Posts Tagged ‘Rob Abrams’
In his recent ‘Fuel Poverty Review’, professor John Hills predicts that by the end of 2011, around 4.1 million homes in Britain will be considered to be living in ‘fuel poverty’. This situation, the review has noted, could directly contribute to the deaths of just under 3,000 people over the coming winter; a toll higher than the average seasonal number of fatalities in road-accidents.
Students across the UK are attempting to save money at the expense of their own health. Government statistics on fuel poverty indicate that students living in affordable yet energy-inefficient accommodation make up a large percentage of those recognised to be living in ‘fuel poverty’ by the ‘Living in Wales’ report, 2008. Swansea students in private accommodation are being let down by prepayment meters which charge a higher rate for energy than other types of meters, inefficient appliances, and poorly insulated housing. All of these things mean a situation in which keeping warm is an artificially expensive dream for students. There is no doubt that living in fuel poverty is devastating for both physical and mental health.
There are clear problems with expecting the solution to come from conventional energy-sources. Recent years have seen attempts by many energy companies to repackage old fossil-fuel solutions; i.e. E.ON’s support for ‘New Coal’. However, the appalling efficiency rating of just 45% for these new coal-powered units highlights the urgency with which we need a more sustainable solution.
To be able to bring about the changes needed to make greener energy solutions, such as the 100% renewable energy tariff provided by the company Ecotricity, more available to financially strained students, what is needed is a strong, eco-conscious current within the students movement. Past and on-going initiatives such Climate Camp, and NUS campaigns such ‘Student Switch Off’, and ‘Green Impact’ demonstrate to us an existing willingness to fight for such changes. It is now necessary, more than ever, for environmentally conscious students to show the rest of the student movement that the commitment to future generations as embodied in the anti-cuts movement should be linked to the commitment to protect the environment we share.
There is a certain something about activism that makes me want to read books out loud to grown strangers on the Docklands Light Railway early in the morning. Admittedly, I’m usually one of your average eye-contact avoiding Londoners; the sort you might spy-out on the Northern Line during rush hour, periodically switching gaze between the advertising, tube map, and ground. However, once every so often, things that happen in this city give reason for some of us to break down a few barriers. Of course, sometimes the reason in question may not seem so straight forward. Let this never detract from the importance of the cause, or of the way in which you may come to meet one of us enraged folk.
Recently, the band ‘Star F***ing Hipsters’ spat the words “for every innocent that gets murdered in the fray, we’ll fight 3,000 miles away” in to the ears of alienated ‘crust-punks’ everywhere. Upon hearing these lyrics, I came to a revelation; I had just found the most conveniently crass quote possible to insert into this article. For it just so happens that roughly 3,000 miles away from the ‘Defence and Security Equipment international’ (DSEi) arms-trade fair in east London is the less-than-liberal kingdom of Bahrain.
The ‘Arab Spring’ which broke out earlier this year left a profound mark on Bahrain, a country many human rights groups deem an ‘authoritarian regime’. Unfortunately, the immediate history of this young popular movement follows a similar line to other recent movements in the region. The Sunni-dominated elite of Bahrain have overseen the bloodshed of mostly Shia peaceful protestors. In light of this fact, how does the British government respond? Well, it seems that concerns regarding Bahrain among the top level defence authorities in this country do not concern the protesters, but the weapons being turned on them. The list of dodgy delegations invited by the British government to the DSEi fair does not end at Bahrain; among others, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, and Kazakhstan were all in attendance. The British government, behaving like a naughty kid confessing to a cookie-jar robbery, only released the list of invitees the day before the DSEi exhibition was due to open after pressure for information from national newspapers. The message of this action by the government is loud and clear; our hugely subsidised arms industry is more important than the subsequent risk put to hundreds, if not thousands of lives.
Big money is sacred. The holiness of the billions of dollars in the pockets of the visiting delegations to the DSEi arms fair is part of the same unfortunate situation which keeps the public from being allowed access to the highly guarded fortresses in which these moguls operate. Indeed, sound investment requires the prerequisite of lack of dissent. Fortunately, as long as the description ‘being difficult’ exists, there shall be those to fit it. At 9.30 am on the 13th September, I was sat amongst a sea of glum faces on the Docklands Light Railway. These were not necessarily unhappy people I was sitting with, they were relatively well-off businessmen making a killing in a subsidised trade. These people were merely being humbled with some facts about the by-products of their business; they especially seemed to like the story of how a couple of activists and a school group managed to purchase banned equipment commonly used for torture from a giant arms-producer! We parted ways at Custom House station. They bound for an extravagant reception; I bound for the pavement outside the station. Luckily, the Critical Mass bloc (cyclist activists) had arrived, with an obnoxiously loud sound system in tow. After the initial round of ‘murdering scum’ a sense of dissatisfaction set in. The culprits were where they have always been, just beyond the reach of justice.
Until we finally reached the vehicle entrance to the Excel Centre, our miniature roaming protest carnival navigated the residential streets of Newham. The locals not already outraged by the localised gun-running orgy stopped to ask carefully worded questions. Discreetly, so as to hide my intentions from the pursuing police Forward Information Team (FIT), I begun to prepare my ultimate revenge. The front gates of the exhibition fell clearly into view; I was patiently biding my time. Blockading the road failed, the group was forced back onto the pavement. My ultimate retribution suddenly gained new meaning. In the pocket of my hoody, my hand fell on the trigger. In a moment of sheer justice-inspired rage, I turned my weapon on a nearby policeman. The jet of clear, crisp water fell just short of his regulation boots, the policeman was slightly bemused. As I examined my pistol for faults, I heard a roughened, yet polite voice boom ‘let us see that, please sir’. Apparently, the government had heeded the protest’s demands and the police were beginning the crackdown on all forms of firearms. As if! In fact, my 99p brightly coloured plastic water gun had been deemed a security threat; “we can’t be sure of what’s inside it, sir!” Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the Russian delegation’s convoy leaving the conference; they were there to market a new brand of Kalashnikov.
Police officers were already present and waiting when, ‘affinity group’ by ‘affinity group’, the roaming protest arrived at the headquarters of the flagship corporation of the international arms-trade: BAE Systems. By 5 o’clock, around 60 activists – armed with the knowledge of BAE System’s disregard for US trading regulations, the economies of African countries, and human life world-wide – had coated themselves in red paint and ‘played dead’ on an otherwise quiet Westminster road. The few clouds in a mostly clear blue sky rolled past, the trees in BAE Systems HQ’s personal roof garden were caught by a gentle breeze. I was awoken about half an hour later by a fellow protestor informing me that we were moving on; rule number one, for the sake of objective, never fall asleep mid-direct action. The Forward Information Team (FIT) was snapping away, capturing my incriminating tiredness; “we’ve caught you mildly relaxed, sir!”
The arms industry is an industry not exactly new to appearing behind innocent façades. Sometimes, the link can appear fairly indirect, e.g. research funding for universities. Sometimes, very occasionally, the innocent façade comes in the form of a large, famous physical destination. As the protest dispersed and reconvened outside the National Gallery by Trafalgar Square, the confused inquisitions of the public at large were slightly overwhelming. Fortunately, the task of appealing to the rich tapestry of people that can be found in central London on any given afternoon is a task that most activists, young and old, are well familiar with. The protesters begun their loud-mouthed rants, engaged startled tourists, confronted the arriving guests of BAE System’s luxurious gallery banquet; before too long, the square was covered in leaflets proclaiming ‘THIS IS NOT OK!’
The news that Nick Griffin was speaking at The Globe (a dingy pub in Landore, Swansea) broke through a UAF facebook event Friday evening. It was clear from the atmosphere at the TUC anti cuts rally in Cardiff that people were in the mood to show Nick Griffin the way out of Wales. So at about 3pm – myself, Charlotte Britton, Luke James, Aiden Ramsey and Rob Abrams got on a Swansea bound UNISON bus packed with Trade Unionists.
After an hour of trying to rally as many students as possible it was 5, an hour before the meeting time. We hopped on the Number 4 bendy bus; banners arranged to be unfurled, spirits high and everyone ready to face whatever was ahead of us for us.
When we got to the meeting point, there were just 8 of us. We were very apprehensive and looking back in hindsight it was quite amusing how we were depicting every passer-by as a BNP scout. But slowly it became obvious that UAF’s mobilising machinery was perfectly at work. Within the space of half an hour we had approximately 80 activists. It was clear that the poor people working at the chippy just outside the meeting point had no idea what was occurring. As a large group of hardened anti-fascist campaigners descended into their car park – their facial expressions turned from ‘Oh great, put more chips on!’ to ‘omg, what is going on?!?!’
It was heart-warming to see so many young sixthform and college students there – it was clear from what they were saying and their spirits that young people aren’t apathetic about politics, just politicians. It was fantastic to see a huge NUS presence, NUS Wales Presidential candidate Luke Young and NUS UK Womens candidate Estelle Heart were both there fighting side by side with the grassroots.
As we were escorted to the demo zone by the police, we roared antifascist chants starting with the classic ‘Nazi Scum, off our streets’ and then moving to through experimental chants to a very tuneful; ‘Yo!…Ho!…Nick Griffin has to go!’ It was all well spirited until someone with a megaphone started yelling abuse about the police, however, to my delight – he was boo’d by the students and sixthformers and we continued with our anti-fascist chants. It was an excellent atmosphere.
The ever charming red-watch trolls were out with their cameras which caused a scuffle between antifascist campaigners and BNP thugs. A very expressive exclamation from our own Charlotte Britton, ‘Hey red watch, don’t forget to tag me on facebook’ followed by news that their server went down led to massive cheers and jeers shortly harmonising once again to ‘Nazi Scum, Off our streets!’
A large contingent of Labour Students moved in half way through the procession which followed a speech by Labours AM candidate. A very eye raked BNP member who claimed to be a local resident attempted to break police lines in order to confront her. He was unsuccessful and we carried on.
Shortly after the drama and a fantastic round of speeches from the crowd, we were told that it was time to go. In high spirits we were content in knowing that we mobilised just under a 100 people in short notice and reminded the BNP that they were not welcome in Swansea.
ACTION: If you think that the landlord of the pub hosting Nick Griffin was out of order, please address letters of complaint here: The Globe, 7 Mysydd Road, Landore, Swansea SA1 2QD or register a polite complaint to the landlord here: 01792 301 998