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Olympics clampdown takes sinister turn

The Police-Military Games – formerly known as the London 2012 Olympics but now rebranded – are set to challenge Berlin 1936 for the title of most authoritarian sporting event of all time.

News that the defence ministry plans to site surface-to-air guided missiles on a block of flats in east London is only the latest indication of a massive clampdown under way. The use of deadly “drones” – used by the US as killing machines in Afghanistan and Pakistan – is also a possibility.

It is almost as if the state has issued a challenge to would-be terrorists to, in the language of the US military, “bring it on”.

Tens of thousands of armed police and troops will be deployed in a ring of steel around the Olympic sites. Heavy security will be imposed on public transport routes. And in a deeply sinister development, activists are becoming targets for pre-emptive arrests and court orders.

We saw this type of action last year when, on the eve of the royal wedding, dozens of activists were arrested before they had even protested. None had intended to disrupt the event – just to show their political opposition which, they thought wrongly, was their democratic right. Some are now challenging the legality of the arrests.

On Thursday, democracy activist Simon Moore will be up in court at Westminster Magistrates where the state will try to make permanent an interim so-called anti-social behaviour order (IABSO). This was served on Simon as he left Thamesmead prison after spending four days in jail. (ASBOs were introduced by New Labour. They are civil orders, the breaking of which is considered a crime).

The IASBO was imposed on Simon after he acted to support the local community in a protest on Leyton Marshes against the construction of an Olympic basketball training facility on open, communal land without any sort of consultation or agreement.

He says:

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, signed by a magistrate and sought by CO11, the Met’s notorious public order unit in charge of turning peaceful protests into mini-riots, warns Simon that he could go to jail for up to five years if he takes part in any activity that disrupts the Olympics, the state opening of parliament next week, the queen’s jubilee events as well as the Trooping of the Colour on June 16!

Simon absolutely insists that his peaceful demonstration on the Leyton Marshes construction site was not “anti-Olympics” but an attempt to highlight “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”.

He adds:

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.

Be warned: the hated, crisis-ridden ConDem coalition will use the full might of the state around the jubilee and the Olympics to try to generate a crude nationalism and intolerance this summer. Activists like Simon, who is well known in the Occupy movement, will be turned into criminals at the stroke of a magistrate’s pen if the authorities get half a chance.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
30 April 2012

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