I Don’t Want Your Paper Bag Test Solidarity: On Ferguson and Liberal Pacifism.

Black Girl Speak

Black mothers know well how to grieve dead children. We die, from curable diseases, from poverty, from police violence, in a world where skin tone determines our life chances. On Tuesday morning a Grand Jury in St Louis, Missouri, as expected, decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for murdering the unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Wilson joins a long line of white American officials who have taken black lives with impunity. In response, white liberals tweet #blacklivesmatter and profess their solidarity. All too often, this solidarity rings hollow.

The unspoken reality is that black bodies are necessarily threatening in this racial hierarchy, not just to avowed racists. Within hours of Michael Brown’s murder, the police released footage aiming to depict him as a criminal. The liberal media response was telling. Sympathetic outlets rushed to decry claims of his criminality, and a lengthy battle began over the dead teen’s image…

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Burn Up, Don’t Burn Out: Mental Health and Freedom

Originally published via Freedom News http://freedomnews.org.uk/burn-up-dont-burn-out-mental-health-and-freedom/

Last week, I documented the events at Warwick Uni and the police brutality that followed a peaceful sit in. This week, as a continuation of those events I want to try to present an understanding of how these attacks are made to deter us, not only through fear but through trauma and helplessness.

Every activist is at some point in their trials made acutely aware of burn out; the moment at which the fight to change society infringes on your own mental health. Recently, I’ve been experiencing that tension. It is, with little exaggeration, a process of consumption. You balance between the urge to continue the fight and the separate urges that you turn inwards against yourself.

This morning I went to see the doctor. Since my arrest at the Warwick demo, I have seen an increase in anxiety, I’ve been suicidal and I’ve struggled to maintain a serious balance in my relationships. I shake and sweat at night and I dream about losing my sight through violent means. He changed my meds and sent me on my way.

So, now, as Christmas draws near and I have to make the effort to spend time with those I love I’m going to have to sift through the haze of new medication, forcefully penetrate through my depression to make others comfortable. This is merely another weight added to my fears. If I’m charged for my arrests, I face losing my ability to work with children. Though unlikely, I face the threat of short term imprisonment or a fine I already cannot pay. And I’m not stupid, nothing I have done in the last two years is going to pierce through the swollen carcass that is capitalism. I feel, effectively, useless.

I’ve been speaking to a friend who has been through much of the same. He was sent to A&E the night the police attacked us because the CS spray was too much for his eyes and skin to handle. He too has felt the exhaustion that comes with the fight to make the world more bearable. And we know that there is something missing in the circles we organise in that effects us both. A lack of mental health treatment.

Activists need to be aware of the effects on the mental health of their comrades, even if they themselves are not feeling the strain. Mental health treatment in society is already minute, it is already underfunded and underprescribed. Counselling and therapy is often overlooked for a prescription of mind numbing medications. In organisational groups that are still dominated by straight white men we need to have serious debriefs and conversations about the effects of their behaviour on us. We need to discuss the fact that they often have little to worry about in these situations, and when many come from old wealth, they have little to lose in this struggle and that they must listen to us and move at our pace.

We need mental health co-ops, support networks for comrades who are struggling to carry on but more than this we need to extend this support into the community. We need to be able to show that there is a radical alternative to coping with mental illness, something tangible and reliable.

This is why, in the new year, we’re setting up a mental health co-operative. We have plans in motion and look forward to the Radical Routes conferences that will help us expand our own image of a freer, mentally balanced society. We want to work towards training to be counselors ourselves, towards being a pillar of support for each other and the wider community. We don’t want to see our friends die anymore. We don’t want to rely on the state to help us with the afflictions that they in turn caused us. We can free ourselves from our depressions and our manias, we can learn to live with our psychoses in a way that shows that we are cared for instead of crying before the deadpan faces of doctors and other healthcare professionals.

The state relies on us to burn out, and actively encourages it. We cannot balance the challenges we face without each other and without real care. Don’t burn out, burn up, and use that fire to set alight those who continue to oppress us.

The geographies of capitalism, a king of Geography, and the destruction of political dreams

Anaemic On A Bike

“It would be difficult to deny the difficult days that the world is going through. One might say that the four horseman [sic] of the apocalypse have moved from a quiet trot to a full gallop and this increase in activity has been accompanied by the rise of Right-wing politics of various kinds which are clearly associated with a series of state and corporate ideologies and practices that must be denied any more room in the world and that, in time, must be rolled back.” (Nigel Thrift and Ash Amin, What’s Left? Just the Future, 1995, 236)

Did you foresee when you were writing this, Nigel, the danger of you becoming a horseman of capitalism? When naming as a value for the Left, “a constant and unremitting critical reflexivity towards our own practices” (Amin and Thrift, 1995, 221), at what point did you relinquish and decide on the other side? In proposing for the Left, “an…

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Casual Labour and the Freedom to Protest

It has come to our attention that the university, by closing down unaffected parts of the Rootes building during the occupation, has not only withdrawn work from the many employees, but also – most despicably – refused to pay them.

We emphasise the utter heartlessness of this decision at this time of year, and note that whilst the university is willing to spend thousands of pounds to curtail the freedom to protest through buying an injunction, it is not willing to pay its lowest paid workers for work it has taken from them.

We realise this is a tactic, a political strategy designed to set in opposition the two groups of people most affected by the universities mismanagement, profligacy, and profit mongering. We reject this completely. We call on the university to pay its workers what they deserve.

We call on the university to end its outsourcing of labour (through its wholly owned subsidiary ‘Unitemps’) and give workers proper contracts, wages and rights, and we invite workers at this university (many of whom are students, and many of whom have been involved in this protest) to join us in our collective struggle against the management who see it fit to brutalise students and lock them out of their campus, and take away work and pay from those who most need it.

These are both acts of violence, and to win we must fight back together.

Exit statement

The University is in crisis. A vital part of the fabric of our society, universities are sites of analysis and debate, where the ideal of intellectual honesty drives us to confront difficult problems and propose rigorous solutions. They are places where thought is cultivated as a public good. In 2010, however, a new imperative emerged in higher education: universities are to compete for funding in the form of individual student fees, while precarious research funding means grants, patents, contracts and private investment have become increasingly crucial to the survival of institutions. Under these conditions everything must change. If universities are to thrive they must prioritise market position, and this means first and foremost that they must aggressively counter perceived threats to their reputation. Universities can no longer brook the slow pace of rigor, they can no longer afford the risk of research that does not promise future income, and dissent – the life blood of a vigorous intellectual community – is now to be contained, structured, moderated, and, where necessary, policed.

On the 3rd of December, this conflict of interest manifested as a conflict between police and students. Around thirty students peacefully protesting the marketisation of English universities were subject to a sustained physical assault by officers from West Midland Police, who sprayed them with CS gas, wrestled individuals to the floor, and brandished tasers in an attempt to intimidate them. The police had been called to campus by the University after a security officer alleged that they had been assaulted by students. Significantly, the University has refused to be drawn on what the precise nature of this assault may have been. The students present vigorously deny any violence against security staff, and hold the allegation to be a contrived pretext for bringing state-sanctioned violence to bear on anyone who might hinder the University’s ability to control its reputation in the year of its fiftieth anniversary. Far from a defensive measure against a handful of passive undergraduates, this was an action intended to discipline an entire community: undergraduates, post-graduates, international and home students are to be aware that if the higher education market is to be navigated, they are to be seen and not heard.

It is often said that student politics are dead. We are told that ours is an age of apathy and alienation; that the possibility of collective action has been supplanted by a morass of narcissistic self-interest. Yet on the 4th of December, when many had already returned home for the holidays, approximately one thousand students and members of staff came together outside Senate House. Gathered in numbers this campus has not seen for decades, we told the University that we will never accept police violence on our campus, that no pretext could justify their cowardly actions, that, for all of our diversity, we are a community, and that we will not be intimidated. At the end of the rally hundreds of us defied police and security and marched into the Rootes Building. Peaceful, but intent not to let the University quietly bury an unprecedented assault on students, we determined to hold part of the upper floor of the building until such a time as the University responded adequately to the charges levelled against it.
Now we find ourselves subject to a new and greater act of violence. Without any attempt at meaningful negotiation with students, the University filed for a possession order and injunction banning “occupation style protest” indefinitely for anyone involved in occupying the Rootes Building. This injunction applies to the entirety of Warwick campus, and for an indefinite amount of time. This in itself is an attempt to intimidate, divide and demoralise protesters. In doing this, the University has enacted a political enclosure of the university campus, further curtailing the ability of student groups of any kind to protest in any manner other than those sanctioned by an institution that has shown its willingness to use force to protect its interests.

Despite the fact that the occupation is now over, and future occupation has been made criminal, Warwick for Free Education will not be deterred or demoralised. An ultimatum was issued along with our original demands: if the University does not take steps toward addressing them by 6th January, it will face further protests. The University needs more than court injunctions to stop this movement. We will continue to fight against the policing of dissent and the cancerous effects of marketisation, irrespective of the legal risks. In the attempt to criminalise dissent, the University has not silenced us, but only made us more outraged, more determined, and more ready for direct action.

The need for such a struggle has never been clearer. As many members of our community will know, the Student Union building, including the SU offices and the various bars and other facilities was only granted to students on our campus as a direct result of a long period of occupations and protest. Some may also be aware of the occupations of the campus branch of Barclays Bank in the early eighties as part of a concerted and successful effort to make the University break its dependence on a financial institution that profited directly from the fascist South African Apartheid regime. Yet perhaps even those for whom this is news will recognise that, in our febrile political climate, it is necessary not only to find our voices, but to protect our right to have them heard. What the University hopes to do – silently, callowly, and in the names of the very people it will disenfranchise – is to silence those who believe their democratic relationship to their university should go further than customer satisfaction surveys. The thin end of the wedge was driven into our community a long time ago; what happened on the 3rd was a result of that same wedge being hammered harder and deeper into our campus: it must be hammered no further. The court order will not be a fatal blow to our community, but it must mark the moment where we once more conjure the energy that brought us together on the 4th and tell those who so enthusiastically capitulate with the marketisation of higher education that, despite their titles, despite their money, despite their power, this is our university.

We give management until January…

Warwick for Free Education

Management refuse to condemn police violence

Earlier today a delegation of Warwick For Free Education activists met with the academic registrar, Michael Glover, and the head of security, Mark Kennell, following an email request by us to organise a meeting.

We felt this could have been an excellent opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with the university, as we have seen happen at Sheffield, Lancaster and UWE universities in the last week. As soon as we arrived, however, it was absolutely clear that the University had no intention of negotiating, and instead were committed to continuing their assault on the rights of students to protest and voice their concerns with the way the university is run.

The activists were appalled to learn that the University was not even willing to condemn the disproportionate use of violence against students last Wednesday, an incident that has been denounced by not only thousands of members of the global community, but also by Amnesty International, the most established human rights organisation in the world.

The academic registrar affirmed that the only options open to us to express our opinions are via the “democratic” procedures linked with the SU, and that occupations are both invalid and pointless methods of protest. We politely reminded him that this University has a rich history of inspiring and successful occupations which have achieved incredible things, including the construction of a designated SU building which he was so strongly promoting. So with all due respect, Mike, we absolutely refute your claims.

So it seems they’re still going ahead with the injunction, and the court date and time is this Friday at 2pm. Until that time, we proudly announce that the occupied space will remain a Free University; organised, run and enjoyed by students and for students. On Thursday afternoon we will be hosting some brilliant speakers, running workshops and throwing a party which we encourage as many people as possible to attend. Details to be released soon. Come and see what a university community really looks like.

Love and solidarity,
Warwick for Free Education

Warwick occupation served with injunction

University management are seeking to evict the occupiers of the Rootes building, serving them with an injunction without engaging in any negotiations over students’ demands.

The occupation began on Thursday evening following a demonstration of over 1,000 students in protest at the university’s handling of a sit-in on Wednesday, where West Midlands police used CS gas on students and threatened them with a taser.

Management’s conduct is in direct contrast to the reaction of the University of the West of England, where today Vice-Chancellor Steve West visited the campus free education occupation within hours to discuss and negotiate occupiers’ demands.

The Warwick occupation demands include: a call for Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift to retract his statement about the alleged assault which has been refuted by witnesses unless he can prove otherwise; to uphold the right to peaceful protest, to support free education, and condemn the unjustified and disproportionate violence used against students.

The demands were democratically decided in the occupation of over 300 students on Thursday evening, following a demonstration of over 1,000 students, the largest in Warwick’s history.

Callum Cant, who is named in the injunction, said: “Management’s attitude, by taking out an injunction and seeking to suppress peaceful protest, shows that they are prepared to spend huge sums of money on legal fees rather than apologise for the disgusting treatment of a peaceful sit-in.”

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “This outrageous move follows similar legal action taken at other universities, including one at Birmingham which was condemned by Amnesty International for breaching human rights. We utterly deplore Warwick management’s decision and will continue to fight for the right to protest


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on each and every campus – free from management and police repression.”