Whilst spending time outside the 40A Autonomous Space in Bristol on May the 1st, sharing food, drink, good conversation, and creating art, I was handed a small booklet.
‘KILLING THE BILL – Vol. 1’
There is, understandably, no writer for me to credit, however I would like to share some of the ideas explained, and add a few of my own thoughts and reflections.
Good Cop, Bad Cop – Good Protestor, Bad Protestor
This passage in particular I thought was interesting, especially as I was unsure where I stood in relation to violence at protests:
There are no “good protestors” or “bad protestors,”
despite what the newspapers and politicians may say.
There are no outside agitators. Outside of what?
We all belong to society, everyone has the right to be there and act as they see fit.
There are shitty people all over the planet, and there will certainly be people you don’t agree with also taking part in this movement. Rather than using the subjective measure of good and bad, we need to look at what we stand for.
Sure, there are many police who would use violence only as a last resort, but that isn’t the point. If they want to, ANY member of the police force can use violence when and where they see fit. It could be using a shield to hit you, beating you while you’re down, smashing you in the face with a baton, kneeling on your neck. These all happen, so when the police turn up in riot gear, carrying weapons, accompanied by dogs, and riding horses, the difference between good cop and bad cop becomes obsolete. They are there to enact the will of the state.
It’s the same with fellow protestors. Whether you agree with their methods or not, these people are there with you, fighting for your rights. Don’t let the media create division within protest movements – while I myself choose not to partake in violent* demonstration, I don’t condemn those who do.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill directly targets peaceful protest. The bill also criminalises the cultures and ways of life of the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities. Violence at protests will always be a highly contentious subject, but you can’t keep expecting people to take the moral high ground when they are subject to violent policies every day, or when they are being physically threatened at demonstrations.
*What really is violence though? It’s one of those words that people use to mean lots of different things. Is shouting violent? Is smashing up a starbucks violent? Is punching a copper in self defence violent?
Organise and Unionise
For decades our leaders have been dividing us. Community centres, schools, health and social care, have all seen cuts, as well as trade unions being infiltrated by “SpyCops“. Alone, big businesses and the government can pick us off one by one, but together we are a force for change, the fact that Amazon is trying so hard to stop their workers from unionising is telling. Fewer checks and balances for those in power always benefits the few at the cost of the many.
Love and Support One Another
At the morning May Day workers and unions demonstration, I saw signs, banners, leaflets and t-shirts, representing not only unions, but also Kill the Bill, Black Lives Matter, and Extinction Rebellion. At the Kill the Bill protests, I have also seen the same. We are all part of the same society, when one of us needs help, we all stand up.
During the day especially, the vibe at the protests has been really lovely. I think we’re all in need of some community as we emerge from a year of hibernation – I’ve danced, sung, laughed, listened, learned. There is so much mutual love between everyone in attendance, and it’s moments like these that remind us what we are fighting for.
And there was no one left…
I want to finish with a poem by Martin Niemöller, that I’ve adapted for our current situation. Niemöller spent 7 years in concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
First they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for Extinction Rebellion, and I did not speak out – because I was not a climate activist.
Then they came for BLM, and I did not speak out – because I was not black.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
They are coming for you. Act now.
Some links and info
The regional mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections are taking place on May the 6th.
You’ll find details on the role and the major candidates for the West of England mayor here.
Details of the role of a PCC and the candidates for Avon and Somerset can be found here. At the bottom of this page is also a search bar which will tell you your polling station. You can vote for the Mayor and PCC at the same place.
You can get updates about local protests on these Instagram pages:
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