Today Westminster Magistrates Court heard the Metropolitan Police present their first case to impose a two year minimum Anti Social Behaviour Order in order to prevent peaceful protest at the Olympics. They wish to impose an extremely restrictive ASBO on Simon Moore, who was an inspirational member of the Community Support Camp on Leyton Marsh, severely limiting his freedom of movement and expression.
This ASBO has mainly been applied on the basis of his ‘crime’ of attempting to defend Leyton Marsh, which happened to be a construction site for an Olympic training venue. The police are applying for the order even though Simon has absolutely no intention of disrupting the Olympic Games and opposed the construction on purely ecological and ethical grounds, not because it was related to the Olympics.
The case is to be considered by the Magistrate over the next few days and the verdict will now be on Monday.
To attempt to defend Leyton Marsh and support the local community that loves this land, Simon and three others sat in front of a lorry attempting to deliver construction materials on site on 11th April. Three of them, including Simon have already served 5 days in jail as a result of their entirely peaceful actions. Their actions were carried out in order to resist attempts to unlawfully develop the Metropolitan Open Land of Leyton Marsh; a process which has confiscated the land from local people and unearthed hazardous WWII landfill in the process.
The prosecution admitted that Simon Moore was an entirely peaceful campaigner and that he did not represent the type of individual that ASBOs were usually sought for. The police lawyer acknowledged that as a result of Simon’s actions, no-one had apprehension of fear for their personal safety. The prosecution then mentioned entirely unrelated cases, that of an individual squaring up to a police officer and a group of protestors blocking the work of a surveyor, in order to try and relate “inconvenience and annoyance to other people going about their business” to the patently more serious offence of harassment, alarm or distress needed to justify the imposition of an ASBO.
The prosecution admitted that the ASBO was being sought solely for suppressing dissent at the Olympics, since after it was over, they claimed they would seek to discharge it!
They went on to describe Simon’s actions at Leyton Marsh as if he were preventing lawful work and intimidating the driver of the lorry. There was no evidence provided for the latter, except testimony from the police that the driver did not want to exit his vehicle. As regards it being ‘lawful work’, SLM have applied for a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for the development which went against multiple planning policies at a local, London-wide and national level and was on protected land. Both the nature of the permission and that of the subsequent excavations, which uncovered dangerous waste (left exposed in a public area for weeks), mean it is the development itself that is clearly unlawful and harmful to the community. However, only the inconvenience to the driver was considered in the proceedings, not the health, safety or welfare of the community. The ODA and contractors Nussli have never attempted to genuinely cooperate or negotiate with our local community, preferring to use the full force of civil and criminal law as the first resort instead of the last.
Following on from these very tangible attempts to link Simon’s actions to those of entirely unrelated individuals and to associate minor annoyance with physical and emotional harm, the prosecution then performed a truly logic-defying leap and claimed that the ASBO was being sought in the interests of “very real threats of terrorism to national security”, providing in no way whatsoever a rational basis linking Simon’s peaceful and ethical behaviour with these supposed violent ‘threats’ to the public.
The prosecution then went through a list of Simon’s convictions, many stretching back years, to prove that he was intent on protest. Simon did not dispute any of these convictions but argued that none of them had been violent and all of them had been reasonable and just. The prosecution made no arguments about what they deemed “philosophy” i.e. the moral basis of his actions, despite playing the sophist with various moral concepts (such as ‘inconvenience’) to try and make Simon’s actions appear immoral.
The main points of Simon’s excellent defence will be summarised here as no other arguments, other than those relating to Simon’s previous ‘offences’ (which mainly involved congregating in formerly public places i.e. Parliament Sq. as a political statement against unreasonable restrictions) were offered to try and justify the imposition of the ASBO.
Simon said the following:
“I feel that this ASBO is symptomatic of the nature and feel of the Olympic games in London 2012 and the general state of consciousness of the authorities at this time.
I think it is clear to see from the delivery of London 2012 that these games are not simply about sport and amusement. They involve the channelling of very large amounts of public funds into the hands of private corporations whose primary aim is the make as much profit from their service as possible.
Partly due to this, I believe that a culture of greed has been created as London 2012. It has been reduced from an event which could be a benefit to everyone to a profit making exercise which places private interests above public.
The games offer the government the chance to increase its national and international image and popularity at a time when austerity and turbulence are becoming commonplace. The government appears to be desperate to use the games to better its image.
For these reasons I believe that there is a pathological desire on the part of the authorities and private interests to insure that the delivery of the games is executed to exactly as they intend. This is not a healthy, balanced and reasonable attitude and it is creating negative effects.
The needs of local communities in the areas where the infrastructure of the games are located are being ignored and in many cases overwhelmed or infringed on by the delivery of the games. This is evidenced by multiple examples including:
The intensive and ecologically destructive developments for games related venues on open metropolitan land at Hackney Marshes, Leyton Marsh and Wanstead Flats to name a few. This destruction of local community resources illustrates that the authorities believe is a price worth paying despite how unpopular the decisions have been in the local areas. It feels like a case of: ‘the games must be completed at any cost’.
The pathological desire for results has created an atmosphere of intolerance towards anyone or anything that disagrees with any aspect of the games or its delivery.
This has meant that when local communities have expressed legitimate concerns about the way some aspect of the delivery of the games is being delivered in their neighbourhood, not only have they been ignored, they have been criminalised and penalised. The campaign to Save Leyton Marsh which is made up of residents and locals has been subjected to coercion and intimidation through the use of the law as it attempted to peacefully stand up for the protection of a community space which was taken without their consent for the construction of a basketball training facility. The construction has created a lot of problems for the locals there including the exposure to dangerous toxic waste in areas in which children, adults and animals regularly play, not to mention being effectively locked out of a vital community space indefinitely. Their concerns are legitimate and have not been listened to by the authorities to any degree which could be called understanding.
The use of measures such as the ASBO which are tools to coerce and punish, are being used for those who are engaging in ordinary peaceful demonstration against aspects of the games which are unpopular. They can and are being used to stifle legitimate dissent. This reflects a possible desire by the authorities to ensure that the public image that they are crafting for the games is not tarnished in anyway by peaceful protest. It is a further indicator of a pathological mentality which characterises the undertaking of the delivery of the games
Personally I do not think disrupting the ceremonies or sporting events of the Olympics would necessarily be an effective form of helping to awake people to an injustice. I think there is a risk of alienating and irritating those people who may be open to a message, but are also keen to enjoy these events.
However I believe that this use of punitive and coercive measures to intimidate and punish those who cause or are under suspicion of causing some form of limited, temporary and non-harmful disruption is unreasonable and is symptomatic of the pathological mentality which characterises these Olympics.
This attitude shows no attempt to understand why people have issues with aspects of the games including its delivery, its timing and its relationship with private interests.
The authoritarian nature and behaviour of the authorities in its behaviour in delivering the games are also present in its everyday activities, although perhaps in a less extreme way. It seems that our system of diluted fascism is becoming more fascist everyday. It need not be this way and it is within our power to change it.
In my case this ASBO has imposed on me a challenge whether to proceed with activities which I know are fair and reasonable and by so doing break the law or to succumb to its coercive nature and stop. I have decided to break the law.
The activities which I speak of include:
- travelling around London and elsewhere and passing through and by the various Olympic routes and venues as part of a consequence of taking part in everyday activities including visiting family and friends and even coming to the court today. (in contravention of prohibition 1).
- engaging in peaceful demonstration against unreasonable aspects of the games or other issues in, around or near Olympic venues or routes such as Leyton Marsh.
- Living on disused land and using camping equipment such as sleeping bag, tent and other equipment in order to create low impact sustainable communities. (In contravention of prohibition 3).
I have decided that I would rather live in prison than be entrapped and controlled by fear of breaching the prohibitions contained within this ASBO. Control by fear is a worse prison than physical prison. Only reacting to fear can imprison the mind and spirit.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say that the heavy reliance of ASBOs and other forms of coercive or punitive laws to regulate society and prevent ‘anti-social behaviour’ is failing to create a just, peaceful and free society. I think we need a radically different approach to dealing with anti-social behaviour which is based on ‘restorative’ justice.
Sir I would like to put to you that if you think the prohibitions contained within this ASBO are just then you should do as you see fit. However if you see the injustice of this ASBO or any legislation which you think is unjust, you would show the highest respect for the law by resigning your post.”
Simon’s summary of the Olympic destruction of community, democratic rights and tolerant society clearly reflect our experiences through our campaign to save Leyton Marsh. We will continue to demonstrate our absolute solidarity with Simon and all others who are unnecessarily suffering as a result of a ruthless Olympic machine, driving private profit at the expense of us all and riding rough shod over our human rights.
Simon stood up for Leyton Marsh, and we will stand up for Simon and for all others who resist this unnecessary injustice performed in the name of sport and entertainment.