Fight The Criminal Justice Bill (1994)
A double page spread in the first issue of Alien Underground dealt with the (then) threat of the new Criminal Justice Bill (which was to become law in as the 1994 Criminal Justice Act shortly after with minor alterations) in three sections. The first was more of an opinion piece, the second a brief rundown of central sections of the law, the third a report on (then) recent protests. Published in 1994 in Alien Underground 0.0
1.The State of Emergency
We propose to see the Criminal Justice Bill as State of Emergency laws in the disguise of ‘fighting crime’, but with the actual aim of doing away with the unruly and unrulable element of those who have by choice or by need chosen to live outside of the ‘system’ to a greater or lesser degree.In other words alternative lifestyles are to be exterminated if they don’† conform to the rules of consumer capitalism.
Many of those concerned are not enemies of the system as such, and are shocked by the attack being mounted against them, especially in the face of a government blatently lying as to the purpose of the operation. They could be called naive, but then it often isn’t that easy to see through the smokescreen with which the authorities comouflage their more sinister operations.
Capitalism is based on growth… It is in the inherent logic of the system that it has to endlessly grow, something that has turned out to ultimately destroy the planet. It relies on people to participate in this by consuming more and more and faster and faster …and slavery. By signing away their lives for work that is going to earn them the money to buy, to pay off their debts, to make new debts etc.
More and more people have realised in the last 30 years that this path leads to destruction and death, but the propaganda of the system has more or less successfully kept convincing a majority that the problems can be solved and that it isn’t the system that is the problem.
To keep you engaged in the spectacle of acquiring and spending money, you must first be hypnotised into believing that money is important to the point of being the key to spiritual well being, success, sex, satisfaction. This is achieved with a propaganda machinery – television, media, advertising – and other forms of brainwashing and mind control.
The Criminal Justice Bill has nothing to do with ‘fighting crime’, if anything it creates new crimes. It’s true goal however is war on those who escape Control.
The system wants you to believe that everything is based on money and property, and that you live a sad and lonely life if you don’t sell your soul to the building society and give your wage to the funenforcers as a thank you for washing your brain.
Free Parties and Festivals have shown to tens of thousands of people that there are other ways than paying extortionate amounts of money for a night out. Squatters and Travellers are living a more or less nomadic life out of necessity or choice, but certainly preferring it to the alternative of either being on the street or being in grim council blocks. The authorities prefer to pay for your housing benefit than let you live the way you want, because they see the danger that you may lead a fulfilled life rather than the miserable existence they designed for the lower classes.
But there is more to the Bill than the tresspass sections affecting squatters, travellers, ravers and hunt sabs. There are sections that will take away your right to silence in case of arrest, there are sections facilitating searches of persons and vehicles, there are sections facilitating the taking of intimate and non-intimate samples of DNA. Britain will – bluntly speaking – be a great step closer to an all out police state than it is now. In the case of civil unrest which the authorities are clearly expecting as their war on the poor is well into its second decade, it will be easy to set up roadblocks, arrest and detain known ‘subversives’ etc. without much effort of justifying such actions. With the media as they are, the government can be sure that they’ll be toeing the line. Also it has to be mentioned that another part of the Bill is giving much more power to the censors to butcher video releases or to not giving cerificates at all. Here, again, the wording is so wishy washy that it can pretty much be applied at will – and this is a dominant feature of the whole Bill that suggests that its powers are designed for a whole range of scenarios.
The ruling elite is desperate to remain in power, but it has nothing to offer for youth anymore. We are bored by its proposals of ‘careers’ and its definitions of ‘success’. The ‘choices’ in consumerism are choices of shades of the same. Instead of allowing more diversity it is cracking down on it, trying to establish a homogenous society, where conformism is the noblest of virtues.
To achieve this, total identification and transparency is aimed for with total surveillance of the city centres, DNA databases and new ID cards: Every movement of the citizen is to be monitored.
To try and resist this, the traditional ways of voicing dissent and of lobbying are fine, but not enough. More militant possibilities should not be left unconsidered for the wrong reasons, but one has to remember that the authorities are better prepared for fighting in the streets, and possibly quite keen on the pretext it would give them to detain large numbers of people. What we should be working on are new forms of cultural and political resistance, new tactics and aims.
The Criminal Justice Bill –
Know the Wrongs,
Fight for your Rights!
Peaceful Protest: clauses 63-66
The new offence of ‘aggravated trespass’ is created (63), concerning trespass with the intention of disrupting or obstructing ‘lawful activity’ or intimidating people as to deter them from that activity (max.3 months imprisonment). Also it will become a new criminal offence to disobey the orders of a police officer who has directed a person to leave land (64).
Clause 65 provides that an order can be obtained to ban assemblies which are likely to be held without the permission of the owner, and which may result in either “serious disruption to the life of the community” or significant damage to a site of historical, architectural or scientific interest. Clause 66 gives police powers to stop people whom they “reasonably believe” to on the way to an assembly prohibited under (65).
Travellers (56,72,73,75) It will become a criminal offence not to leave land if ordered to do so by a police officer where damage has been cause OR where there are more than 6 vehicles on the land (56)It will also be a criminal offence to camp without permission once a local authority has ordered a person to leave (72), while (73) gives magistrates courts the power to order the removal of vehicles and property from an area once an order has been made. (75) abolishes the duty placed on local authorities in the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to provide adequate sites for travellers.
Squatters (67,70,71): It will become a criminal offence not to leave property within 24 hours after the landlord has gained a court order. The person in residence is likely not to have been informed of the court case against him/her. Therefor at any time a 24-hour eviction notice could come through your door! (71). Only after you’ve been thrown out, you’ll have the right to appeal (71). The dodgiest bit is (67) which in effect will enable landlords, or in fact almost anyone with an interest in property, to use violence to gain entry to a property. It is to be expected that this will be widely abused for illegal violent evictions.
Outdoor raves and festivals (58-62,65,66)
(58) gives the police powers to end outdoor festivals and makes it a criminal offence to disobey a direction to leave one (max.3 months imprisonment or level 4 fine) The police only need to take “reasonable steps” to bring it to the attention of people that they are being asked to leave. Will you go to prison for not hearing a loudhailer? Well possible. (59) will empower police to enter land where a festival is held and seize vehicles and equipment. (60) will empower police to stop people whom they “reasonably belive” to be proceeding to such an event anywhere within five miles of the boundary of the site, and direct them to turn back. (61) empowers the courts to order the forfeiture of equipment, including vehicles, seized. (62) allows police to retain such equipment until after any criminal proceedings are concluded and gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations to enable charges to be levied to offset the costs of taking, storing and destroying such equipment..
Police powers (49-54,55,76,77). (76) gives the police powers to stop and search similar to the ones they currently hold in Northern Ireland. Quote:”A constable may, in the exercise of those powers, stop any vehicle or person and make any search he thinks fit whether or not he has any grounds for suspecting that the vehicle or person is carrying articles of that kind.” It will become a criminal offence to refuse to cooperate with a stop and search. (77) creates 2 new offences. A person is guilty of an offence if s/he is in possession of an article “in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable suspicion” that it is intended “for a purpose connected with the commission, instigation or preparation of acts of terrorism”. A person is also guilty of an offence if they are found to be collecting or possessing, without authorisation “any information which is of such a nature to be useful to terrorists.” (49-54) extend the power of the police to take intimate samples of DNA, non-intimate samples using reasonable force, collect retain and store information extracted from samples, limit the rights of people to have fingerprints and samples destroyed, redefine mouth swabs as non-intimate and allow the police to search a persons mouth on arrest.
Video censorship.It is planned to add measures to ban the private use of videos which “present an inappropriate role model” for children, or which are “likely to cause psychological harm to a child”.
This very short run-down of the sections of the Bill cannot offer more than an overview of what’s in store, staying very much on the surface. It cannot be stressed enough that a lot of the sections are worded in a way so they stay open for interpretation and abuse. The ‘Peaceful protest’ sections will criminalize legitimate forms of dissent, and undermine the rights to peaceful public protest, the ‘Travellers’ section erode the human rights of Gypsies and other Travellers, the ‘Squatting’ sections worsen the problems of homelessness (even though there are more empty properties than homeless people in this country) among other things. ‘Outdoor raves and festivals’ will be prohibited by draconian measures, and the sections could be abused to dissolve gatherings of people. In all cases it can be reasonably argued that the existing laws are adequate in dealing with what the Bill is claiming to. We argue that its true goal is a much more sinister agenda of social engeneering and cultural cleansing. The section on police powers in relation to terrorism is extremely worrying in the scope of powers to stop and search and collect data on citizens. A whole world of possibilities of harassment and discrimination is opening up. The section on ‘Possessing information likely to be useful to terrorists’ is likely to be abused, not only against ‘subversives’ but also against journalists and researchers.The proposal to abolish the Right of Silenceis of particular concern to many civil rights activists. This would undermine the presumtion of innocence and would increase the risk of miscarriages of justice. Finally the section dealing with video censorship (in a country that’s one of the worst in Europe already) makes it possible to ban just about anything that for some reason is deemed unsuitable – or subversive. Remember Spanner? Genesis P’Orridge? Spiral Tribe?
YOU ARE NEXT.
A lot of the information in this piece is taken from “Defending Diversity and Dissent”, published by Liberty, the National Council for Civil Liberties. It provides much more in depth information, details and examples showing what’s wrong with the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. We recommend you get this booklet from: Liberty Campaigns Office. 21, Tabard Street, London SE1. 071 403 3888. (£1). They are also planning to take the government to the European Court for breach of the European Convention on Human Rights ans the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights once the Bill has become law.
The Media, the Protest and the ‘Riot’
One will remember the reaction of the media to the first big rally against the Criminal Justice Bill on the first of may. Or do you? More than 15’000 people marched through London aginst the proposal that will cut down on “civil liberties” like no attack by the government against its subjects… and the media kept quiet. Obviously it was decided that the citizens better not know about what’s being done to them, and they seem to have expected the resistance from the street to disappear again into that favorite state of apathy. When we arrived at Hyde Park quite early we were still worried that their hopes might materialise; what if it’s smaller than last time? It wasn’t: Thousands and thousands kept coming, and finally a mass of about 40’000 made their way to Trafalgar Square. There was, briefly and marginally, some violence by the Downing Street gates, predictably really, but negligible and neither endorsed nor even noticed by most. It seemed to be the general consensus of the day not to use violence even among the non-pacifists, because chances seemed good that the mass of people would have the desired impact of bringing the issue to an as wide as possible public. The next day there was considerable surprise to learn that we had tried to storm Downing Street! In general the press avoided dealing with the issues and picked up on a bit of violence that hardly deserved the exposure. It would be wrong however to blame ‘the violent element’ for Bad Press: The alternative would have been to not or hardly mention the march, or do you think the Tory press would suddenly support us? The journalistic integrity of rags like the Times or the Telegraph are accurately reflected in the price wars they are conducting to dupe people into buying them; their talk is cheap indeed. The shocking picture of crusties taking drugs in public, shouting abuse to police and passer-bys, trying to overthrow the government and behaving like animals in general was painted, and people relying on these papers as sources of information will probably believe it. I rather get the impression that, angered that their strategy of silence didn’t work a smear campaign against the resistance (“An alliance of New Age travellers, rock festival fans (!?!) and squatters” The Times) is being conducted in an effort to stop it from getting bigger and possibly even preventing the Bill from becoming law. The Times: “Yesterdays protest was the latest in a series of attacks on the Bill from nearly every sector of the population, including the judiciary, the police and MPs.” Do they already have troubled sleep seeing the Black Flag over Whitehall?
The coverage by the Guardian was just as bullshit, being a bit more accurate in its account of the event, but just as reluctant to provide any background information and instead concentrating on the ‘riot’ as well. The Independent opted for a similar approach in its report, but at least chose to balance it with a reasonable piece on the comments page (“Making the innocent into enemies of the state”). The Sun only did a small piece without saying much, but surprisingly the Mirror went to considerable length in denouncing the “Kneejerk law that threatens our Freedom” and the “Botched Bill makes all of us Criminals”. Interesting is also the coverage by the Evening Standard, especially compared to the other right wing papers. Here the demo is explicitly referred to as “the riot that wasn’t”, and the police is celebrated for handling the situation in a way that prevented an actual riot breaking out! This is certainly slightly closer to the truth than the distortions most of the other papers were offering, but maybe not as inspiring. Maybe we should have tried to storm Downing Street! At least the march has managed to make the Bill news to some degree, and that’s already a success. But it’s only the beginning…
The situation is a bit different after the 3rd march. This month the Bill will actually become law (by the time this magazine hits the streets it may already be) and there was actually a bit of a riot in Hyde Park. The way this was made to look like war on television, I’m sure it will inspire thousands of young people across the country to stand up against the scum and fight. The media generally used the fighting to stay away from the issues, but they would have used an entirely peaceful demonstration to keep quiet as well. So at least the Fluff-police with their ridiculous pacifism fucked up, but there is a worrying number of people out there, little naive liberals, who are shocked by the violence of the state and the media. They obviously still haven’t figured out that the Freedom and Civil Liberties you are granted are only borrowed for as long as the system is firmly in control, for as long as you stay a nice fluffy consumer. That with the CJB several of these ‘rights’ are revoked now that Tory-capitalism is in a crisis shouldn’t surprise us, but it becomes more urgent to go beyond this piss take democracy & not keep playing what is ultimately the systems own game, and fall into any trap. There remain a lot of things to be discussed; the CJB is only turning into law a lot of things the authorities have done illegally anyway; not so much if marches/riots ‘work’, but how they could be made to work. But most of all what other strategies can be employed to (re)gain autonomy & sovereignty over our bodies and lives.
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