Saturday, 2 April 2011

A condemnation of Liberty's role on March 26th

It had been my intention not to dwell too much on March 26th. Having given a report, along with some footnotes, and reposted SolFed's letter to UK Uncut, that was to be it. There are only so many times you can make the same points, and I have no desire to get drawn in as the liberal left engages in ritual frenzy over "violence."

However, one thing that has not received the attention it deserves is the role of Liberty, the human rights organisation, on the day. I expressed my concerns long before the march took place, given that the "independent legal observers" were effectively embedding themselves in the police operation.

Observations on the day only confirmed my suspicions;
As we travelled down the route, we kept seeing the green bibs of Liberty, operating under the pretence of "legal observers." All had their backs to the police, watching the protesters. Later reports from other comrades suggest that they were pointing out people to the intelligence gatherers of FIT, and even taking photographs themselves. None of them handed out bust cards, as the genuinely independent legal observers of the Green and Black Cross were doing. They were, after all, part of the police operation rather than being there for our protection.
But, following this, there was little comment. As debate raged over "violence" and anarchists "hijacking" the day, the people in the green bibs were all but forgotten about.

For their part, Liberty's only comment on the day came in the form of a short press release. They were "were heartened by cooperation between TUC and police planners." They feel that "there can be no doubt that the official trade union-led demonstration was overwhelmingly civil, peaceful and good-natured and that the policing response was generally proportionate."

Their only concern was that "the demonstration appeared to have been infiltrated by violent elements who periodically separated from the main route in order to attack high profile commercial properties and the police before melting into the demonstration once more." All of which "presented significant challenges for the police and trade union stewards alike and at times jeopardised both the safety and ability to protest of those with peaceful intent."

The problem with which, of course, is that it doesn't add up. There was one mass break-away from the march, at Trafalgar Square. Others joined later to swell its ranks, but there was no "periodic" split. Likewise, talk of "melting into the demonstration" is nonsense, as most of those on the Radical Workers' Bloc ended up joining the occupation of Fortnum and Mason's.

Liberty's statement also highlights the limitations of their observation. The Green & Black Cross were at the occupation to see the police tricking UK Uncut activists into arrest. FITwatch also witnessed the unprovoked brutality at Trafalgar Square in the evening. Setting aside the fact that they provided far more by way of practical support, both on the day and after, the genuinely independent legal observers quite simply saw more because they were not confined to the official TUC march.

Most importantly, they were doing what legal observers were supposed to do. They monitored the actions of the police for the safety of the protesters.

Liberty emphatically did not do that. Moreover, talk of "violent elements" and "significant challenges for the police" without a mention of the violence employed by the cops shows the extent to which they have swallowed official narratives. Though this is not surprising, for a group which supposedly "campaigns to protect basic rights and freedoms," it is truly despicable.