Manning the RampARTs Against the Surveillance State

May 1, 2009

In the aftermath of the G20 Protests on April 1, police didn’t just kill bystander Ian Tomlinson and try to cover-up their responsibility. They also raided a couple of squats, harassing and arresting their occupants before releasing all of them without charge.

The squats – the now venerable RampART social centre and a temporary convergence centre opened in Earl Street, Shoreditch – were being used to house demonstrators and to prepare actions.

Raiding such squats with teams of riot police is, according to the RampART Collective, totally illegal, but the raids received little coverage in the mainstream media at the time. Later reports covered footage gathered by protesters which seemed to show police pointing taser weapons at activists who had been made to kneel on the floor.

The RampART Collective has released a statement which discusses all of this and puts it into the context of a deepening surveillance state:

It is right and proper that the events leading up to the death of Ian Tomlinson should be the subject of a criminal investigation but the danger, as we see it, is that it will be seen as an isolated incident and will be dealt with simply by disciplining individual officers, only serving to further obscure the role of the police in perpetuating a climate of fear. Under the terms of the global surveillance state, citizenship has become an exercise in evading a charge of deviance. In fact, the proliferation of forms of deviance is the flip side of the supposed ‘lifestyle choices’ available under the terms of consumer citizenship. You can ‘choose’ to spend your money on home improvements, high fashion and high-tech gadgets and are applauded for making the ‘right’ choices. But if you choose to occupy an unused building for the purposes of providing space for political discussion, self-education and creative activities without the intrusion of CCTV cameras, health and safety monitoring or access restrictions, and particularly if you refuse to levy a charge which situates these activities in terms of market forces, then you effectively become outlaw.. And, if you choose to express your outrage at a system that produces inequalities and then condemns those that become unemployed and homeless, you become a target for repression. The differences between Tomlinson and the people who went to the Bank of England to demonstrate against the iniquitous excesses of neoliberal capitalism are marginal, despite attempts to distinguish between ‘innocent’ bystanders and ‘guilty’ protesters. Tomlinson was on his way home from work. The demonstrators were exercising their lawful right to protest. Both were exercising their right to the city as citizens of a supposed democracy.

..It’s tempting to say that the violence that we experienced was out of all proportion to the level of resistance which was, in fact, zero. But to even speak of proportionality is a mistake, because it implies that there is something in our actions that warrants a violent response. One member of the collective was punched in the face, another was pushed downstairs, had his head smashed against the wall and was met with looks of disbelief when he pleaded with officers to protect his glasses. One of the residents of the building was punched and kicked, narrowly avoided taser fire and was arrested in his pyjamas. [My Italics]

Police threatening unarmed activists with taser weapons:

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