Friday, August 30, 2013

Keep the EDL out of Tower Hamlets

COMMUNITY groups and anti-fascists in London’s East End last week called on their local police chief to stop a planned march by the Islamophobic English Defence League through Tower Hamlets – an area with a large Muslim community.
The community leaders and local residents sent an open letter to Dave Stringer, Borough Commander, Tower Hamlets:

Dear Mr Stringer,

At a meeting with Mayor Lutfur Rahman on Tuesday 20th August, members of the many diverse organisations represented by United East End were informed that the police are proposing three options for how the EDL's threat to come to Tower Hamlets on 7th September will be handled:
1.    The EDL will be allowed to march through the borough.
2.    The EDL will be told they cannot come to the borough and must hold their demonstration in central London (probably Whitehall).
3.    The EDL will be allowed to hold a 'static demonstration' in the borough.
We wish to say to you, in the strongest possible terms, that only option 2 will be acceptable to the vast majority of people in Tower Hamlets. We believe that the EDL must be kept out of our borough, for the following reasons:
a.         The EDL is a racist, bigoted, violent organisation. Their presence anywhere is an affront, but their intention to come to Tower Hamlets is a direct provocation and incitement. As borough Commander, you will appreciate the diversity of our multi-cultural community. The very qualities we value are the ones the EDL hates.  The Metropolitan Police has joined us in saying that we are 'One Tower Hamlets', but the EDL seeks to divide us. Allowing the EDL to enter our borough, whether for a march or static demonstration, can only undermine the years of progress towards mutual tolerance and respect that we have all worked for.
b.         The EDL is targeting Tower Hamlets because we have one of the biggest Muslim populations in the UK.  The EDL has an explicitly Islamophobic agenda.  We reject the demonisation of Islam and the whole community will unite to peacefully defend Muslim places of worship and our friends and neighbours who are Muslims.  However, allowing the EDL into the borough brings the inevitable risk that some will act with violence to oppose them.  We believe the people of Tower Hamlets are entitled to go about their peaceful lives without fear on 7th September and every other day of the year.
c.         We think it is very important to recognise that the dangers posed by the EDL have changed significantly, particularly in the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby.  United East End has joined others in condemning the brutal killing of Mr Rigby, but we are also aware that the EDL and other far-right elements have attempted to exploit this situation to their own divisive ends.  Numerous attacks have taken place on mosques since 22nd May that have raised anger and fear. Under these circumstances, the presence of the EDL in a borough with over 30 mosques represents a clear threat to public safety.
d.         Allowing the EDL into Tower Hamlets will entail a significant police operation, as it did in 2010 and 2011.  We believe that public money would be better spent on local community projects than policing the EDL.
In contrast to the EDL, UEE is a peaceful organisation comprised of groups and individuals who live in the East End, of all faiths and none.
As in previous years, we plan to celebrate our community’s diversity on 7th September.  However, we are concerned that allowing the EDL into Tower Hamlets will result in serious disorder and ongoing disruption to our community.
 The immediacy of this threat was illustrated in Hull on 17th August when a peaceful demonstrator was attacked by the EDL, but this is just one of a litany of incidents when the EDL has shown that it is not, as it claims to be, a peaceful and legitimate political organisation.
 We are all committed to the principle that Tower Hamlets is “No Place for Hate”. Only option 2 can ensure that this remains true.  We request that you pass on our comments to Scotland Yard and the Home Secretary as a matter of urgency.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Glyn Robbins (Convener, United East End)
Rev’d Alan Green (St John’s Bethnal Green and Chair of Tower Hamlets
Inter-Faith Forum)
Jack Gilbert (Co-Chair, Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Group)
Rebecca Shaw (Co-Chair, Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Group)
Max Levitas (Veteran anti-fascist campaigner, Battle of Cable Street 1936)
Sabbi Dhalu (Joint National Secretary, Unite Against Fascism)
Abdullah Falliq (Islamic Forum of Europe)
Abdi Hassan (Ocean Somali Community Association)
Sister Christine Frost fcJ (Neighbours in Poplar)
Al-Huda Mosque
Leon Silver (East London Central Synagogue)
Dr Jackie Turner (Local GP and Chair of Tower Hamlets BMA, p/c)
Brian Nicholson (London Dockers Club)
Kerie Anne (Assistant Branch Secretary, Tower Hamlets UNISON)
Amanda Bentham (East London Teachers Association – NUT)
Gerry Gable (/Searchlight/ and member of Metropolitan Police Independent
Advisory Group)
Ben Owusu (Chair, Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
John Azah OBE (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Christine Yau (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Roger Graef (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Rabi Laay (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Len Aldis (Chair, Tower Hamlets CND)
Phil Maxwell (Film maker, ‘From Cable Street to Brick Lane’)
Hazuan Hashim (Film maker, ‘From Cable Street to Brick Lane’)
Stephen Beckett (Secretary, Tower Hamlets Co-operative Party)
Dr Kambiz Boomla (Tower Hamlets GP)
Dr Anna Livingstone (Tower Hamlets GP)
David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group)
David Hoffman (Tower Hamlets resident, photojournalist, NUJ)
Guy Harper (Tower Hamlets Left Unity)
Peter Ashan (Waltham Forest UNISON p/c)
Sasha Simic (USDAW Shop Steward p/c)
Lorna Solomon (Homerton Hospital UNISON p/c)
Hsiao-Hung Pai (NUJ)
Dean Harris (We Are Waltham Forest)
Wendy Wood (We Are Waltham Forest)
Tash Munoz (We Are Waltham Forest)
Liz Ray (We Are Waltham Forest).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Was terror detention political revenge?

AIRPORT police last Tuesday defended their action under anti-terror laws to arrest and detain under David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, involved in reporting the leaked material supplied by Edwin Snowden.
Miranda, a Brazilian national, was held at Heathrow on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro for nine hours without charge. He reportedly had his mobile phone, laptop, memory sticks, DVDs and other items seized before he was released.
The government of Brazil expressed “grave concern” at Miranda’s detention and said it was “unjustified”.
Speculation is high that this was an indirect act of revenge against Greenwald for his role in the leaking of Snowden’s tapes, which revealed the vast extent of the US National Security Agency eavesdropping on electronic mail of US citizens and the citizens of other western countries.
Labour MP Keith Vaz called for the full facts of David Miranda's nine-hour detention at Heathrow to be established quickly.
The Home Office said it was for the police to decide when to use the powers it has to stop people.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, said it was very unusual for a passenger to be held for nine hours under schedule Seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 and he wanted to "get to the bottom" of what had happened.
The Guardian said: "We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport.
"We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities."
Greenwald said the British authorities' actions in holding Miranda amounted to "intimidation and bullying" and linked it to his writing about Edward Snowden's revelations concerning the US NSA.
"They never asked him about a single question at all about terrorism or anything relating to a terrorist organisation," he told the BBC World Service's Newsday programme.
"They spent the entire day asking about the reporting I was doing and other Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories.
"The principal point, since they kept him for the full nine hours, is to try to send a message of intimidation and bullying.”
The civil rights movement, Liberty, has long argued that Schedule Seven is overbroad legislation, ripe for misuse and discrimination, and currently has a case pending at the European Court of Human Rights challenging the power.
 Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "David Miranda's chilling nine-hour detention was possible due to the breathtakingly broad Schedule Seven power, which requires no suspicion and is routinely abused.
“People are held for long periods, subject to strip searches, saliva swabbing and confiscation of property – all without access to a publicly funded lawyer.
“Liberty is already challenging this law in the Court of Human Rights but MPs disturbed by this latest scandal should repeal it without delay.”
Meanwhile the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has reported that intelligence officials from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ordered the paper to destroy computer hard drives in effort to stop Snowden revelations. The action is unlikely to prevent new materials coming out.
Rusbridger said on the Guardian’s website that the officials told him that he would either have to hand over all the classified documents or have the newspaper’s hard drives destroyed.
He wrote that the officials then watched as computers, which contained classified information passed on by Snowden, were physically destroyed in one of the newspaper building’s basements.
During negotiations with the Government, Rusbridger said that the newspaper could not fulfil its journalistic duty if it satisfied the authorities’ requests.
But GCHQ reportedly responded by telling the Guardian that it had already sparked the debate, which was enough. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more," Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Protests at Putin’s homophobia

MORE THAT 1,000 members of the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer community in London gathered in Whitehall last Saturday to protest at new anti-gay laws being introduced by the Putin government in Moscow.
Many are calling for a boycott of the winter Olympics as such discrimination falls foul of the Olympic Charter.
Recent attacks on gay teens in Russia have caused international disgust and condemnation. The London protest was one of many around the world.
The protesters were calling on Prime Minister David Cameron and the Foreign Office to put pressure on the Russian Government to repeal these laws.
"Putin is the 'Czar of Homophobia'," veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell wrote on his website ahead of the protests.
"His regime has outlawed the public expression of LGBT identity and affection – and prohibited the advocacy of LGBT human rights – in circumstances where a person under 18 might see it."
Clutching banners bearing slogans such as "Love Russia. Hate Homophobia" and rainbow flags, protesters called for a change in the policy that has attracted criticism from world leaders.
Critics of the anti-propaganda law have said it effectively disallows all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.
On Friday, Olympic president Jacques Rogge asked Russia to explain how the country will implement the law in detail ahead of next year's Sochi Winter Olympics.

News round-up

Boris bikes strike

WORKERS employed to maintain the “Boris bikes” scheme and make sure there are enough bikes and enough empty docking places where they are needed took strike action for 48 hours last week over wages and employment conditions.
The RMT transport union says the workers are “being kicked from pillar to post” and that they are being bullied by staff.
The strike follows a unanimous vote for action by RMT workers on the flagship bicycle rental scheme – which is operated by the services giant Serco and Barclays bank.
Serco refuses to recognise the RMT. The union says it is challenging the imposition of a two per cent  pay increase for 2013, changes to shift patterns and what officials say is the “continuous bullying and harassment” of staff as well as the company’s refusal to reach a formal agreement on travelling time or on travel allowances.
Last June Serco changed shift patterns for workers after a barrage of complaints from the public over a shortage of docking spaces to park the bikes at the end of their rental period.
Union negotiators say they have been unable to make significant progress in talks with the employers.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “By voting 100 per cent for strike action RMT members sent out the clearest message to Serco Barclays, the scheme operators, that they are serious about this fight for justice on pay and working conditions on the London cycle scheme.”

London University bans protests

THE UNIVERSITY of London – the largest in Britain – has told its students they face legal action if they take part in protests at any of the university’s sites.
This follows recent student protests calling for equal working conditions for the university’s staff.
One student was arrested last month after chalking a slogan on the pavement in front of the institution's Senate House building in Bloomsbury.
The university, which consists of 19 self-governing colleges, sent a letter to the student union (ULU) warning of future prosecution if students dared protest on university property.
"The University’s management is no longer willing to tolerate demonstrations in Senate House, the cloister entrance and the East and West car-parks," the letter read. "If this policy is not followed then the University will consider protesters to be trespassing on University property and will take all the necessary legal measures to prevent and prosecute such trespass."
Michael Chessum, president of the ULU, said the decision was "outrageous", and that the letter "threatened" students.
"Will the institution really sink so low as to seek the prosecution of any more members of the University community?" he asked in a public response to the university. "If it does, it will be to its eternal disgrace.”

Bin bugs

The City of London last week ordered an advertising company to stop using its high-tech street rubbish bins to spy on passers-by. The bins follow Wi-Fi signals and capture smartphone serial numbers. And sell the data to marketing companies.
Renew installed 200 bomb-proof bins with built-in Wi-Fi and digital screens inside London’s Square Mile during and after the 2012 Olympic Games.
The firm initially offered to place advertisements and financial information on its “pods.” But in June, the agency started testing the bins’ wireless potential, subsequently launching a smartphone-tracking campaign.
The company’s “ORB” technology scanned the streets for smartphones, identifying the manufacturer of every device through unique media access control (MAC) addresses. It also detected the owner’s “proximity, speed and duration” of stay.