November 23, 2021
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

In recent weeks we have continued to see a ramping up of additional police powers, via Tory amendments to the Policing Bill, and also a Judiciary increasingly inclined to imprison dissenters – non-violent or not, cheered on by the Government & it’s mainstream media lapdogs. This has happened against a backdrop that includes much anger at ongoing police misogyny and racism, brutality & lawbreaking (especially by off-duty cops), and massive over-policing of fluffy events and protests at COP26 and similar. It’s like a dual reality – the police are already overstepping their existing powers which are more than sufficient for policing both society & protests; yet the political right & the media are baying for more and using the state to enforce their (new) laws. A dystopian reality is with us.

Over in the USA, following on from the brutal police murders of George Floyd & countless others that led to the Black Lives Matter uprisings in 2020, the call to Defund, or Abolish the Police, began to gain some serious traction. Indeed some local authority areas moved in that direction, such as in Minneapolis. But even there, where social movements were strong, it turned out to be very complex, and ultimately a variety of reformist-type groups ended up recuperating and/or confusing the situation. This article – How (Not) to Abolish The Police: A Guide from the City of Minneapolis – is a sobering & thought-provoking read.

Here in the UK we are nowhere near trying to do all that yet – although Hackney came close in 1983…but at the same time we do have projects young & old that set out to ‘watch the detetcives’ (cop-watching), and to monitor the state and civil liberties in the UK & EU, because we never ever just give up in the face of repression. Two such groups have events here in Bristol over the next few days…

Monitoring the state and learning from history: policing and racism in the Statewatch Library & Archive – this event by Statewatch is being held at the Barton Hill Settlement in East Bristol, on 24th November from 5.30-7.30pm. Register for free in advance here. They say:

The connections between policing and racism have been in the headlines frequently since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, USA, last year. Protesters have called for an end to many long-standing police practices and, with the call to defund the police, for an end to the traditional model of policing altogether.
Many of the protesters’ demands are not new. In the UK, there is a long history of community and political activism on the issues of policing and racism. We invite you to join us in exploring the connections, similarities and differences between past and present events and struggles through an examination of materials from the Statewatch Library & Archive, a collection of over 800 books, 2,500 items of ‘grey literature’ and a host of other documents and ephemera concerning civil liberties and the state.

Here’s their agenda & the speakers:
Introduction by Ann Singleton, Reader in Migration Policy at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
A series of short presentations by:
Tony Bunyan, Director Emeritus and founder of Statewatch, on learning from history and police monitoring
Nadine Finch, former human rights lawyer, on surevillance and policing of the Irish community in Britain
John Pegram, Bristol Copwatch, on the roots of community resistance through monitoring and Copwatch around the UK
Hannah Vickers, the Bristol Cable, on the policing of Bristol protests and the importance of community media

An hour to explore archive materials from the Statewatch Library, working with documents and sharing reflections.
An opportunity to discuss the work of each speaker and the archive materials, in a discussion session facilitated by the Statewatch team.

Then on 30th November you can Get involved with Bristol Copwatch! – from 7.30-9.30pm at Easton Community centre, BS5. Full details & map here.
Bristol Copwatch is a fiercely independent grassroots community project and police monitoring organisation. We’re holding a community meeting and
– Find out more about what the group does
– See how you can get involved with our work
– Meet new people and make connections in your neighbourhood

This will be a friendly and informative meeting, followed by a trip to the pub so we can get to know each other!
Email bristolcopwatch[at] or DM us on socials to RSVP. Website / twitter

Back in May 2021, the newly elected A&S PCC, Tory Mark Shelford, repeated his view that Black Lives Matter protesters who toppled the slave-trader Colston’s statue were a mob who took the law into their own hands, whilst failing to realise that the ‘law’ had failed to deal with the matter over a more than 100 year period. He clearly isn’t going to be restraining the police in any way. People like him, and the forces he oversees, need to be watched, and countered at every turn, before we end up in a real life police state. So check out the above events, and for further reading & info see:
Network for Police Monitoring
Abolitionist Futures
Bristol ABC & Defendant Solidarity
Liberty – Human Rights
(all images from links given above)