November 18, 2020
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

Updated 18 November – to include: a note on the flipflopping by the National Police Chiefs’ Council over the matter of issuing £10k FPN’s; and a legal look at Magna Carta, especially Section 61.

Original article: So we wandered into town on Saturday to watch the Stand Up Bristol anti-lockdown/anti-mask protest and to see what would occur. Those organising & supporting the event had been told not to go, that it breached the Tory Govt covid-19 laws, and that the police were promising a robust response. The cops were backed up by their pals at Bristol City Council, and indeed many others. We know a lot of our readers didn’t approve too, but at the same time there has been and is growing support for some (not necessarily all mind!) of the protesters views – over the weekend there were a good 20 such protests around England, getting increasing backing both on the streets and online.

First arrest

What we saw was arguably the biggest police operation in Bristol since the two Stokes Croft / anti-Tesco riots in April 2011 – including at least 10 riot vans, multiple other vans & cars including a dog unit, mounted cops in riot gear, and in the region of 60+ cops on the streets at any one time (from riot support groups to police liaison officers). It was surprising then when almost bang on 12 noon the gathered protesters set off, numbering around 200 to begin with. Taking in first a walk around College Green that involved walking straight through a police line, and then heading down to the Fountains, but largely (and strangely) on the pavement….although this changed later. At this point the police tactics became clearer, as first a young woman, allegedly an organiser, was arrested, and then right by the fountains a man was nicked too – cops send in a snatch squad to grab someone & then back it up (repeated a dozen times all afternoon). The police largely left the march to follow it’s own course, blocking off the odd side road, but only intervening to snatch someone – not quite the robust response they’d promised!? Numbers grew as people who’d perhaps been waiting to see how it went, joined in, so that at it’s largest it perhaps numbered 450+. The march essentially went around in a circle returning to College Green twice. The second time Piers Corbyn spoke briefly, and was then arrested (again) himself, amidst scenes that teetered on the edge of violence for a few minutes. Then the marchers were off again, on a slightly larger circle that saw them reach the edge of St Paul’s, before ending up back by the fountains as numbers dropped off. If you want to watch it, there’s a youtube video, all 3hrs 45mins long, with nigh on 50k views – the Corbyn arrest comes at around 2hrs 18mins in….the video chat box is worth noting too. As of 16 November, the police announced (Bristol Post article) that 5 people have been charged, 7 released on bail or pending further investigation, with 1 person sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Further arrests may follow we suspect…[update 17 November – this is why nobody has been issued with a fine upto £10k immediately: the National Police Chiefs Council (eh?) has suspended the issuing of such penalties, and that Police must now issue a court summons instead. Indeed they should! / Update 18th November – the NPCC stated late on 17 November that they were now re-instigating the issuing of FPN’s for upto £10k…but will remind those fined of the options open to them. How kind of them eh! Are they making this up as they go along…when did the Police get the powers to decide these issues? Put simply, if you get a large FPN, consider going to court as there it should be ‘means tested’ according to your ability to pay, you could also ‘try’ to run a defence. Good luck with that though!]

12 noon College Green

What of the politics on the march? Well the weather & lack of speakers meant not that much was revealed. Placards & chants largely focused around ‘Freedom’ from the lockdown & state control, and the assertion people had a right to protest. Hardly anyone wore a mask. People were largely white, working class, mixed gender & ages. We saw no obvious signs of far-right involvement at all, although some antifa spotters reckoned they’d seen a couple of faces, including possibly a nazi from Dover. Compared to the event we reported on in late August, where speeches went on for hours, there was a general absence of QAnon-related conspiracy nonsense. The weather wasn’t ideal for placards nor leaflets, and we only picked up the one flyer – this was very anti-mask, criticised the PCR test, and argued that the pandemic was hugely overstated. This flyer referenced this website – have a critical look. It’s got a cleverly well written intro that could be from almost any well meaning, left leaning NGO or similar. But it’s real ideas are in the larger menu, see the ‘Info Tree’. References to ‘Freemen’, common law, and the Magna Carta were also heard on the march…but these are centuries old concepts and are not anything worth aspiring too – demand more, not a return to those old ideas and antiquated times, when Kings & Barons ruled over us, and the rest of us especially women had no rights at all. (For a legal look at Magna Carta, esp Section 61, see this article from the Law & Policy blog)

People are increasingly angry with the Tory Government, and rightly so – they’ve been exposed as inept, incompetent and effectively corrupt as their pals get £millions of our taxes for dodgy private contracts. The Tory message is contradictory, their strategies ill-thought out, and they’re not averse to lying when it suits them. When publications such as the British Medical Journal are publishing articles entitled – Covid-19: politicisation, “corruption,” and suppression of science – then it’s no surprise people are pissed off, confused and a bit lost. Some folks are terrified of the coronavirus & prepared to lock themselves in – and rightly so, as for some it will be and is a nasty killer or long term illness. It certainly isn’t a hoax. Others look at the stats and conclude their risk is not so great, so question the need for lockdowns and economic chaos and huge upheaval in their lives. The Tory Govt response appears to be the increased use of the state & police and criminal charges (or fines), effectively criminalising what is actually a health crisis brought about largely by their unpreparedness and underfunding of public services for 10 years, and now by their handouts to mates in big business. The Tory shift towards a more authoritarian strategy, faced with a recession and Brexit to go with covid-19, and an increasingly angry & growing section of the population, is no surprise. But it’s one we’d do well to watch & oppose, before it goes any further and becomes impossible to turn back.The Labour Party’s apparent official backing for Tory measures, and indeed their desire for ever more restrictive controls – such as censoring social media – is disappointing…and reflects that dissatisfied citizens have no obvious mainstream political outlet for their concerns. But the outlawing of the right to gather and protest is some way down a very slippery slope (even if in Bristol on Saturday they didn’t actually stop the protest, but it may make people think again next time).

The other tried & tested Tory tactic is divide & rule, the mask wearers against the anti-maskers; those desperate for a vaccine against those rightly suspicious of the Govt & big pharma; those who need an ICU bed because they’re struggling to breathe against those who need treatment for cancer or one of the other illnesses that have been set to one side; those scared to go outside against those who see their hard won rights to freedom of assembly & protest etc disappearing fast. The list can go on. When you add into that mix some far-fetched conspiracy theories that require mental contortions to accept, it really doesn’t help, and nor do climate change deniers like Piers Corbyn – how can you trust them?! Take the ‘Bill Gates wants to get us all microchipped’ idea – now Gates has wealth, power & influence way beyond acceptability, and that’s down to the unequal nature of capitalism. But microchipped? We’re already essentially microchipped – in your passport (or ID card) & driving licence, then there’s your phone signal, email & IP address, NI & NHS numbers, car registration, bank cards, utility bills & council tax, and never mind all the cctv. We’re already surveilled most minutes of every day. If you want to visit some countries around the world, you have to get a vaccination, and many of us do that. Who needs a conspiracy theory? Why weren’t you paying attention before?

We got some fanmail on Saturday, possibly after someone saw our reposted review of StandUp X in August. We usually have a laugh when we get some. Anyway here’s what they said:

“Not much Alternative about you fellas. You can brand people making a stand for their freedom and liberty as right wing conspiracy theorists, However, when medical tyranny is coming down the line, we need brave individuals to create a difference. If you can’t see a big pharma manipulation when it’s in your face, I suggest you stay at home, and leave the rest of us to get about our business without your word salad of silly comments.”

Now we often post multiple times a day – local news & events, things we support, ideas and comment from further afield that we may not necessarily agree with, memes & cartoons – across a fairly wide spectrum of news. As we’ve said before we don’t follow one-fixed ideology, but broadly on the spectrum of green, red and black (or environmentalist, socialist & anarchist). We may hold a variety of views on a particular topic, and that would include this protest in Bristol. So if you just read one of our posts, your making a mistake. So here’s an excerpt from this article – US – UK Intel Agencies Declare Cyber War on Independent Media – we also shared at the end of last week:

“Both countries are preparing to silence independent journalists who raise legitimate concerns over pharmaceutical industry corruption or the extreme secrecy surrounding state-sponsored Covid-19 vaccination efforts, now that Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is slated to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by month’s end.
Pfizer’s history of being fined billions for illegal marketing and for bribing government officials to help them cover up an illegal drug trial that killed eleven children (among other crimes) has gone unmentioned by most mass media outlets, which instead have celebrated the apparently imminent approval of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine without questioning the company’s history or that the mRNA technology used in the vaccine has sped through normal safety trial protocols and has never been approved for human use. Also unmentioned is that the head of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Patrizia Cavazzoni, is the former Pfizer vice president for product safety who covered up the connection of one of its products to birth defects.
Essentially, the power of the state is being wielded like never before to police online speech and to deplatform news websites to protect the interests of powerful corporations like Pfizer and other scandal-ridden pharmaceutical giants as well as the interests of the US and UK national-security states, which themselves are intimately involved in the Covid-19 vaccination endeavor.”

It’s good to embrace a range of opinions & ideas, and be open to the fact that many things can & do change. But we won’t find a way out of the covid-19 chaos if we lose sight of the real enemies.

(Image credits: feature image – 2nd arrest by Fountains; all altbristol pics)