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As the Olympic opening ceremony celebrates collective action, right to protest compromised on the streets of London

 

Statement from Occupy London Press Team on events in East London tonight:

We’ll be honest: we hadn’t expected an awful lot. The run-up promised little more than an advert to help sanitise the image of some of the Olympics’ grand sponsors. We saw bread and circuses for an austerity-wrought city that feels like it doesn’t have a great deal to celebrate, a city which the global corporations and financial instituitions have done their best to tear the heart out of.

We’re pleased that Danny Boyle produced an opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics that bore a closer resemblance to the country we recognise than most of us had expected. We’d like to thank him for placing collective action, dissent, humour and – above all – our public services at the heart of his story about what we can, very occasionally, feel proud of.

However, while the Olympic opening ceremony was watched by millions tonight, a very different spectacle was rivalling it for the attention of many on the streets of east London and Twitter users who were following the #criticalmass hashtag.

A peaceful good natured mass cycle that has happened on the last Friday of every month for the past eighteen years was met with police aggression, pepper spray, violence with truncheons used, kettling and multiple arrests. Red London buses full of confiscated bicycles present a very different image of what this city means to the people who live in it in 2012. [1]

“Tonight, the police criminalised cycling – cyclists were assaulted and arrested by the bus load. Early into Critical Mass, David Beckham was the first car behind a police blockade. When interest stirred about his presence, the police violently shoved cyclists to the floor and Beckham’s vehicle was the only one that was let through the road block,” commented Steve Rushton, Occupy London supporter and member of the Counter Olympic Network.

“The authorities’ response – both earlier and later during the arrests – contradicts the idea the games would encourage people to participate in sport or that these are the greenest games ever. It’s ironic that cyclists featured so heavily in the actual ceremony too, while their real-life counterparts were being arrested just nearby.”

Around 9pm, a kettle was imposed on more than 100 cyclists at the junction of Stratford High Street and Warton Road, where they were held for most of the Opening Ceremony. Green and Black Cross is currently trying to confirm arrestee details, but estimate that over 100 have been arrested and taken to police stations around London, including Charing Cross, Leyton and Fresh Wolf Industrial Estate stations.

Whose Games? Dissent to continue

Today (Saturday) Occupy London will join more than 40 groups protesting against the Olympics for the ‘Whose Games? Whose City?‘ demonstration, organised by the Counter Olympics Network. [2] Assembling in Mile End Park in East London at noon, there will be a march to Wennington Green for a family friendly event including speeches, entertainment, alternative games and children’s events.

There is no intention to cause disruption to the games. We hope that the police and other interested parties including LOCOG, the ODA, the IOC likewise respect people’s sacrosanct right to assemble, travel and protest peacefully.

Notes

[1] https://twitter.com/indyrikki/status/228970065918304257/photo/1

[2] Counter Olympics Network –  http://counterolympicsnetwork.wordpress.com/; Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/291553350941427/; Final arrangements – http://counterolympicsnetwork.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/final-arrangements-for-march-and-event-on-july-28th/

 

 
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