Protest, draw and write about whatever you like, as long as it’s not Austerity.

A few thoughts for Saturday:

I think that of all the nauseating shit that various worthies have guffed re: free speech this week, David Cameron’s contribution probably made me hurl the furthest:

“We must be very clear about one thing, which is we should never give up the values that we believe in and defend as part of our democracy and civilisation and believing in a free press, in freedom of expression, in the right of people to write and say what they believe.”

Sounds absolutely fabulous. One thing, though. I wonder if this Free Speech largesse will now be permanently extended to people who want to write, protest and say what they believe about David Cameron. I wonder in particular if it extends to people who want to protest and write against Cameron’s austerity cuts. I know that we were all pleased to discover that the right to pen cartoons in other countries will from this point be defended by a liberal colossus like our leader. I’m just keen to confirm that those who protest and report a little closer to home have the full green light as well.

You’ll understand why doubt clouds this part of the picture for me. I don’t want to imply that we’re in totalitarian lockdown yet – I personally have a great deal of freedom and I don’t take it lightly – but things keep happening. They even happened at almost the exact same time that Cameron delivered the above ode to liberty. Here’s an anecdote for you. About 24 hours before Cameron came out with “the right of people to write and say what they believe,” I attended a lobby at parliament with a group of disabled people who’ve been engaged in a bitter three-year fight against a Cameron-government proposal to close the vital Independent Living Fund. This group of people use the ILF to pay for the extra carer hours they need to live independent lives. They can study, work, socialise and get out amongst it like everyone else. You might say that with that support, people have freedom. Without that money, these people will be in a very bad place indeed. It is not an exaggeration to say that some may die if they end up with inadequate care. We are most certainly talking a life and death situation here. We are talking about rights. We’re talking about the right of disabled people to live. That’s why so many people have fought so hard to get news of the ILF cut circulated. Nobody will let it go. Nobody can let it go.

Anyway, a journalist at the lobby started to livestream the event for the benefit of the many disabled people who weren’t able to attend, but who of course wanted to hear what MPs had to say about the future of the ILF. The ILF is due to close in just six months and people are naturally very worried. With a couple of honourable exceptions, the mainstream press has been utterly useless at reporting and campaigning on this funding cut. Livestreaming, protests and campaigner reports have been crucial to getting the news out.

Things were ticking along with the livestream and a number of people – one in tears –  explained their concerns to MPs. Then suddenly, some worthy burst into the room and said You’re Not Allowed To Livestream From Parliament – Turn That Thing Off.

So. That’s freedom of expression and the right to get the news out for you, people. It’s not unusual to be told to stop filming, or to be given a raft of reasons to stop – security, privacy, etc, etc. Still, I get very angry about this sort of thing. I was actually so pissed off when officers told that journalist to stop livestreaming that I left the room (I like to think the journalist was allowed to start the livestreaming again, or did so without permission. UPDATE 13 January – apparently they did carry on filming. MPs backed down when called out on the access issue. Excellent). I left for another reason that has to do with free speech in a roundabout way. I was on the verge of saying something confrontational to the officer who closed the stream down, but I knew that saying what I believed in that instance would be ill-advised. I expect that at the very least, I would have be told to put a sock in it.

There’s freedom and freedom, you see. There are the freedoms that politicians are prepared to defend (you should always ask why that is, too) and then there are the freedoms that we must all kiss goodbye, because they are perceived as (or at least sold as) a threat to the great modern god that is Security. The freedom to draw cartoons Over There is defended. Livestreaming an event about a potentially fatal funding cut from your own seat of democracy, on the other hand, is a security threat (when I’m banned from recording or filming, I’m usually told the ban is made on security grounds. Security will pull any old bollocks out, though. One asshat on West Lancashire council once told me to stop recording a public council meeting, because he was worried I wouldn’t edit it “professionally.” God knows where he was going with that. I kept the recorder on, anyway. The hell with him). Protesting is also considered a threat. About an hour before livestreaming problem last week, I filmed a copper telling the same group of people that they’d be arrested if they didn’t end the protest that they were holding on Whitehall. Disabled people blocked Whitehall for half an hour or so on Tuesday, again to draw attention to their concerns about the ILF closure. You can hear the copper going on about arrest at about 0.20 in the video here:

Because it’s Saturday and because, as I say, I get queasy when Z-list, austerity-happy politicians stride the world stage blathering on about civilisation and rights in the interests of pointing the finger elsewhere, I thought I’d list a few of the events I’ve attended where Cameron’s police force and/or various security guards have tried to stop people protesting against austerity, or filming, or recording, or writing about it. For the record, I don’t wish to imply that the treatment handed out in these instances to journalists in particular equates to being shot. It doesn’t. It obviously doesn’t. I simply mean to say that reporting on and protesting against Cameron’s austerity cuts hasn’t quite been the picnic that the great man would have you believe. I also want to point out that Cameron certainly has a lot of coppers at his immediate disposal for someone who believes in free expression. You’ll see quite a few of these at protests in the videos below. For the record on the Charlie Hebdo story: I think a lot of things. I hate the racism. I hate the censorship. I hate the killing. Most of all, I hate a wildly hypocritical political class that takes any opportunity to stir and channel hatred while showing absolutely no evidence otherwise of giving a damn for anyone’s liberty, or life. Disability funding cuts have killed people, you know. If the ILF goes, that’ll likely lead to more illness and death, as will more social care cuts generally. We’re civilised here, though. Or something.

Je suis not Charlie, my friends. Je suis some old blogger who can’t stand a lot of what she sees these days. I think I know how all this will end.


Here are a few instances where people have struggled to express themselves in David Cameron’s free speech nirvana. I’ll probably upload more later:

Police standing on tents to stop disabled people setting up a protest camp at Westminster Abbey. People wanted to set the camp up as a protest at government plans to close the ILF:

Police standing on tents at Westminster Abbey

Extraordinarily excessive policing at the Westminster Abbey protest (hundreds of police vs about 30 protestors):

Police forcibly break up an eviction protest at Camden: (two arrests):

University of London ban on protest

Police refuse to recognise my press card and cross the police line at Abbey protest:

Security guards bar entrance into public Newham council meeting:

Police blockade Occupy protestors at parliament square.

I’ll probably upload more later.

11 thoughts on “Protest, draw and write about whatever you like, as long as it’s not Austerity.

  1. On the whole, we don’t have free speech in the media either. The news in general takes the side of power, whether that be Tory, Labour, etc. Politics is extremely limited by way of what is discussed. Journalists who write stories that those in power find agreeable get more access for future interviews. If the journalist kicks up too much of a fuss about something then they get far less access. Therefore many key issues don’t even get covered in the media.

    I was thinking today about the new highly draconian, and counter-productive e-cigarette legislation that is due to be implemented next year – and in a way, the lack of free speech applies here as well. In addition to the users of e-cigarettes on the whole being against the legislation because it will reduce the number of smokers switching to them, the public would be as well if they understood the ins and outs of it all – yet, of course it isn’t covered accurately or really at all in the media. And the governments in the West just do what they want; which at heart is what the corporate lobbyists have persuaded them to do. Indeed some of the corporations have staff working alongside civil servants and MPs.

    Free speech, as uttered by Cameron, and by any politician these days is just cynical rhetoric.

    • Agree with that. Political reporting in particular is now largely PR for govt. Nick Robinson floats into mind here. I’m always interested in the gap between the way politicians are portrayed in the media and the way people respond to them in person. It is the mainstream media that keeps alive the perception that the political class is regarded with something like respect. They don’t get the same response when they’re up against people who have to live their policies.

  2. One of the worst features of this new system is the treatment of the disabled.
    At my local jobcentre recently the queue for signing-on waited with more or less patience while a disabled woman at the head of the line tried to make herself understood to the advisor on reception. The woman clearly was disabled with spinal deformity, and was bent over forward at a forty-five degree angle, unable to straighten up or lift her head.
    Her left arm was hanging uselessly at one side before her as if it didn’t belong to her, unusable.
    She was grey-haired, perhaps fifty-five or sixty years of age. The advisor was asking her what she wanted, and all she could do was repeat ‘’Come down here’’. Speaking to the floor in this case, as she could not straighten up to look at the advisor. It was as if she were dazed, and repeating something that she had been told.
    ‘’Declassified’’ muttered the guy next to me. I think he meant ‘re-classified’, as in fit to work. By some bastard in Maximus / Atos no doubt. In the end they had to take this woman aside to an interview room to try and find out what it was she wanted.
    What in God’s name to they expect her to do, work in a call-centre ? Perhaps they could tip the chair backwards so that then she’d be up straight as it were. Or in a shop where she could shuffle round with one arm picking up the items on the lower shelves.
    These people are unemployable due to severe disability. This needs to be stressed far more. In any decent society, and in our own until recently, the state would support them. It used to be taken for granted, a matter of humanity and basic common-sense. Now this has been replaced with the Tory principle that no-one is too sick or disabled to work until they are actually dead.
    It is astonishing how successful they have been in embedding these harsh new attitudes into the benefits system, and into society as a whole.
    There were many other sick people in that jobcentre line, sick at heart at what they see going on.

    • The root cause of the policies which have resulted in attacks on the welfare is, I believe, one, brief thought process which passes through a voter’s mind after they have been subjected to the endless propaganda that welfare=scrounging. It’s the thought that “something must be done”. This thought, because most people don’t have the time, knowledge or genuine interest in understanding reality and the lives of others, ends up becoming “do anything” to solve the welfare ‘problem’. In many individuals this thought can also slip over into another, even more irrational and vague thought in their mind, one hardly ever in fact articulated but which justifies in their mind the governments policies: the original “something must be done” becomes, in effect: “do your worst.” And so politicians, knowing that such vindictiveness will boost their poll-ratings, ride roughshod over any rights. And they do it with virtual impunity and with applause from an ill-informed public.

  3. Austerity has never happened and we do not have a national debt (wrongly called a deficit which is an entirely different thing and which we’ve had for 300 years with no problem).

    The cost of benefits admin is rising by the billions each year, whilst the money to the starving is reducing by the billions each year, to achieve such as 1 million benefit sanctions and Jobcentres referring to the non-state funded foodbanks.

    The Tories have spent more in 5 years than Labour did in 13 years.

    The Tories go ballistic at any mention that welfare reform is causing starvation, when doctors say again and again that there has been a huge rise in malnutrition hospital admissions and charities are saying this is what is happening. This even appears on the front pages of The Independent and even The Times.

    The other biggest con is the flat rate pension that for the poorest women born from 1953 and men born from 1951 will mean not more pension half or more a decade in the future (after losing 7 years payout for a couple from 2013) but NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and LESS NOT MORE for majority of these new claimants.
    See more detail on who loses all or most state pension:

    The over 60s denied state pension payout since 2013 are told this is because we are in an ageing society, when the UK has had mass youth immigration for half a century and these are mostly in work now or running own businesses and employing others.

    The state pension is sitting pretty and unused as ring fenced since 2013 and wrongly called a surplus in the National Insurance Fund since 2013.

    The full NI Fund has paid out its share of the unemployment benefit, but this is going to pay for admin and not to feed the hungry.

    That include the over 60s, who half are within working poor, 50 per cent unemployment rate and unemployed in majority as disabled and/or chronic sick and equally liable to benefit sanctions, workfare and loss of disability benefits as all ages.

  4. Hi Kate
    I have been following this story on Face Book and I support your objectives wholeheartedly. What is happening in the name of false austerity has nothing to do with the economy and more to do with the eugenics movement which has never gone away since it’s last great foray in the 30s and 40s in Europe. It is not just freedom of speech that is endangered but the very existence of sections of humanity who are considered dispensable. The New World Order demands a substantial reduction in populations worldwide and every nation is expected to do their bit. The longer I have been in this world the more obvious it has become and now with the age of the internet the information is more readily available. You say things like this and cognitive dissonance kicks in because you are challenging the status quo and people say they would not plot to allow their own people to die. Tell that to the loved ones of those who have died in and around the time of the dreaded Work Capability Assessment or like yourselves who if you loose your ILF some will perish or despair and end their own lives. Hope springs eternal however and as long as they do not close down the net and we can rally people to protest on common ground to bring an end to the attacks on the disadvantaged then the real freedom of expression speech, signing, cartoons or blogging will go on. The one ting they can not take away, unless we let them, is our freedom of thought. God Bless Kevin

  5. Free speech? LOL Simply verbally disagreeing with your Jobcentre adviser is enough to get you escorted out the building by a G4SS goon.

    • So true, Landless. Only this morning, North Kensington jobcentre security rushed out to our leafleting line to say they’d call the police if we strayed onto their part of the pavement and that the loudspeaker was too loud… they have this line on the pavement that I can’t quite figure. Or see.

  6. Pingback: Protest, draw and write about whatever you like, as long as it’s not Austerity. | Kate Belgrave | Britain Isn't Eating

  7. Hi, Kate

    In the light of the subsequent trial of a white police officer for the murder of a black man in South Carolina, there is this report that is relevant to an increasing amount of UK life, from heavy-handed policing to what goes on behind the closed doors of DWP commissioned disability benefits assessments: Justice through a lens.

    Dude Swheatie of Kwug

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