Wednesday 28 June 2006

Newham Unites against Police Terror

The terrifying police raid in Newham at the beginning of June was justified by both Tony Blair and Ken Livingstone as the price 'we' have to pay to keep Britain safe. The people of Newham, who unlike Labour politicians are the ones actually paying that price, see it rather differently. And now, says Kevin Blowe, a history of community activism has led to widespread unity and demands for police accountability.

Read the full article on the Radical Activist Network website

Latin America: Social movements fight back

Radical Activist Network Conference

Saturday 15th July
University of London Union
1pm-7pm Third Floor, ULU, Malet Street, London WC1

The Radical Activist Network, which Radical Activist Newham is a supporter of, has organised an important conference on Latin America that features Oscar Olivera, spokesperson for Bolivia's Coalition in Defense of Water and Life, ('La Coordinadora'), which was at the forefront of a popular uprising in Cochabamba in 2000 against US multinational Bechtel who had taken over their water systems as an IMF-imposed condition for Bolivian debt relief.

Oscar will be joined by a group of speakers who both write on and organise in solidarity with Latin American social movements including:

Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
Andy Higginbottom, Frontline Latin America
Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau and War on Want
Nick Buxton, trade activist based in La Paz, Bolivia
Paul Chatterton, Kiptik (Zapatista solidarity network)
Lies Craeynest, War on Want

Sessions and workshops will include:

  • Social Movements and Left Governments
  • Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution
  • Social movements in Bolivia
  • Brazil's Landless movement
  • The continuing Zapatista revolt in Mexico

Entry by donation (£2 suggested).

For more information see the conference page on the RAN website or download the flyer (PDF)

Queen's Market - Asda Throws In The Towel

In a stunning victory for local campaigners, the supermarket chain Asda, owned by the US conglomerate Walmart, have announced that they are pulling out of the hugely controversial scheme for Queen's Market in Upton Park.

It is clear that sustained pressure coupled with compelling data produced by the New Economics Foundation has resulted in Asda throwing in the towel.

Newham Council's plans for London's most ethnically diverse market have been fiercely resisted from the outset. To many the proposals championed by Newham's mayor are seen as a genuine threat to social cohesion. It has also become clear that the council scheme fails to make economic sense. Some 12,000 shoppers have signed a petition (the largest in Newham's history) against the plans.

Traders and campaigners alike are ecstatic about the news that Asda-Walmart have pulled out and now believe that it is only a matter of time before the whole project is scrapped. The proposed developers, Edgbaston-based St Modwen Properties Plc is already facing problems over Edmonton Green Market and Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. St Modwen had planned to demolish the existing covered street market and replace it with an Asda-Walmart superstore, over 220 executive apartments and a market-in-a-mall. Local people feel there has been minimal consultation and are angry that the Mayor of Newham seems intent on foisting his detested scheme on their market.

A press statement by Friends of Queen's Market said:

"This is a stunning victory when you think of what we are up against. We have seen off Asda, now we need to see off St Modwen Properties, for they have already ruined Edmonton Green Market and we're not going to allow them to ruin our thriving market. As for Sir Robin Wales and Newham Council, well their arrogance and pigheadedness beggars belief. Sooner or later they will have to face up to reality, people don't want this appalling and ill-conceived scheme and we will fight this all the way."

Tuesday 27 June 2006

Heart of Fire

SENAIT MEHARI will be talking to BBC London's Amina Taylor about her book Heart of Fire at 7 pm at Stratford Library (Hopkins Room), 3 The Grove, London E15. on Monday 10 July

Senait Mehari was a child soldier in the Eritrean Liberation Front. She escaped to Germany and was living on the streets by the time she was 15. Today she's a pop singer in Germany and a best-selling author. Her book, Heart of Fire, is the powerful memoir of a lost childhood.

‘This is a powerful book of truth; it made my heart stop, race, skip and weep’
Benjamin Zephaniah

Heart of Fire sold over 150,000 copies in Germany and has been translated into eight languages. A film of Heart of Fire is in production (in German) and is due for release in 2007.

Tickets cost £3 and can be reserved by calling Newham Bookshop on 020 8552 9993 or emailing

Senait is visiting the UK with the support of English PEN’s Writers in Translation

Monday 12 June 2006

Apologies: We were hacked...

Thank you to all those who let us know about the strange picture that accompanied the last post updating events in Forest Gate.

The picture was originally of Yvonne Ridley, but someone found a way to change it. Someone out there who obviously doesn't like Yvonne...

Wednesday 7 June 2006

Latest on Anti-Terror Raid in Forest Gate

As the detention of brothers Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair in Paddington Green Police Station was extended to Saturday, last night’s pre-arranged meeting by the Newham branch of Respect brought the television camera crews back to east London, and captured Yvonne Ridley, a member of Respect’s National Council, in grandstanding mood, calling on Muslims not to cooperate with the police. The look on the faces of some of her Respect colleagues was a picture, for rather than non-cooperation with the police, everyone else is calling for the police to actually start cooperating with local communities. We pay their salaries, after all, and have a right to hold them to account. Ms Ridley quickly became the story and enabled local Labour politicians to spend the day condemning her and her party, whilst Respect’s Green Street West Councillor Hanif Abdulmuhit publicly distanced himself from her comments. She was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, which also included a somewhat more thoughtful contribution from Asad Rehman, the chair of Newham Monitoring Project. You can listen to the piece by downloading this MP3 (5.8Mb)

Meanwhile, Stop Political Terror announced a demonstration this Sunday from Forest Gate Police Station, backed by the Muslim Association of Britain and Respect (see the latter's press release). However, there seems to be some confusion as to whether this protest will take place this weekend or be pushed back, after local activists pointed out that without the support of the two families caught up in the raids, proper stewarding and the participation of local mosques and community organisations, the demonstration could be either a damp squib or kick off and lead to arrests.

Meanwhile, Newham Monitoring Project has been busy helping the family that lived next door to the main focus of the raid, whose home was also raided and who are traumatised by the experience, to receive medical attention, overcome problems relating to absence from work and find somewhere new to live. NMP will also be conducting a door-to-door witness search next week and bring together residents from the six streets that have been cordoned off since 2nd June to discuss their concerns and experiences. One resident of Lansdown Rd, who complained about having to give his address and have an escort to his door every time he wanted to get back to his house, was seized and handcuffed. Five days on from the raid, residents in three streets still have to have permission from the police to return to their homes. And no-one, least of all the individual officers on duty, seems to know what legal basis they have for imposing this.

Friday 2 June 2006

Back in the Firing Line

The shooting and wounding today of a Forest Gate resident has turned the end of my street into a media circus. Outside broadcast vans block the pavements and journalists are standing around looking down an empty Lansdown Road at an innocuous-looking tent outside the house that was raided this morning. A crowd has gathered to join them in their inactivity and no one seems to know what is going on.

This lack of information has led to some fairly wild speculation all day – there was one rumour that there had been a shooting outside Forest Gate train station – but it is not just local people who have been adding their own theories to the mix of conjecture and assumptions about the raid and its significance. Sections of the press have been busy too and they have none of the understandable scepticism about the competence of the intelligence services that most of us have post the Iraq ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fiasco, or the shooting of an innocent Brazilian in Stockwell.

The Sun managed to find a resident to tell them that he was always suspicious of the "bearded brothers" and “they [sic] were a lot of comings and goings at that house, those boys had radical views." Just in case readers had failed to realise the men who were shot and arrested are Muslim, the paper helpfully said that they “worshipped at a mosque and prayer room located just around the corner from their door.” Sun journalists also quoted a neighbour, Dimple Hirani, saying that "it is creepy there are people like this living on your doorstep," although what she really said in an interview on Channel 4 News was that “it is shocking this can happen on your doorstep.” Moreover, she also told news agencies that the two men “were really nice lads and really nice people… I never thought anything of it [their religious beliefs]. Lots of young Muslims these days are getting more religious, especially after 9/11. It's nothing to be suspicious about."

She’s right of course, but we can all see where this is heading. The men arrested in the raid were religious, they had beards, they attended a mosque, so they must be guilty if the intelligence services are interested in them. Once again, millions of newspaper readers who have no idea what Forest Gate is like will be reminded of the imperative of suspicion towards Asian Muslims and the need for armed officers to use potentially lethal force.

But the lack of information also tells us a great deal too. You can bet that if there were firearms in the house that was raided, we would have been told within hours. Was the man who was shot armed, or was this incident another example of trigger-happy officers, an issue that remains unresolved in the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes? Is there a ‘bomb factory’, as has been speculated? When the raid last year on the Leeds home of the 7 July bombers found explosives, residents were evacuated, but all my neighbours and I have had to endure is an escort to our homes through the police cordons – the novelty of which has quickly worn off. One officer told me that the only reason the roads were closed off was to keep back the press. The decision to impose an air exclusion zone around the scene of the raid but not evacuate local people begins to look more and more like another media stunt to emphasis the seriousness of the incident, a tactic that the Metropolitan police have been notorious for in the past.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke told the media this evening that the raid was to prove or disprove intelligence they had received. That sounds as though his intelligence assessment was rather less than emphatic and yet it has led to another shooting. That is why people I have spoken to today are anxious. A combination of the press speculating on the ‘guilt’ of Muslims and potentially speculative raids by the police using draconian anti-terror laws seems like a leap backwards to the immediate aftermath of the 7 July bombings.

Random Blowe | Original articles licensed under a Creative Commons License.