Almost 70 Black Lives Matter protesters have been issued with fines for attending the socially-distanced rallies in Derry and Belfast on Saturday 6 June.
Shockingly, the Northern Ireland Assembly rushed through emergency coronavirus powers for the police to issue these fines at 5pm the day before.
Organisers, many of them young BAME people, were visited and threatened by police that evening.
Three other protests in Newry, Omagh and Portadown were cancelled by organisers after similar police intimidation.
Justice minister Naomi Long defended the police actions as “proportionate”.
Her Alliance Party, sister party of the Lib Dems, was held up as a progressive alternative in Northern Ireland. Long was backed up by both Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
Sinn Fein also sided with the DUP to oppose a motion condemning the fines and harassment that was put to Belfast City Council by People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins.
This is a disgraceful decision by Sinn Fein.
They have moved a long way from wanting to “Smash Stormont” to being the foremost defenders of the policing of dissent.
Protesters have pledged to challenge the fines in court and they are being backed by local migrant rights organisations and People Before Profit.
They point out that not a single police visit was made to the meat processing factories, which stayed open during the lockdown. Workers at the plants died from the virus.
Protest organisers had gone to great lengths to ensure social distancing and provide protective masks. But on the day before the protests the Ikea store on the outskirts of Belfast re-opened, with massive queues, no social distancing and no police in sight.
Please sign and share a petition launched by Eamonn McCann, Bernadette McAliskey, Kate Nash and Dermie McClenaghan—all veterans of the 1968 Civil Rights movement. It calls for all fines and charges to be dropped.
Furlough is failing workers
During the last two months on the furlough scheme, I’ve only been paid just over half of my wages and now it might get worse.
I’ve had just over half of my pay, not the 80 percent promised under furlough, and I still have had no answer from human resources as to why that is.
Now I received a letter, dated 27 May, saying there is not enough work for us to return to the office.
But the letter went on to state that we will be required to use annual leave entitlements.
They claim we will be paid 100 percent of pay, instead of 80 percent for the weeks that we are designated to be on annual leave.
Now, the issue is that the annual leave is proportionate to the length of service and I simply do not have the accrued annual leave.
I can see what will happen. I will eventually be informed that I did not have sufficient leave to be able to take paid leave.
And then they will say that I actually owe the company money.
They have done this before when I needed time off for medical reasons, clawing back over £400 of pay I was owed.
Management’s attitude just seems to be, “We’ll sort it out after coronavirus”—whenever that is.
Workers’ needs are being constantly pushed to one side while all the attention is on the profitable health of the corporations.
More NHS privatisation
The government of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings is wholly committed to NHS privatisation.
Nothing demonstrates this better than the contracts it’s been handing out during the pandemic.
They gave a contract for the provision of surgical masks and other equipment for over £2 million to a firm called Double Dragon International. It deals in tea, coffee and spices, has assets of £24,000 and is located on a residential street in Ilford, east London. Even more astonishing, a contract worth £108 million was given to a pest control firm, PestFix, for the provision of face masks, gowns and visors. This firm employs 16 people and has assets of £18,000. They got the contract after filling in a form online.
The government’s ideologically driven incompetence and privatisation fetish is costing lives.
Black Lives Matter isn’t a corporate brand
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have thrown up a realisation among many black people that they can use the power of boycott.
This is really scaring big companies.
Lots of the big brands and tech companies use black sports people to sell their products.
In 2016 we organised BLM London protests outside stores on Oxford Street, but the companies refused to acknowledge how they use black people without taking a stand.
Now I think the big brands realise that the BLM revolt is so broad and that they have to accommodate to it.
By taking that position, they’re hoping to calm things down. But what are they doing that’s of any significance?
Are they increasing employment, are they giving funds for education, are there any changes in their board structure?
It’s a gesture in troubling times for them and will go back to normal without a rising movement.
Police racism and violence
We spent a lot of time on education about race relations and multiculturalism in the 1990s to 2000s. And believe me, there needed to be education—but so much more needed to be done.
I remember David Cameron and Michael Gove rubbishing all our efforts.
When Gove was in charge of education, Dominic Cummings was advising him.
Says it all.
I had a boyfriend in the 1970s who went into the Metropolitan police.
He came out of Hendon police station, west London, with racist views.
I had to end the relationship.
Your report on Momentum is inaccurate (Socialist Worker, 18 May).
You state that Forward Momentum is a “faction”. It is in fact a campaign to reform Momentum, democratise it and turn it out to the workplaces, unions, communities and campaigns.
It dissolves immediately after the election to the leading National Coordinating Group body at the end of June.
Nor is Forward Momentum “pro-remain”. I moved the anti-Remain composite 14 motion at Labour conference and I am a candidate.
Please redraft the inaccurate article.
Rhodes was a murderer
I rejoiced at the downing of a 17th century slave trade, Edward Colston, in Bristol.
The statue was erected in 1895 in Bristol at the high point of British imperialism, when the ruling class was murdering indigenous people around the world.
And it’s worth remembering that Cecil Rhodes was also among that number.