the top of the tower watched, one with binoculars, as the protest chanted down below, "seb coe, hey ho, get your missiles out of bow".
eventually the protest continued through some back streets to emerge on roman road heading back west.
there was an incident near the rear of the march as someone tampered with the white cordon tapes that hemmed people in, and he was detained by police and searched. many on the march waited or ran back to show solidarity and support and demand his release. after a few minutes, police, who claimed they'd seen him with a knife but couldn't produce one in the search, released him, and the crowd fed into wennington green at around 3pm.
there, a small makeshift stage was set up, and people listened to a string of speakers, while the 'woodcraft folk' provided some entertainment for kids.
first speaker was brian richardson who spoke among other things about racism in sport, then ruth tanner from 'war on want' told us about olympic sponsor adidas's 34 pence per hour wages to indonesian workers providing the olympic kit.
next up was naomi who was one of the cyclists arrested last night on the peaceful critical mass bike ride. she told a harrowing story of her arrest and subsequent treatment by police, then quoted olympic black power activist john carlos and got the crowd chanting "i am not afraid of offending my oppressor".
chris nineham spoke on behalf of the 'olympics missile campaign', and pointed out the records already broken by team GB. the record number of arrests at an olympic opening, the highest ever ticket prices, and the record militarisation of the games.
next up was john mcdonnell who said he was there to show solidarity with the victims of dow and atos. he said it was time to reclaim the olympics, kick out the corporations and make it about sport again. he also said it was time to campaign to change the system. quite why he's a labour MP i've never understood - he certainly doesn't speak for the labour party, and instead says many sensible things.
gail chester spoke on behalf of the counter olympics network and then she introduced julian cheyne who told us about the counter-olympics torch relays (http://london.indymedia.org/articles/12559), and officially handed over the vancouver torch to representatives from nosochi2014.com who told us about the plight of the circasian people exiled from their lands by genocide and erased from history by the russians. two circasians showed us a traditional dance and we heard some of their language. they will parade the torch at the sochi winter olympics before passing it on again to activists in rio for 2016.
we then heard from rio activist teresa williamson, who is concerned among other things that the 2016 olympics will see further displacement of the poor there in the guise of regeneration. she informed us that while the favelas are portrayed as the worst slums, in fact many of the more established favelas are a cheap place to live, with reasonable sanitation, internet access, and community solidarity - they are afraid the olympics will wipe them away and destroy their communities.
police were apparently getting itchy about an overrun of the agreed protest time, and organisers felt it necessary to cut short many more of the planned speakers, finishing with a performance from the bp-or-not-bp.org 'reclaim shakespeare company'.
see earlier report
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