Bash back! (Direct Action News, 20 to 26 February 2023)

  1. University union members bring the fight to union bosses
  2. Protests erupt as State-backed gunmen assassinate Mexican land defender
  3. High school and sixth form students take action against bullshit toilet rules
  4. Junior doctors announce 72-hour strike
  5. Kill the Bill defendants sentenced to more than a decade in prison
  6. Anti-fascists outnumber Patriotic Alternative in Cornwall
  7. Locals defend London pub during drag story time
  8. Cities across Europe rally for peace and an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  9. Trans lives activists confront high-profile TERF in Hyde Park

University union members bring the fight to union bosses

Rank and file members of the University and College Union (UCU) held a rally on 20 February outside the union’s HQ following the UCU’s decision to call off planned industrial action. Jo Grady, head of the union, and other senior officials said that they had made “significant progress” with employers over pay and working conditions disputes. As a result, they called for a “period of calm” during which no strikes would take place. These included strikes on 21, 22, 23, 27 and 28 February, and 1 and 2 March. While union bosses called off strikes, rank and file members were far less keen.

Notes From Below published a statement by the University Worker that railed against the UCU’s top brass:

Let us be crystal clear: this is shit

Members should have been consulted before this decision was made. Given that the elected negotiators of this dispute have been replaced by paid officials, the lack of consultation over this decision shows a shocking lack of democratic accountability.

In particular, it repudiated the vague promises made by university employers that led to the calling off of strikes. And it pointed out that strike action is the mechanism through which demands are met – and calling them off weakens workers’ hands in negotiations. As a response, it called for the demonstration outside of the UCU’s London headquarters.

Protests erupt as State-backed gunmen assassinate Mexican land defender

Mexican paramilitaries assassinated Alfredo Cisneros Madrigal on 21 February. Cisneros, a land defender and advocate of autonomous governance, was viewed as a leader of indigenous communities defending the Purépecha forests in Michoacán against encroachment by the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). The drug cartel was attempting to tear down the forests in order to plant avocado trees, as the fruit’s popularity worldwide means it is today an essential part of propping up the finances of cartels in the country.

Michoacán’s indigenous communities are particularly in the firing line due to the state’s popularity for growing avocado trees. And in recent months, Cisneros and the community he was part of had filed ongoing complaints against logging for avocado to Mexico’s Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources. Then, as Cisneros was travelling home on 21 February, unknown gunmen shot him. As a result, the Supreme Indigenous Council of Michoacán (CSIM) called for protests in the state’s capital on 25 February.

Mexico topped the list for persecution of environmental activists in 2021, the most recent year for which data is confirmed. A total of 54 environmental activists were disappeared or murdered.

High school and sixth form students take action against bullshit toilet rules

Students in schools across England took direct action against rules on toilet use imposed by school administrators. Newspaper reports said that students in Cornwall, Essex, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire engaged in a variety of protest tactics on 24 February against new rules saying students aren’t allowed to use toilets during lessons and some break times. ITV News reported that at one of the protests – at Penrice Academy in St Austell, Cornwall – some of the motivation for the protests stemmed from pupils’ disgust at a male teacher measuring girls’ skirts. The protests were allegedly spontaneously co-ordinated through TikTok.

As one Twitter user highlighted, the rules and response to student protests show the ideology of adult supremacy that runs through our culture:

Junior doctors announce 72-hour strike

Junior doctors announced on 24 February that they’d start a 72-hour strike between 13 and 16 March. Like other unions that have engaged in strike action during the past year, the British Medical Association’s Junior Doctors branch voiced a now-familiar refrain: that such action wouldn’t be necessary if the government had chosen to negotiate with, rather than ignore, workers. As a result of government hubris, the junior doctors’ ballot results showed an overwhelming desire for strike action: 98% of a 77.5% turnout voted yes.

Kill the Bill defendants sentenced to more than a decade in prison

The Canary reported that Bristol Crown Court sentenced four people to “nearly 11 years in prison between them”. The cases resulted from the four people’s involvement in Kill the Bill protests in March 2021. Dominic Gillett received the harshest sentence: a four year and eight-month custodial sentence after he pleaded guilty to “riot”. The judge gave the other three custodial sentences of between 20 and 27 months. The courts have now imprisoned a total of 32 people in relation to the protest.

Anti-fascists outnumber Patriotic Alternative in Cornwall

Current darling of regressive Brits everywhere, Patriotic Alternative, held a demonstration outside a hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, on 25 February. The Beresford Hotel houses refugees. According to Penzance Socialists, the call-out by Patriotic Alternative brought out nationalists and fascists from across the UK. Nonetheless, the anti-fascist group said that counter-protesters outnumbered those seeking to target refugees by two-to-one. Another person present put the ratio at three-to-one. Either way, it’s clear the anti-fascists of Cornwall sabotaged Patriotic Alternative’s big day out – and, most importantly, without physical conflict breaking out.

Newquay wasn’t the only site of pro-refugee direct action on 25 February, however. As Anti-Fascist Network highlighted, crowds also turned out to defend refugees housed in hotels in Nottingham. However, it also said that more than 200 people turned out to support a demo called by Patriotic Alternative in Skegness. On the other hand, there was “no obvious opposition” to the anti-migrant demo. This showed “there is still work to be done”, AFN said. On 26 February, anti-fascists held a demo opposing anti-migrant protesters organised by Patriotic Alternative in Erskine, near Glasgow.

The nationalist protests came after anti-migrant protesters rioted outside a hotel housing refugees in Knowsley on 10 February.

Locals defend London pub during drag story time

While anti-fascists in Cornwall were protecting a refugee hotel, anti-fascists and locals in south London were defending the Honor Oak Pub. The Lewisham pub hosted the Magical Storytelling event on 25 February, a reading event for children hosted by drag queen That Girl. Right-wing grifters Turning Point UK called for a protest against the event. But as PinkNews reported, the call-out brought only 30 people to Honor Oak Pub, though this reportedly included religious ghoul and GB News host Calvin Robinson. Meanwhile, hundreds turned out to defend the pub. A video shared by twitter user @Desmostylian shows a threadbare line of transphobes across the street from a dense crowd defending the pub.

Cities across Europe rally for peace and an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Peace activists held demos across Europe on 25 February. They called for an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine through de-escalation, including demanding European governments stop sending arms and vehicles to the Ukrainian frontline. CND and Stop the War Coalition led a demonstration in London, while an estimated 50,000 people turned out to a similar demo in Berlin, Germany. There were also demonstrations in Rome, Bologna, Palermo, Genoa, Brussels, and many other cities.

Trans lives activists confront high-profile TERF in Hyde Park

Transgender Action Bloc called for a counter-demo against a rally by Posie Parker in Hyde Park, London, on 26 Februrary. Posie Parker, whose real name is Kellie-Jay Keen, is an infamous transphobe who has led a “Let Women Speak” tour across the UK in recent weeks. According to Marxist group RS21, about 150 anti-fascists arrived in Hyde Park during Keen’s speech. Following the event, Transgender Action Bloc said it was an “incredible turnout”, and celebrated it alongside the community action at Honor Oak Pub.

Featured image via Unite Community Lambeth & Southwark/Twitter