27th July 2012 should have been a proud day as the 30th Olympiad opened in London with Danny Boyle’s £27 million opening ceremony.
The first part of the ceremony was supposed to be showcasing Boyle’s view of British history. This was the story of migration and immigration, protest and rebellion. From the land to the cities, the working classes were shown literally rolling the grass away from under their feet. However, it appears to the world that protest and subversion ended in 1913 with the death of Emily Davison at that year’s Derby under the feet of the King’s horse or in 1920s with the Jarrow March. Where was the depiction of the 1958 Race Riots in Notting Hill? or the 1981 riots across much of Britain? the Miner’s Strike?; the Poll Tax riots? There was no chance of last years riots featuring either. You could add any number of other civil uprisings to this list – all air brushed from history.
I will return to the celebration on civil protest by the likes of Emily Davison and Emily Pankhurst later in this blog.
There were some classic British parts in the ceremony. The James Bond scene with the “queen” and Bond parachuting into the ceremony was British humour at the best. Although, the helicopter appears to have left Buckingham Palace in bright afternoon sunshine and arrived at the Olympic Stadium some 5 miles away in pitch darkness. One can only presume Mark Thatcher was navigating!
The Rowan Atkinson scene during the Chariots of Fire sequence was another example of British humour and was in my view a true showcase of the genre. Sadly in the spirit of the Olympics, clips of this have been removed from You Tube after the IOC claimed its copyright was being infringed. Hopefully this link is still working http://www.comedy.co.uk/videos/4012/rowan_atkinson_london_2012_olympics_opening_ceremony/
The Olympic torch was made up of 204 separate kettles, each of which was brought to the torch by a competing nation. The torch itself was lit by 7 young athletes rather than by a famous name. Sadly, Sir Roger Bannister was not given the honour. The seven athletes chosen consisted of a rower, a swimmer and 5 track and field athletes. No space for any other disciplines. It may seem churlish, but why no hockey players, cyclists, sailors, equestrian, shooters etc.? I’ll return to the issue of the kettles later, but the torch itself was stunning and a fitting piece for the Olympics.
The opening bell was rung by Bradley Wiggins, fresh from his winning the Tour de France last weekend. This again was appropriate given what else was happening that night.
The Olympic flag was carried by amongst other people, Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered Stephen Lawrence. I’m not sure what she has done for Britain or the Olympic movement. Her son was murdered in a brutal attack and after many years 2 of the perpetrators have been jailed for their crime. However, every time she opens her mouth it is seemingly to play the race card and sadly seemingly to inflame racial tensions rather than reduce them. I know that is a view many disagree with, but conversely many agree with it. She was accompanied by Shami Chakrabati who is according to the IOC announcer, the founder of Liberty, the human rights group. Now given that Liberty was founded in 1934 and Ms Chakrabati was born in 1969, I think this is perhaps a little re writing of history (or a mistake).She is actually the Director of Liberty and has been for 9 years now. Her selection to carry the flag may been seen by some as a show of the British supporting the rights of the underdog and the right to protest. Alternatively, it shows how much brown nosing Shami Chakrabati does and how she is a disgrace to her role and her organisation. I will come back to this later in this blog.
The run up to the Olympics was marked by fears of terrorist attacks. From the awarding of the Olympics on 6th July 2005 and the tube/ bus bombings the following day, through to the opening ceremony we have been told of the threats to our security from Al Qaeda. There was the farce over the G4S recruitment of staff to guard the stadium and their replacement with the Army.
The Metropolitan Police took the security issue so seriously that they used extendable batons and pepper spray on a disabled ban on his mobility scooter who was trying to cross Black Friars Bridge in London some 5 miles from the Olympic Stadium. This after they tried, to stop Critical Mass, a monthly bike ride that had ridden round London for 18 years peacefully on the last Friday of the month, from crossing the river Thames on any river crossing in Central London.
Critical Mass has been going since 1994 and is a celebration of cycling to some, a road safety campaign for others, a protest group for others and for yet others, it is a social event. I will declare an interest that I have in the past attended Critical Mass bike rides as a social rider to meet fellow cyclists. The rides are not organised and the routes are not planned.
The House of Lords in a landmark ruling in 2008 in the case of Kay (Appellant) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Respondent)  UKHL 69 ruled that Critical mass was not a protest but was a procession that was customarily held and therefore not covered by S11 of the Public Order Act 1986.
One of the features of Critical Mass is that it is a non violent movement. In its 18 year existence it has never been a violent happening.
Despite all this, the police tried to invoke S12 of the Public Order Act to prevent the event taking place. This in my view was an illegal use of S12, which requires the police to have reasonable grounds to fear serious violence or serious disturbance. On 27th July the Critical Mass website had called for PASSIVE resistance of police attempts to prevent the happening taking place.
There is some incredible footage of police violence taking place on a disabled man on a motorised scooter who was part of the ride. Others have blogged on it and posted footage of it here and elsewhere
"People have a right to protest. It is an incredibly important part of our democracy," the Metropolitan Police statement said.
"What people do not have the right to do is to hold a protest that stops other people from exercising their own rights to go about their business.
Now, look through that footage and think about the propaganda issued by the Met Police today. Look at the footage outside Tesco in Stratford and ask who it is who is blocking the main road from London to Stratford? The 20-30 cyclists there or the several hundred police officers and the scores of police vehicles. When you look at this question, you start to see that the police statement is a tissue of lies. Remember ?John Charles De Meninez who was armed, jumped the tube barrier, was carrying a bomb etc. or so the police lied immediately after he an unarmed Brazilian was shot in 2005 or Ian Tomlinson who had apparently never been near a police officer the day PC Simon Harwood attacked him twice just minutes before he collapsed and died. The Metropolitan Police are skilled at telling lies and deliberately issuing untrue and false information to get the public on their side before the truth eventually drips out later, but by then the public outrage has subsided.
The last line of that police quote is interesting. Are we going to see the police arresting tube drivers when they strike because they are preventing people from going about their business. Note that use of the word business – this clearly shows what this is all about. The big business of the IOC and its commercial
bribe payers sponsors
The police tactic of kettling protestors is an affront to democracy. They simply corral people and can hold them for many hours, without allowing them to leave, go to the toilet or even seek legal advice. Quite how this kettling is acceptable in a modern society is not clear. Sadly the Courts seem to think this tactic, despite being a clear breach of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the provision in the Human Rights Act against detention without trial (Article 5)
Article 5: Right to Liberty
(1) Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;
(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;
(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;
(d) the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority;
(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics and drug addicts or vagrants;
(f) the lawful arrest or detention of a person to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.
(2) Everyone who is arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language which he understands, of the reason for his arrest and of any charge against him.
(3) Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this Article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.
(4) Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.
(5) Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention in contravention of the provisions of this Article shall have an enforceable right to compensation.
This kettling does not fit any of these exceptions to the right to liberty.
As I said earlier, it is ironic that at the Olympic opening ceremony, every team carried a kettle when this is what the police were doing to peaceful cyclists.
Incidentally, look at the number of police officers at each clip, especially near Tescos in Stratford and on Bow Flyover as well as on the busses at Charing Cross Police Station. I thought there were concerns about security at the Olympics. So how can the police afford enough officers to outnumber a peaceful cycling happening by 5 to 1?
Again, in the footage, at Charing Cross Police Station and at Tescos, notice how certain officers try to prevent the filming of what is happening. One may ask why that is? The police use filming of incidents to help prevent crime or convict perpetrators of crime, but seem to try by force to prevent people filming their criminal actions or simply their actions that portray them in a less than good light. At Tescos, it is noticeable that it is one officer only that tries to prevent filming. The majority of officers are helpful to the cameraman in showing their collar numbers.
Many of those arrested were taken to Charing Cross, held there for 2 hours on busses with no access to toilets, food, drink or legal advice. Then many were taken to Croydon police garage and held their for several more hours before even being processed. Some people were held for up to 12 hours before even being allowed a phone call to a solicitor. Their crime? to have ridden a bike as they do every Friday in an event protected by a House of Lords ruling. Terrorists and murderers do not get held in such a manner, let alone those whose crime was simply riding a bike. Woe betide anyone who denied animals food and drink or toilet facilities for so long.
Now, on their website, Liberty have the following statement on the front page
In the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics, Liberty has warned of the impact on civil liberties.
As the Games get underway we urge a common-sense and light touch approach to policing and the enforcement of Olympic regulations.
Now, whilst Shami Chakrabati was brown nosing the IOC and the powers that be, the civil liberties of a group of cyclists was being denied their liberties and any dissention was treated in a way the Chinese authorities restrained from doing in 2008 @ the Beijing Olympics. What have been the response of Liberty since the events of Friday night? Yes, you’ve guessed it, not a word from Liberty at all. Seems like brown nosing is far more important to Liberty’s Director than actually fighting for the rights that Liberty are supposed to defence. A shameful dereliction of duty.
This all reflects badly on the UK and makes it clear that the Olympics are simply about corporate greed and political image. All dissent must be crushed.
Incidentally, not a single person arrested has been charged so far in connection with the critical mass ride on Friday. They have all been bailed to return to a police station on a date after the Olympics and Paralympics have finished, when no doubt they will be told no further action will be taken – how convenient….
They have all been bailed on the following conditions
- Not to go within 100 yards of any Olympic venue
- Not to enter any Olympic-only carriageway, unless that carriageway is open to all traffic at the specific time
- No to enter the Borough of Newham whilst in possession of a bicycle
- Not to take part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games
Now, if that had been me, those conditions would prevent me from getting to work as I would either have to cycle through Newham to get to work or if I go by public transport, I would pass within 100 yards of of numerous Olympic venues. If you were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving in your car, the police would not impose conditions on your bail whilst investigating the incident. However, ride a bike peacefully in London and this happens even before you have been charged with any offence, let alone be convicted of any offence.
Remember these are supposed to be the greenest Olympics, and cyclists were used as part of the opening ceremony as an art form, but use a bike as transport for commuting or leisure and you are treated like scum by that affront to justice from the Metropolitan Police on Friday night
PS The spell check on this computer obviously isn’t stupid, it suggested SHAMI (as in Shami Chakrabati) should be replaced by SHAME. Very appropriate.