The Heathrow climate camp
This week thousands of protesters will campaign at the Heathrow airport climate camp to highlight the issue of climate change.
It will take place despite the best efforts of BAA, which attempted to use the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act to stop the protest.
The act makes it an offence to “persuade any person ... not to do something that he is entitled or required to do” if in so doing you are deemed to be harassing them.
The act was meant to protect people from stalkers. It is increasingly used to protect business from campaigners.
George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian last week that, “In 2001, for example, protesters outside the US intelligence base at Menwith Hill were prosecuted for distressing American servicemen – by holding up a placard reading: ‘George W Bush? Oh dear!’
“In the same year, a protester in Hull was arrested for harassment, on the grounds that he had been ‘staring at a building’.
“In 2004, police in Kent arrested a woman who had sent two polite emails to an executive at a drugs company, begging him not to test his products on animals.
“This year, the residents of a village in Oxfordshire were banned from protesting against RWE npower’s plan to turn their beautiful Thrupp Lake into a dump for fly ash.
“The stated purpose of the injunction is to prevent them from causing alarm or distress to the burly security guards the company has employed. No protest, however polite, is now safe from prosecution under this monstrous act.”
We must support the climate camp not only because we must all fight climate change, but also because we must fight for our right to demonstrate.
Rachel Hill, East London
I sympathise with those who will be campaigning outside Heathrow airport this week – but they are taking on the wrong enemy.
Emissions from flights account for less than 2 percent of Europe’s total emissions – energy production, road transport and badly insulated homes are far bigger threats.
It is abundantly clear that we need to act over climate change, but attacking people’s holidays and jobs is not the way to go.
Leanne Fletcher, Darlington
The climate camp held a meeting last week for the organisers to meet local people. They wanted to be sure that they had the support of local people – and it became clear that they had it abundantly.
If a third runway is built at Heathrow, 700 homes, including the entire village of Sipson, will have to be bulldozed. This is an issue for the whole of west London and everybody across the globe whose lives are at risk from climate chaos.
We are told that Heathrow must grow to compete with other airports in the world, but our message is spreading and activists will oppose airport expansion in their countries too.
BAA’s action in the courts has given us a lot of publicity. The media will seek to divide the community from the people at the climate camp and this must be resisted at all costs.
Hazel Sabey, West London
A step forward over Guantanamo Bay
At long last, the British government has requested the return of British residents held in Guantanamo Bay.
Some have languished in the notorious US torture camp for over five years, condemned as “enemy combatants” by George Bush’s administration despite a complete lack of evidence or any kind of trial.
The latest move is a significant step forward, and a tribute to the relentless efforts of the men’s families and solicitors, as well as human rights and peace campaigners.
Up until recently the government under Tony Blair refused to take responsibility for the men, on the inhumane grounds that they are not British citizens. More proof, if it were needed, of Blair’s total capitulation to US power.
This latest move by Gordon Brown is an attempt to put some distance between himself and his discredited predecessor.
He can afford to do this in the case of Guantanamo, but it must be contrasted with his continuing support for the US-led “war on terror”.
This is epitomised by Britain’s role in the illegal, bloody occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the attacks on civil liberties at home. The “special relationship” is far from over.
Furthermore, we still don’t know exactly when the British residents will return, what condition they will be in, or if they will be subjected to more human rights abuses such as control orders.
The government also failed to include another British resident, Ahmed Belbacha, in its request to the US. So the campaign to obtain justice for all detainees goes on.
Here in Brighton, the family of one of the residents, Omar Deghayes, eagerly awaits his return.
His brother Abu Baker said, “We are so happy that common sense has prevailed.
“Although it is late, better late than never. But we must not stop here – we should go on to end injustice and war, wherever these may be.”
Manus McGrogan, Brighton
People choose drugs, sympathy won’t help
Oh Dear. More social learning theories and rhetoric about deprivation being the reason people use drugs (» Cannabis: a new smokescreen, 11 August).
People use drugs by choice – not because of their environment, age, race, religion, or personal circumstances.
Whether it’s the stockbroker belt in Weybridge or the council estate in Peckham, people use drugs because they’re seeking an effortless, altered state of consciousness.
The only question about why the “deprived” use drugs is how can they afford it?
I suggest that Dean Ryan reads the facts about cannabis, before deciding whether or not it can induce psychosis, depression, not to mention unpredictable changes in character and personality.
As an addictions recovery specialist, I see people week in week out suffering from the effects of psychoactive drugs including cannabis. It really doesn’t matter whether they’re from Brick Lane or Park Lane, the results are the same.
Sympathising with their problem will not resolve it.
Those unfortunate enough to have become addicted will eventually stop using – whether by choice, death or insanity, is dependent entirely on them.
There is no drug, including alcohol, which can improve a situation or resolve a problem, so let’s stop kidding ourselves that that is why people use them.
Peter O’Loughlin, South East London
The fight goes on at Harlow College
Further Education minister and MP for Harlow, Essex, Bill Rammell has stitched up a rotten deal with the Learning and Skills Council and Harlow College Corporation over the crisis at the college.
The agreement was cobbled together at Rammell’s behest in an attempt to defuse the campaign.
Our campaign has fought hard against the imposition of the worst teaching contract in the country, which has led to 100 lecturers being forced out.
The college has now been placed in special measures – but the contract remains in place.
Staff remain sacked and the principal remains in his position.
Rammell, however, has misjudged the mood of the town.
Local newspapers have been dominated by the crisis for weeks and in a poll this week 95 percent said they were opposed to the actions of the principal.
Campaigners must now apply maximum critical pressure to force Rammell to recognise the will of his constituents and use his ministerial powers to dismiss the corporation’s board.
Paul Topley, Harlow, Essex
US backing is kiss of death
There is a golden rule for any politician in the Middle East planning to stand in elections – if the US says it backs you, you will lose.
The latest victim is Amin Gemayel, the most high profile Christian leader in Lebanon.
Gemayal was running for the parliamentary seat in the Christian heartlands of Metn, north of the capital Beirut, against an unknown opposition candidate who supported Hizbollah during Israel’s war on Lebanon last summer.
It was a great symbolic election since Gemayel’s son, the sitting MP, was assassinated last year.
The US helped Gemayel’s campaign with a whopping $15 million donation, while the government whipped up anti-Syrian and anti-Hizbollah rhetoric.
But the vast majority of Christians did not not buy it, and delivered another historic blow to the pro-US parties.
Fuad Shemali, Beirut, Lebanon
I am a postal worker. I am disgusted that Royal Mail managers are getting massive bonuses (» Secret bonuses for Royal Mail bosses, 11 August) when the company is being run so badly that I have being forced to take industrial action.
Sam Currie, by email
Summoned for orders
It hasn’t taken long for Gordon Brown to be summoned to his first pep talk with, and receive his orders from, George Bush.
Brown is just as much a slave of US foreign policy as Tony Blair was. The codswallop he spouts about the “special relationship” is exactly the same.
Whereas Blair was the poodle, Brown might be said to be the yapping terrier.
Keith Davis, Bath
Running out of soldiers
I was very interested when reading Chris Bambery’s article (» The British army’s campaign against Catholics in Northern Ireland, 11 August) but I would like to underline two points.
Firstly the troops have been withdrawn from Northern Ireland in order to boost the number of troops on active service elsewhere.
In a recent report, the head of the army Sir General Richard Dannatt said that Britain is simply running out of troops.
They are either on active service, committed to training for Iraq and Afghanistan or on leave.
With recruitment at one of its lowest levels for many years, Britain needs troops – and fast.
Also the article gave an insight into the murderous imperialist occupation of the six counties and mentioned the fact that Operation Banner has ceased, it didn’t mention the fact that the six counties are still under the control of the British government.
This will be the case for the foreseeable future, given the lack of a viable left alternative in the North and the failure of Sinn Fein to embrace working class politics with a view to uniting the Catholic and Protestant working class.
Simon Byrne, Kingston
The winners of our competition for original copies of the Temporary Hoarding Rock Against Racism fanzine (Socialist Worker, 14 July) are:
- Colin Fancy, South London
- Mike Thompson, Leicester
- Paul Murphy, east London
- Stephen McLean, Brighton
- Manus McGrogan, Brighton
- Youssef Mezz, Morocco
Congratulations, and thanks to everyone who entered.