Next South Wales Anarchists meeting in Newport

The next of our weekly meetings will take place in Newport. The venue of the Newport Rising week long event where this meeting will take place will be announced this weekend. We look forward to seeing you there!

The meeting will be on Wednesday the 28th of May and will start at the later time of 8.30pm. Why not come down early? The day’s theme will be class struggle and austerity.

 

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Newport Rising Timetable – 26th May to the 1st June 2014

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Venue announced: 95-96 Commercial St, NP20 1LU. Map is here. If you get lost ring/txt 07440 192330.

 

The programme for the week, more TBC!

MAY 26 – JUNE 1
A whole week of events in a venue in Newport

Mon 26th
11am-5pm: Kids’ Chartist mural re-creation
 12pm Community Singing Workshop
1-4pm: Self Defence for Women taster session – Women only 
4.30pm: Know your Rights with the Police Training 
7.30pm: Community, Democracy and Chartism 
Tue 27th
11am: Animal Rights 
12.30pm: No to the new nuclear build. Nuclear Power = Nuclear Weapons by South West against Nuclear 
2pm Fracking in Wales 
2-5pm : Stencil/graffiti workshop 
4-6 pm: Basic first aid workshop 
7.30pm The Levels Motorway Campaign and Fracking in Newport 
Wed 28th
2-5pm: Banner-making workshop 
Time TBC: The Tea Tent Claimants Solidarity – Strategies for coping with 21st Century unemployment
2pm: IWW Worker’s Power in Under an Hour Training 
Time TBC: Beat the Bedroom Tax 
7pm: Stopping forced workfare labour by Boycott Workfare. 
Thu 29th
2-5pm: Badge-making workshop 
3-4.3pm:Why Men against Patriarchy?(all genders welcome)
Time TBC: No Borders Morocco Presentation 
7:30pm: Borders & racism, plus film screening about nationalism.
Plus! Anti-facist network stall
Fri 30th
12.30pm:Prison abolition talk 
Time TBC: The Historical Aspects of Anarchism 
Time TBC: Anarchism for beginners 
7.30pm – ‘How can we destroy capitalism and make new worlds of anarchy and freedom?’ – workshop by Kaput (https://network23.org/kaput/)
There will be an acoustic gig afterwards with Cosmo, Emu Lou and Raz plus “Dancing Queer” bellydanceing performance.
Sat 31st
Day of protest and street theatre
7.30pm: Talk by people on the Dignity March from Bristol to Cardiff.
Sun 1st
12.30 pm: Session on resisting the drone wars – with emphasis about resistance to Parc Aberporth in Wales and Barclays Bank, investor in drone technology.
2pm: Countering military Recruitment in South Wales.
4pm: Resisting the NATO Summit in Newport – presentation by Stop NATO Cymru.
6.30pm: Organising meeting to build resistance against the NATO summit. All welcome!
Every day:
Free tea and cakes all week.
Free hot meal each evening.
Anarchism Exhibition 
Zines and Books
All welcome!

Venue details nearer the time.

To help out or donate food, materials or money, pop round for a chat or email stopnatocymru@riseup.net

 

What is the Anarchist Travelling Circus

Anarchist Action Network is planning to hold similar Travelling Circus events around the UK with the aim of raising public awareness of anarchism and building a movement with the strength to take renewed action. Go to www.anarchistaction.net for more information.

’40 Days for Life’ : The Last Scupper – by Bella Amos

Cardiff, Sunday 13th April, 2014; a little before six a.m. St Mary’s Street seems eerily quiet without the usual throng of ’40 Days for Life’ campaigners (a group of fundamentalist Catholics who are anti contraception, anti abortion, pro death penalty and pro war) outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Elgin House). We set up our banners and anxiously anticipate their arrival.At half past eight the first batch appears, and an argument on the meaning of pro choice quickly ensues. In the midst of the early morning frustration they take control of the bin space. We lament this early loss of battle ground but persevere regardless, and by the crack of noon the protest is in full swing.

There they are, huddled around the bin underneath their ‘pray to end abortion’ banner, which is underneath a ‘let us prey’ sign. They clutch their rosary beads to their chests and pass their psalm book between each other while we dance around them to the songs of Canned Heat and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. They glare at us disapprovingly, continually crossing themselves, perhaps expecting us sinners to disappear in a flash of smoke and fire.

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But we will not be got rid of so easily, as they soon discover when they fetch the plastic pigs to remove us. After a quick word, the C3POs seem confused enough by the whole thing to call the actual police. While an officer talks with one of the 40 Day-ers, a couple of kids (who, after arriving in a wheelbarrow, began to make signs such as ‘don’t have children in case they turn out not to be Christian) use a pair of crutches to smash up the dinosaur pinata filled with condoms. The police then decide to leave us to it, and we decide to run around in circles to the Benny Hill theme tune.

By seven o’clock in the evening our energy has flagged considerably. The core crew of pro choice protesters has fallen to a number of four, while the 40 Days group is standing at around fifteen. Despite this, we are determined to see things through to the bitter end. A Catalan man joins us and starts to play a mix of Twist & Shout and La Bamba on guitar.

And then, en mass and out of nowhere, about twenty more Catalans come to join in. They kiss the guitarist on the forehead, and after a jovial false start they burst all together into a loud and tuneful song about Belarus. They are waving our signs, they are dancing with each other, they completely drown out the sound of the hymns emanating from around the bin.

It’s hard to describe to anybody who wasn’t there the true beauty of this moment. I have a distinct memory of myself with my hands clasped together, glow-in-the-dark rosary beads entwined around them, laughing up at the sky with tears of joy streaming down my face. It was magnificent.

As suddenly has they had arrived, the Catalans were gone. Half an hour until the end of the protest and, for the first time, we didn’t even want to sing over the Catholics. We felt there was nothing we could do to match the magic that had just transpired; we were happy enough to revel in the glory of that very special moment.

Enter the Irish. They were loud and enthusiastic, albeit a little drunk, they were screaming chants and brandishing our banners with unpredictable passion. I asked one of the 40 Day-ers how much longer they were going to let this continue, and the reply spat at me was “three hours”. The fundamentalists were fuming – so furious were they that they called the police on us again.
If only they had lived and learned. Two riot vans pulled up and a single officer came over to tell us that, although he had no intention of arresting anybody, he had to ask us to try to calm down.

We explained that, although the levels of rowdiness had indeed increased in the last half hour, it was because the 40 Days group were well overdue their home time. We said we would not leave before them, and told the policeman to tell them that their time was up.
So he did. They packed up their stuff and began to depart in small groups. We were thrilled with this outcome, but not so overcome with emotion that we didn’t notice a few of them cross the road to pray on the steps of Elgin House. Now we were enraged. We ran across with a ‘pro choice’ banner and a ‘harassment is NOT holy’ sign to question their audacity and their malformed morals. They walked away disgruntled for a second time, and that was that.

A great day for pro choice radicals, a great shame we still have to fight against this madness.

South Wales Anarchist’s Temporary move to Rummer’s Tavern

Due to our usual meeting place being closed for the time being, we are moving our weekly meetings to Rummer’s opposite the castle in Cardiff. We still meet every Wednesday at the usual time of 8pm. At these meetings we will also be discussing the anti-NATO mobilisation.

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Bring your ideas! See you there.

Death to the Bedroom Tax

An account of Karen’s experience of fighting the Bedroom Tax.

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Photo: Nigel Pugh: Freelance/ Documentary Photography

Photo: Nigel Pugh: Freelance/ Documentary Photography


Alone, surrounded by ancient trees, with mud under my feet, I trampled through woods attempting to find my way to HM Courts and Tribunal Service Newport, panicking that I wouldn’t make it on time.
On arrival, as dreams do, the scene skipped forward to inside the building where I found myself covered in mud, surrounded by long tables and ordinary chairs but few people. A futuristic announcement system called my name and I looked around in horror. I had lost my notes and preparation amongst the trees. A tear rolled down my cheek and fell on the parquet flooring and I watched silently as it seeped into the wood.

I looked up to meet the eyes of a woman, whom I recognised from a previous dream. She and an accomplice had plied me with potent acorn shots and planted an acorn inside my forehead. The woman was now the judge. She asked me forgotten questions to which I cannot remember my answers, but laughed with me and cried with me and finally nodded and sent me home having no idea of the outcome.
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Days later, I awoke feeling nauseous. The day had arrived in reality. I readied myself for the drive, telling myself that in a few hours a journey I embarked upon over a year previous would soon be over whilst pinning a Death to the Bedroom Tax badge on the pocket of my jacket.

The travail to Newport as a passenger soon brought my dream back to life. I watched silently as the junction we were meant to be exiting on faded into the distance wondering if I would ever make it on time. Wrong turn number two resulted in heading the wrong way and I looked out onto a never ending road stretching before me towards infinity, panicking that I wouldn’t make it on time.
I text Marie who was to be my McKenzie friend to inform the clerk I was delayed.

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On arrival at the Tribunal, an office building, I was greeted by her and a group of supporters. The clerk checked me in at reception after a quick scan for security purposes and I was asked if I needed any documents photocopied for the tribunal
and if I had a representative. That would be I.

I chose to represent myself as it is my opinion that no-one is more qualified to speak for me than I. Tribunals are set up with this in mind and people often appear on their own without a representative. Everyone is different and the choice is yours.

We were then shown to a waiting room. The waiting room was quiet, calm and sparse with just a water dispenser containing chilled water and a few plastic plants. I later became aware that we waited in a separate waiting room to Caerphilly Borough County Council (CCBC)’s presenting officers and the clerk came to collect me separately when the tribunal was ready for the hearing.
The room where the tribunal hearing was to take place was furnished with tables laid out in a square, and ordinary chairs. Two presenting officers from CCBC sat at the table to the left, opposite a typist who would be recording proceedings on the table to the right. A jug with water and plastic cups rested on an unoccupied table.

Judge R. was already sitting down when we entered the room. He greeted us as we came in and checked who was who before we sat down. After introductions he explained that if I had no legal training I should be aware that it wasn’t going to be anything like what happens on television. I replied that I didn’t own one.

Then he asked if we had seen the others (the Council representatives) come into the room just before us – He said, “They’ve only just come in … they weren’t here before you.” I think he was meaning to say that ‘impartiality is important here’.
Behind us a row of chairs against the wall were laid out for observers. My appeal tribunal was to be witnessed and observed by friends, supportive members of Cor Cochion (Cardiff Reds Choir).

The judge enquired if I agreed to them being present and stated that they would be asked to leave if I wasn’t comfortable. I remain happy with the thought that a few more people have witnessed, observed and experienced a Bedroom Tax appeal tribunal and was not in the least perturbed by their presence. I hope they will share their experience with others and also be able to tell a story of how once upon a time they witnessed a tenant taking and exercising her rights in her fight against an unfair policy and a corrupt system.

No opening statement was expected and I would describe the experience as having an informal meeting about the layout of my home and my circumstances.

Judge R. began by talking about how to bring my case to tribunal had cost upwards of £1000 and that I had nothing to gain compared to other people he had seen, due to the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) I had been awarded and my heart sank.

I listened, waiting for a chance to explain that I didn’t believe I should have been charged Bedroom Tax and that I thought it to be a mistake. That it was my opinion that the council, my landlord, had included a room measuring less than the 70sq ft deemed suitable for an adult in their calculations to determine I was ‘under-occupying’ and that any DHP should be paid back into the ‘pot’ by the DWP as my Housing Benefit (HB) should have continued to have been paid by the DWP.

The judge seemed satisfied with this and continued to ask questions to clarify my arguments and looked at the facts at the time and situation from all points of view, gathering a picture along the way. He checked whether anyone in the house was on any disability payments or had special needs or a carer. Nothing like this was in my submission, so he explained why he was asking these kinds of questions. He said that he had an inquisitorial role – and the process was less formal than a court would be. Marie says that she took this to mean that to do his job he needed to ask for the facts he needed to know himself, not listen to lawyers putting points to him. That’s why he was checking any possible reasons I might have been charged the bedroom tax wrongly – not just the reasons I had thought of myself. He did the same later for CCBC’s presenting officers, asking them if they had followed all guidance.

Since I hadn’t submitted photographs I was asked to paint a mental picture of my home. In hindsight I would have sent or relied on photos though the judge remarked that I had described my home beautifully. The Judge took detailed notes regarding the kitchen and bathroom and all other rooms in the house, including the gas fire and back boiler in the sitting room. He agreed that for overcrowding purposes the room in question was a half room, suitable for a child, but said that the overcrowding regulations included other rooms in a house, and state that a living room can be used for sleeping in – but not if it has a gas appliance.

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Around this time he told Marie that it was fine to speak up if she had a point to make – that she didn’t have to pass me notes. Marie says that this helped her feel a lot more comfortable being there and that he was really interested in getting at the facts not enforcing a stuffy procedure.

He then went on to ask where everyone slept – at all the various stages of my children growing up, throughout the history of us living in the house, including what furniture there had been in the rooms at various times and what they had been used for when not for sleeping in.

The presenting officers from CCBC didn’t interrupt at all. All the time he spoke to me, they just listened. When he was finished and checked whether I had anything else to add, he turned to the officers and asked them a few questions – much fewer than he asked me.

He then summed up my case, which bits he was leaving out and which were relevant. He said ‘…so you’re arguing that the third room is too small to be a bedroom and couldn’t be let to a lodger… ’ We tried to add the ‘room use’ argument, but he kind of over-ruled that by saying that I had used it as a bedroom at times. Marie asked if it was relevant how CCBC had made their decision – he said not, that they had asked me how many bedrooms I had, as well as asking the ‘landlord’. He reminded us the ‘human rights’ arguments had been ruled out by a higher tribunal and he had to be bound by that.

Then he said he had to decide whether this room, in these circumstances, was to be classed as a bedroom for the purposes of the tax. After further questions asked of the presenting officers the judge said that he thought he had come to a decision. He spoke about the internet and that whilst both parties would have a right to publish and upload the judgement that it would be wise to redact names, Nino and case no. He also asked that I did not reveal his name. He doesn’t really like being on the internet – people quote him back to himself!

I found the judge to be objective in his approach, helpful and human. He spoke to me as an equal, with respect and fairness, using ordinary language.

I found the officers to be respectful, patient and perhaps nervous. I hope they too have an experience they can now call upon to feed back to other officers to help tenants affected by cuts to their income or benefits.

Sometimes a decision is made on the day. In my case the judge wanted to take more time and sent it at a later date. Whilst it was a relief to have finally had my voice heard, it was also a time of conflicting uncertainty and hope. Sometimes, whilst going over what was said, I had regrets and negative thoughts but mostly I was positive and excited to know the outcome and to have some closure.

The journey to get there was a struggle in itself. I went from taking to the internet in November of 2012 to research a new life, planning to abandon society for a simple life living off-grid in the woods, to deciding to fight against what I view as a cruel, unfair policy that judges and penalises someone for not having enough money to pay for some ‘spare’ space by reducing the amount the law says one needs to live on. I had discovered http://speye.wordpress.com and become aware of my rights as a tenant and how to exercise them thanks to freely available, accessible information shared by Joe Halewood and requested more information early in March 2013 and an appeal form.. I never received one.

After joining Bedroom Tax related groups on social media site Facebook, having no prior experience of politics or activism, I created a placard ‘Death to the Bedroom Tax’ and took to the streets of Cardiff where I met members of Cardiff Against the Bedroom Tax and later in April attended a workshop with the aim of gaining support to help others in my community whom I knew would be affected by this filthy policy and was an instigator in the setting up of Caerphilly County Against the Bedroom Tax and remain an active member today.

I also had a point to prove and a message to deliver to other tenants. Throughout the past year I have witnessed my landlord (which is also my local council) supply tenants with misinformation, namely that there is no right to appeal and that it (Bedroom Tax) has to be paid as it is the law.

I made a complaint about this to CCBC in 2013 and was sent an email mentioning ‘Legal and Professional Privilege’, called to clarify and was told I needed to ask permission to speak of it to anyone but a solicitor. The past is gone, mistakes were made and one hopes never again to hear those words.

I wanted to illustrate to other tenants that they DO indeed have the right to appeal even if they have been told otherwise.
I did not believe it fair to be wrongly charged with ‘under-occupancy’ and Bedroom Tax on a room deemed only suitable for a child under 10. I appealed on principal. The judge agreed with me. The DHP I was mistakenly awarded (for proving ‘financial hardship’) should now be paid back into the ‘pot’ by the DWP to be made available for other tenants who need it.

Thank you to Marie Walsh, my McKenzie friend who was there for me when I stumbled and to everyone who supported me along the way.

The fight is far from over and my journey has not ended; it has just begun.

I am now growing my acorn, fed by my experiences and watered by membership of Cor Cochion, South Wales Anarchists and the IWW.

In Solidarity, ‘til death, there is no going back,
Karen.

 

Anarchists Shut Down Barclays

On Saturday, 3rd of May, a group of 25 anarchists and anti-militarists closed Barclays’ Cardiff city centre branch in protest of the bank’s investment in the arms trade.

The campaigners formed a Radical Bloc on the Trades Council-organised May Day march, breaking from the main route to take action against the bank instead of going to listen to speeches by union officials at the Trades Council’s rally.

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A local anarchist and member of the Stop NATO Cymru campaign group said: “We took part in the May Day march to draw attention to the struggles of workers all over the world against exploitation and violent oppression which is exacerbated by arms producers here in the UK.

Nice sticker butt!

We targeted Barcalys because it’s a major investor in Exelis Inc. the parent company of the EDO Corporation which is guilty of mass-producing arms to sell to oppressive regimes, exacerbating violent conflict and suppressing legitimate protest. Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd has 5,059,591 shares in Exelis and Barclays PLC has 63,071 shares.

We entered the branch after leaving the May Day march and refused to leave until we had made an impact. Within half-an-hour the management decided to close, depriving the company of a busy Saturday afternoon’s profit through direct action. We sent our message to the public by plastering the front of the building with stickers which gave details of Barclays’ guilt and sent a clear message to the company that we won’t tolerate money from our communities being used to fund war.”

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The protest was organised by Stop NATO Cymru as part of an ongoing campaign to oppose the forthcoming NATO Summit in Newport this September.

A member of Stop NATO Cymru added: “We oppose all wars between nations and see NATO, the armed wing of western capitalism, and the companies which manufacture its weapons as being two sides of the same coin. Both murder ordinary people who are forced into conflicts by their conditions and escalate situations like Ukraine’s, where two imperialistic powers are forcing their will over an innocent population, NATO being one of those powers.”

1) For more information on Stop NATO Cymru: network23.org/stopnatocymru 

2) For more on opposition to the forthcoming NATO Summit: 
http://www.radicalwales.org/2014/02/nato-in-newport-2014.html 

3) For more information on Exelis Inc./EDO Corp.: http://www.smashedo.org.uk