Friday 13 July 2012

Counter Olympics Protestors To Defy Demo Ban on 28 July

I was unable to attend the Counter Olympics Network activists meeting on Wednesday due to work commitments, but I'm told it was packed and agreed that the march on Saturday 28 July, in protest at the corporate takeover of the Games, will “defy an attempt by Transport for London to ban the demo”.

The planned march in two week's time will assemble at Mile End Park at noon and end with a ‘People’s Games for All’ rally and festival at Wennington Green, near Victoria Park. However, when organisers met representatives of the Metropolitan police, Tower Hamlets council and Transport for London (TfL) on 9 July, TfL said it would not sanction a march along Bow Road, claiming it is part of the ‘Alternative Olympic Route Network’ (AORN). This is an alternative route for use during the Games period if the main Olympic Route Network (ORN) should become blocked for any reason.

Counter Olympics Network (CON) spokesperson Julian Cheyne has said:
“The ORN will be used exclusively by the IOC, Olympic officials, sponsors, media, and athletes. Even ambulances are barred. The IOC are getting luxury accommodation in the West End and will ride around in chauffeur-driven BMWs at public expense. They will have priority over all other road users.

Everyone else will be herded onto congested roads and overloaded public transport. The ORN will be a 35-mile ribbon of class privilege running across London for the duration of the Games. It will cause six weeks of blocked roads, traffic congestion, and closed bus routes, cycle lanes, and pedestrian crossings.

But the AORN isn’t even part of this. It will only come into operation if the ORN suffers some kind of breakdown. The idea that you ban free speech and shut down democracy to ensure that the rich have an alternative priority highway is an outrage."
There has been considerable speculation about the prospects for protest during the Olympics and what obstacles the state might impose if protest organisers decided to engage in negotiations. The Counter Olympics Network appears to have gone out of its way to accommodate the authorities by giving early notice of the intention to march, avoiding both the ORN network and the immediate vicinity of the Olympic Park and agreeing to use the parks proposed by the local council. Quite frankly, the fact that the largest protest against the Olympics is barred from anywhere near Stratford is already an enormous concession.

It is therefore understandable that CON spokesperson Albert Beale has confirmed that marchers will defy restrictions and has said:
“We won’t be denied our right to protest, so we will be marching down Bow Road and if we are restricted to the pavement, the stupidity of the resulting congestion and delay will be the responsibility of Transport for London”.
There is an obvious conclusion that others may draw from the experience that CON have been through: perhaps it is better avoid negotiations completely, as they are obviously designed to severely restrict the right to freedom of speech and assembly and banish any protest to the margins. This fits in completely with the state's desire for a sterile, controlled, “Perfect Games”. No wonder so few people have offered to meet with Metropolitan police assistant commissioner and national Olympic security co-ordinator, Chris Allison.

In these circumstances, I hope the march on 28 July involves a massive turnout, as the number of people attending will influence events on the ground. But it also seems that the case for affinity-group, DIY protest that may make an even greater impact has just received a tremendous boost.

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