Anti-fascist and anti-State street action across Europe and the Middle East (Direct Action News, 6 to 12 March 2023)

Afghan women protest the Taliban
  1. Firefighters win!
  2. Protesters try to break into Georgian parliament in protest of ‘foreign agents’ law
  3. Women in Afghanistan risk their lives to protest against Taliban patriarchy
  4. Tens of thousands demand the Greek government takes rail safety more seriously
  5. Anti-fascists and anti-racists confront Patriotic Alternative in Cannock
  6. Protests continue in France as senate passes pension reforms
  7. Undercover filming exposes pig farm as hellhole

Firefighters win!

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced on 6 March that it is suspending future strikes. Its decision follows employers backing down and offering FBU members an immediate 7% pay rise, backdated to July 2022, and an additional 5% in July. According to FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, the July pay rise “may amount to a slight increase in real terms pay”.

It was keen to highlight that industrial action was the “crucial factor” in securing a satisfactory outcome. The union highlighted that direct negotiations with employers enabled a better bargaining relationship. And, in solidarity with other unions, it slated so-called independent pay review bodies that determine pay in other sectors. Wrack said:

At a time when the UK Government is presiding over attacks on the wages of key workers in the NHS, teaching, rail, and postal services, strikes are the first line of defence against those attacks on workers.

The FBU stands in solidarity with each and every union on strike for decent pay.

The FBU led a nine-month campaign to secure the deal. It was accepted with a 96% vote on an 84% member turnout.

Protesters try to break into Georgian parliament in protest of ‘foreign agents’ law

A huge crowd gathered outside Georgia’s parliamentary building in the capital, Tbilisi, on 7 March to protest a new ‘foreign agents’ law. The law is similar to one passed in Russia, which requires people receiving ‘support’ from outside the country to declare themselves as “foreign agents”. One former Georgian official said on Twitter that the law is “aimed at silencing media, NGOs and each critical voice”. According to Jake Hanrahan of Popular Front, the crowd tried breaking into the parliamentary building. However, police pushed them back with a water cannon. Another video illustrates the old saying ‘we keep us safe’ perfectly, showing a crowd coming together to protect a woman that police targeted with said water cannon.

Women in Afghanistan risk their lives to protest against Taliban patriarchy

Videos on social media show groups of women protesting in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, on 7 March. In one video, the women are said to have shouted:

Sharia is an excuse, the goal is to eliminate women

While in another, they are reportedly chanting:

right, justice, freedom… a powerful woman, a powerful society

The protests came the day before International Women’s Day, and just as the UN said Afghanistan is “one of the most extreme examples of regression in women’s rights”. This is because of the ruling Taliban government’s adherence to a strict interpretation of Islam.

Tens of thousands demand the Greek government takes rail safety more seriously

Media reported that tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Athens on 8 March in anger at lax safety laws on railways. It comes after a train crash on 28 February killed 57 people, the worst in the country’s history. Many in Greece blamed the disaster on awful working and safety conditions across the country’s rail network. Rail unions engaged in strikes as part of the demand for better conditions.

Reuters said more than 40,000 people marched on Greece’s parliament, while thousands more marched through Thessaloniki. The protests were largely calm, but this is Greece, so there were some scenes of street combat between protesters and police. Protesters threw molotovs at parliament, while police attempted to disperse them with tear gas.

Anti-fascists and anti-racists confront Patriotic Alternative in Cannock

Nationalist hiking gang Patriotic Alternative (PA) organised a march through Cannock, Staffordshire, on 11 March. As has happened elsewhere in the UK, anti-fascists called for a counter demo in the town. Videos shared by Brighton BDS showed a large gang of nationalists and racists flying St George’s and PA rags before attempting to break through police lines to reach the counter demo. One anti-racist participant tweeted that overt racism was slung about by the marchers.

Like other far-right marches, this was allegedly to protest the housing of refugees in hotels.

Anti-fascist research organisation Red Flare exposed one of PA’s Cannock march organisers as the 24-year-old son of a wealthy businessman. As the research group pointed out:

Tonkiss is a posh boy who lives in a wealthy neighbourhood and spends his free time travelling to deprived areas he has no connection to, attempting to stoke division in their communities.

Cannock Chase Welcomes Refugees, which organised the counter-demo, explicitly linked the PA’s actions to government and media rhetoric.

Protests continue in France as senate passes pension reforms

The French senate voted to pass pension reforms on 9 March. The measures will raise the state pension age from 62 to 64. The move has proved deeply unpopular throughout the country, leading to a series of strikes and mass protests since January. The senate vote came led to further protests that drew “a million” people out to the streets, according to Twitter user @DurritiRising. Various videos from the 11 March protests saw a gang of cops charge into and attack members of the public with batons.

Undercover filming exposes pig farm as hellhole

Animal Justice Project conducted an undercover investigation at Bickmarsh Hall farm in Warwickshire. On 12 March it published its findings. The nightmare conditions at the 8,000-pig ‘mega farm’, included:

Nursing mothers… confined to farrowing crates, trapped for weeks at a time.

pigs … evidently bored and frustrated and … filmed biting the prolapses of the suffering individuals.

A worker was caught on camera checking a severely lame pig, who was immobile and in vast distress, and subsequently leaving them to suffer for almost 10 hours. During this time, the acutely lame pig was trampled by other individuals, had their legs, ears and feet chewed on and was left shivering on a wet, faeces-laden concrete floor.

workers verbally and physically abusing pigs.

All of this happened in a facility that is Red Tractor Assured and sells to major animal carcass processor Cranswick.

Featured image via Natiq Malikzada/Twitter