Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Olympics ASBO

As I mentioned in a previous post, Simon Moore was arrested for protesting against the Olympic development at Leyton Marsh and then served with an Interim Anti Social Behaviour Order preventing him from approaching any Olymic venue, activity or official. Below is a statement Simon has issued in response to this ludicrous crackdown on legitimate protest:

My name is Simon Moore. I was recently served with an Interim Anti Social Behaviour Order on my way out of HMP Thamesmead following imprisonment after a peaceful demo at Leyton Marsh. I feel compelled and obligated to make a public statement about it.

On April 14th I was served with an Interim Anti Social Behaviour Order (IASBO) on leaving HMP Thamesmead following four days of incarceration. I was imprisoned along with two friends: Dan & Anita. We had engaged in peaceful civil disobedience at Leyton Marshes, where the Olympic Delivery Authority have organised the construction of a basketball training facility on open, communal land without the consent of the local people. The action which began the chain of events (resulting in imprisonment) involved sitting in front of a lorry carrying cement at the entrance to the construction site on Leyton Marshes and refusing to move when asked to do so by a police officer. I have no remorse about my actions. I was doing what I know to be right. 

The IASBO which is in effect until a court hearing on May 3rd at Westminster Magistrates Court (when a hearing for a longer term ASBO will take place) prohibits engaging in certain activities. It warns that should I do any of the prohibited activities I may be liable 'on conviction or indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or a fine, or to both'. It is signed by a Justice of the Peace from Westminster Magistrates Court and has been sought by CO11: the Metropolitan Police's Public Order Unit.

The prohibitions contained with the IASBO relate primarily to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, although they also include the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, the State Opening of Parliament on 9th May 2012, the Royal River Pageant and the Trooping of the Colour on 16th June 2012. For the exact wording of the prohibitions, please see below.

The prohibitions are worded in such a way which suggests the possibility that its authors believe that the recipient may be intending to disrupt the events mentioned above. This suspicion is most clearly evident in prohibition 4 which reads: ''Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee Celebrations''.

I am taking this opportunity to respond publicly to this IASBO.

I have never intended to disrupt any of the ceremonies mentioned above nor would I. This IASBO was given to me following peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience at the Leyton Marshes construction site which happens to be a proposed Olympic training venue. The fact that the destruction of a communal green open space in the heart of a densely populated, deprived urban environment happened to be in the name of the Olympics was not what led me to engage in peaceful civil disobedience there. My activities at Leyton Marshes are not intended to be 'anti-Olympics'. They are intended to highlight what I see is a gross failure on the part of public bodies to represent the needs of the local people in the areas that are being used to host the games. The decision to build on Leyton Marshes is showing that the current nature of the organisation and delivery of the Olympics in London 2012 is undemocratic and unaccountable on many levels. The needs of the local people in Hackney and Waltham Forest have gone completely overlooked and their rights have been infringed on. They have not been consulted on a matter which is important to many of them nor have they had any say. They currently have no access to an open space which is vital to people's health and well being. And rightly many are concerned that they may lose this right for good. I came to Leyton with other like minded people with a common aim to support local people who had decided to do anything peacefully in their power to protect a treasured space. Our activities were soon criminalised by the application of laws which placed the needs of anonymous public bodies and corporations above those of the local people.

The Olympics need not be carried out in this way. There is an alternative which would leave a positive legacy for Londoners. Currently this is not being fulfilled. The situation at Leyton Marshes is proof of this.

With respect to the IASBO, it established prohibitions that I regard as unjust and unnecessary. It also infers that I am going to engage in activities which I have no intention of engaging in. Regardless of this fact, in order to prevent these anticipated activities It criminalises activities which are ordinary and usually considered lawful. For example the 1st prohibition: ''Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant's residence within England and Wales''. I am currently participating in a 24 hr/day ongoing demonstration outside Lea Valley Ice Centre on Lea Bridge Rd (in front of Leyton Marsh) with tents and banners etc. Lea Bridge Rd is one of the major Olympic routes (one which the Olympic torch is intended to travel down). I protest there with friends to raise the attention of the local population to the situation at Leyton Marshes (not to disrupt the Olympic Games). Sometimes I may walk around the construction site on the Marshes to see what is happening to it. Under the terms of the IASBO, both of these activities are illegal. Prohibition no.3 declares: ''Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land''. I have camped (and will likely do so again soon) on the grass verge next to Lea Bridge Rd next to signs that explain that the Waltham Forest Council (the landowner) do not grant permission for anyone to camp there and demand that we (occupiers) leave. Normararilly this is a civil matter which would have to go to the High Court for an eviction order/injunction to be granted before we could be removed. Because of the IASBO, I can be arrested simply for standing on the verge. Even if I or anyone else was intending to disrupt the Olympic ceremonies or events (which I am not), I would still regard these prohibitions as unjust. Can it be called just to criminalise lawful activities on the grounds that someone may commit a crime later?

By continuing my participation with the campaign at Leyton Marshes I have been placed with a choice between doing what I know to be right or obeying a law that deems my activities criminal and thereby ending my participation. I choose to do what I know to be right. If this means breaking the law then that is what I will do openly and transparently. If I am arrested and or imprisoned as a result, I know that I have not broken my own sense of what I see as just which is truer to me than any law no matter who has created it. Being in prison doesn't change that.

I echo the sentiments of many past and present in saying that if the law says that something you are doing is wrong which you regard as right, then break the law. Likewise if the law requires you to do something you regard as wrong, then break the law. 

The prohibitions are as follows:
"1. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any existing or proposed Olympic competition or practice venue or route or participant's residence within England and Wales.

2. Entering or remaining within 100 yards of any road being used on that day for the passage of the Olympic torch, or on which any Olympic competition or practice venue is taking place - e.g the marathon - within England and Wales;

3. Not to trespass on, or without the permission of the owner to interfere with, any building or land;

4. Taking part in any activity that disrupts the intended or anticipated official activities of the Olympic games or Diamond Jubilee celebrations;

5. Obstructing the movement or passage of any Olympic participant between their residence, practice venue or place of work and venues being used for Olympic competition or cultural purposes and vice versa.

For the purposes of this Order:

'Olympic' or 'Olympics' shall be construed as referring to both the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in England and Wales in 2012;

'Diamond Jubilee celebrations' shall be construed as referring to the following dates only

- State Opening of Parliament on 9th May 2012,

- The Royal River Pageant and other Jubilee associated events on 2nd - 5th June 2012 inclusive and

- Trooping of the Colour on 16th June 2012.

'Participant' shall be construed as including competitors, accredited officials, spectators at or in the vicinity of venues at which Olympic events are taking place or are anticipated to take place and the workforce engaged in work associated with the Olympics, paid or unpaid.''