What’s Happening newsletter #12

Real Media logo and Phoenix Media Co-op logo side by side

Welcome to the first Real Media and Phoenix Media Co-op newsletter of 2022. Our What’s Happening YouTube round-up will be back soon. In the meantime, here are three big UK stories from the first two weeks of this year.

Resisting state overreach

At the end of 2021, the UK government amended its controversial Policing Bill to make it even more draconian. The House of Lords, however, could overturn these amendments, meaning that public pressure on the Lords could make a difference.

Voting will happen between 10 and 17 January.

Steps people can take to oppose the passing of these amendments include:

Good riddance to Colston

The start of 2021 saw a jury return a ‘not guilty’ verdict for four people targeted for the dethroning of an Edward Colston statue in Bristol back in 2020. Colston was a wealthy merchant who was heavily involved in the transportation of enslaved African people in the late 17th century.

Christine Townsend from the campaign group to decolonise Bristol, Countering Colston, called the decision “a great moment of hope”, insisting: “It’s time we started honouring the thousands of our African ancestors that have been written out of history, and start building a society that doesn’t disadvantage their descendants.”

In a public statement, the four defendants said: “We are proud to be among the many hundreds of Bristolians who removed a slave trader from our streets. In the time it has taken this trial to come to court, institutions that formerly defended Colston have apologised for doing so, venues, schools and places associated with him have changed their names and public opinion has moved on. History has vindicated the toppling. Now it’s up to all of us to address the legacy of slavery, and the systemic racism it has left us with.”

Direct action works

In a press release on 10 January, Palestine Action campaigners reported that their targeting of Elbit Systems – Israel’s biggest private arms company, which manufactures drones that Israeli occupation forces use against Palestinians – had borne fruit, with the company pulling out of one UK site. 

The group explained:

After 18 months of sustained direct action taken at the Elbit Ferranti site in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with 36 people arrested, Elbit have now sold Ferranti technologies, with its continued operation in Oldham appearing unfeasible. Activists have occupied, blockaded, smashed, disrupted, and protested regularly at the site, ultimately succeeding in ending the factory’s production of specialist military technologies for Israel’s fleet of combat drones. 

It also stressed:

This major restructuring – selling a subsidiary which Elbit has consistently promoted as a success and which has helped Elbit to land multi-million pound contracts with the British government – suggests that Elbit is under significant pressure to tighten its UK operations. This is most likely due to the impossibility of continuing at the often-occupied site, the massive financial impact of occupations, and an attempt to avoid more bad publicity.

For more on Palestine Action, watch Real Media’s documentary on a year of direct action against Elbit.

That’s all for this week, but please let us know of any stories and issues you’d like to see more of, and remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out our Wednesday evening shows (UK time).