It’s quite a while since I’ve been to a demonstration. The last one was the 2009 Leeds Reclaim The Night march, and before that, well, it might have been the 1986(?) Stop The Clause (28) march which filled Woodhouse Lane from the then Polytechnic to the Parkinson Building. The picture on the front of the old Leeds Other Paper was awesome looking down from Parkinson steps on what must have been several tens of thousands of marchers. It is sad that it often takes an assault on liberties for communities to stand together.
Last night was a bit different. I had only heard about Norman Scarth’s intention to picket a location in Moortown some 24 hours or so beforehand and having seen him speak about his recent savage incarceration in Armley gaol the day before it seemed that there might be a newsworthy event about to go down. Mr Scarth had been sentenced to a swingeing 6 months sentence for the victimless crime of using a mobile recording device in court. I understand his reservations about court records being always true and accurate. Most countries these days at least make official video and audio recordings of cases. Parliament itself has been broadcast for several decades now, but courts are still exempt. As an amateur sound and video recordist I am committed to the idea that public proceedings should be recorded wherever possible and made available for inspection.
It has been said that those who control the past control the present, as well as the future. One might well have cause for concern that the text of court proceedings is produced and approved by the people who are in charge of the court. My own view is that in such important areas as judicial proceedings the more independent recordings that can be made the better as a protection against fraud. One source on its own can be subject to editing and fabrication. Multiple sources can be cross referenced and with modern digital recordings the time bases can be compared so as to expose falsification. Too much important business is discussed off the record by powerful people. The Privy Council, in which senior ministers of the government have the opportunity to discuss matters with the Queen, is off the public record. The Bildeberg group which long lurked in the shadows has now been acknowledged to really exist, a group of the most powerful and influential people on the planet meeting in private and discussing the future direction of world policy with no reference to any national government, the UN or public accountability.
Before I arrived at the location I was unclear as to the nature of the protest or who indeed the focus of the picket was to be. Upon my arrival a few yards from this location I found Mr Scarth who told me that he would be making a representation about Judge Jonathan Rose, the judge who had handed down the sentence upon him. I believe he referred to him as a ‘vicious sadist’, an appellation I feel is justified when you take into consideration that Norman Scarth is 85 years old. His record of service to our country is impeccable, being a naval seaman who served in the Artic convoys during World War II and a veteran of the sea battle against the German battleship the Scharnhorst, as well as being solely responsible for an amendment to Article 6 of the European Charter of Human Rights in 1999. (I am a little hazy on the exact legal reference here, so this may need to be subject to minor correction, but is in essence true). Perhaps I should add that while in prison Mr Scarth was denied his prescription medicines which could have led to him suffering a heart attack or stroke, being as he is a frail old man who was held under solitary confinement in one of the toughest gaols in Britain, where suicide is a common occurrence.
The term ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ comes to mind here. Mr Scarth, a war hero and civil liberties campaigner who has served his country in both war and peace time was brutally gaoled for the victimless crime of attempting to ensure that a judicial proceeding was factually accountable to the public.
Given this context and having my own interest in liberty and accountability I was more than willing to attend and witness Mr Scarth’s protest about a judge that he sees as being more concerned with suppression of information than ensuring that justice is done. Following him to the location of his intended protest, I turned on my relatively low def video capture camera and started recording.
Now I will acknowledge that Norman spoke very loudly in a public place, but last time I checked, freedom of speech had not been removed from the constitutional rights of the British people. I will further acknowledge that I myself would have carried out such a demonstration in a more low key manner; but I would probably have been ignored.
The way that he chose to carry out his demonstration is a matter for him, so long as he remained within the law, and it being the case that he harmed no-one and merely spoke his truth, then I believe that he was. The Common Law states that one should do no harm to person, property or environment. And he did no harm to anyone or anything.
I will shortly have my video witness record uploaded to my YouTube channel for all to view. What is of the most interest to me is the overreaction of the security guards and the police who arrived after only a few minutes.
You will hear one of the guards shout ‘Call 999’ within about 20 seconds of our arrival, and at the same time, even though I was some yards behind Norman I was approached in a most threatening manner by one of the guards which obliged me to retreat since I feared for my video camera. You can hear me say, ‘You are approaching me’ as he clearly does on the video, to which he replies ‘No I’m not’ which is obviously a lie. This same er… gentleman at about 4:20 into the video comes up to me in the developing crowd, leans toward my ear, and says in a confidential manner ‘You know in other places you would have been murdered by now…’ after having previously called me ‘big mouth’. I had said very little up to that point outside of addressing him and others who had approached me first; I made absolutely no comment on Mr Scarth’s issue of protest the entire time I was there. This is a clear matter of record on my video.
My purpose in attending this demonstration was primarily to witness and record what happened. It is a matter of history that witnessing is possibly the most powerful means possible of maintaining peace. With modern portable video technology this is reinforced. You will see how the police officer who turns up at about 8 minutes threatens Mr Scarth with arrest for assault, but backs down when I point out that I have videoed him being the first to have touched Norman already several times.
The pepper spray incident at the Wall Street Occupation was very much on my mind when I went to witness this event yesterday. The NYPD have brushed off the complaints about this incident, but the whole world can see that a white shirted police officer walked up out of the crowd, pulled out a small can, waved it in the faces of some young women who were contained behind a mobile barrier, ‘kettled’ as it is called, and disappeared into the crowd as the women collapsed screaming in pain.
So far as I could tell there were two other video cameras recording different angles of what was going on there yesterday. I don’t know who these people were, I have never met them before, and I assume they came for a similar reason to myself having found out about it in whatever way, probably through the internet. In my view this was the primary factor which prevented matters from getting out of hand. The er… gentlemen of the undisclosed security firm who would not disclose what the initials on their jackets stood for were threatening and aggressive to both Mr Scarth, 85, and myself, a lady in my late fifties with an arthritic knee and resultant limp. Had there been no cameras I hesitate to think what might have happened.
It may be that some will think of Norman’s demonstration as being ‘inappropriate’. It has been my experience that the forces of repression consider all and every expression of truth which does not fit their agenda to be ‘inappropriate’. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
The entire episode lasted barely twenty minutes, and after I had turned off my camera and the small crowd was beginning to disperse, a second police van turned up, this time with at least two female police officers. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but these were almost certainly summoned to deal with me. They wanted to know how I had come to be ‘involved’ as they put it, and repeated said ‘I don’t buy that’ when I told them that I had heard about it on the internet, as if I was somehow involved in some serious and clandestine plot. They seemed to have difficulty understanding that concerned members of the public might wish to witness and record events such as this, besides which they also seemed to be questioning the right of autonomous individuals to bear witness. There were repeated allegations, such as assault on the police officer who first arrived, or that a breach of the peace had occurred. Perhaps it was frustrating to them that a concerned witness would remain calm and challenge their assertions by stating that I had witnessed no violence and that I was not participating in the demonstration myself but merely bearing witness, and asking the occasional question. The assembly of individuals was also accused of causing an obstruction to the highway, though all the members of the public there were on the public footpath, and it was clearly the two police vans that were impeding the flow of traffic.
When I informed them that I had been approached in a threatening manner, and had threatening verbal remarks made to me (the comment about being murdered) they were not interested, but challenged me to make a formal complaint, for which I had to give them my name. Clearly the security guards had made a complaint about those members of the public who were witnessing Mr Scarth’s protest, and I very much doubt whether any of those had submitted complaints of any formal nature. I wonder what would have happened if I had rung 999 and asked for help because I was being threatened? Would I have needed to submit a formal written complaint before they would turn out and protect me? It is noteworthy that the first police van arrived within less than 8 minutes and the second within about 10 minutes after that, despite the fact that the entire crowd numbered about 7 people, no affray or violence occurred, there were already at least 5 security men present, and so it is entirely possible that the police and security combined equalled, or possibly even outnumbered the crowd, 3 at least of whom were acting as news reporters, and the others of whom I hardly noticed because they were saying and doing very little.
The purpose of detailing all this is that it seems to me the whole response was massively overreactive. For instance, as we were leaving, I heard one security guard say ‘Go round the side to make sure they don’t get in’, and as I watched the small core group of the two or three people who appeared that they might actually be Mr Scarth’s supporters walk off down the street, they were followed by two male police officers and a security guard. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crush a walnut!
What this all shows me is that the ‘Powers That Be’ are locked into a mindset of paranoid projection. To anyone looking at the situation dispassionately it must be clear that a loose assemblage of about 7 people, comprising an 85 year old man on a stool because he can’t stand up for long periods of time, a few middle aged ladies and some witnesses with video cameras is not a serious threat to public order. Had the security guard spent a minute or two showing that he was prepared to listen to Mr Scarth before calling 999, the entire episode might have been different. But the zeitgeist mentality is fixed. Someone dares to speak their mind in public and there must be a terrorist threat. Someone acts as a public witness to ensure that the peace is kept, for clearly Mr Scarth was not in any condition to do violence, and they are quietly told that under different circumstances they would be MURDERED. This is no iron fist in a velvet glove. There is no velvet glove, just the iron fist. Of course there was a little bit of ‘nice cop, nasty cop’ as you will see from the young security guard who seemed to be in some authority and spoke to me for a few moments at one point, but he did nothing to prevent his cronies threatening me, and indeed was the one who first called out for 999, so his apparent reasonableness seemed more of an afterthought, perhaps because none of those attending were provoked to violence.
In the greater scheme of things, this is but a small incident. However in the context of the present day it shows us that we are living in a repressive police state where freedom of expression is all but forbidden. For myself, I worry now that I have almost certainly been put on some kind of police or security database for merely daring to witness someone speaking out in public. The thug who threatened my life took multiple photographs of me which will almost certainly be passed onto the police. I have no intention of going any where near that location again as it is far out of my usual circuit. But in their paranoid mindset, the very fact that I have witnessed and recorded events on their doorstep is enough to get me noticed and put on some kind of blacklist.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the location. Well I won’t give it precisely, but it was outside the gates of a Jewish Synagogue congregation because Judge Rose was there. The thug who talked about murder reminded me of Mossad and the Palestinian territories, where extra judicial killings (murders) take place on an almost daily basis. It is a great sadness that the vast majority of honest Jewish people should associate themselves, largely unknowingly, with what appears to be a borderline criminal element such as this on their fringes, while at the top of their community men such as Judge Rose carry out brutal and extreme punishments on people like Norman Scarth whose only crime was attempting to make an independent record of the truth.
The core essence of this whole issue is speaking, witnessing and recording the truth. If this is not possible, then the entire foundation of our society is at risk. Jesus Christ said ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’ Martin Luther King said ‘There are times when speaking the truth becomes a revolutionary act.’ It would appear that we are in such times, but we must ever seek to know the truth and resist those who would silence us.
This is perhaps something of a radical departure from the usual discourse of this blog, which began as a sampling of my book ‘Waking The Monkey’, but they both have one thing in common, that we should find empowerment through speaking our truth. The only rider on this is to do it in a non violent manner. The world revolution which now appears to have begun will only succeed if it remains non violent. Violent responses, such as the summer riots, which many believe were manipulated, only play into the hands of the autocracy.
Non violence resistance and truth speaking is the only way
The world is in great crisis and turmoil at this present time, deception, theft and all manner of evils have beset us, but it is the silencing of the truth which is at the root of this. Speak out, speak your truth, and by so doing you empower others who witness your example. Namaste!
copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall
The video witness can be viewed athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfCE3MfFaP4
You can also watch the video by Manchester 'We Are Change' group of Norman Scarth talking earlier this week.
My own short version of thishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VvpV8C1Mr0