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(en) Britain, Class War: Brixton Arches campaigners react angrily to Lambeth’s “smear campaign”

Date Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:10:40 +0300

Local campaigners have sent Brixton Buzz an angry response to what they believe is a media ‘smear campaign’ being conducted by Lambeth council after their Planning Application Committee made the decision to approve Network Rail‘s plans to refurbish the Brixton Arches. ---- With nearly thirty thousand people signing a petition in opposition to the plans to evict the traders from the arches, we feel there is enough public interest to reprint the statement from the Save Brixton Arches campaign group in full below: ---- Save Brixton Arches campaigners crowd into Network Rail consultation, Saturday 7th Nov 2015 ---- Save Brixton Arches: Official Response to Lambeth Council’s Smear Campaign: ---- On 2 August Lambeth Council’s Planning Application Committee made the decision to approve Network Rail‘s plans to refurbish the Brixton Arches, and evict over 30 tenants/ traders in the process.

The vote was undemocratic, unethical, arguably unlawful and truly devastating – not only to tenants and traders but to thousands in our community.

These plans have been met by strong and plentiful opposition since having been announced by Network Rail in early 2015 and – given their severe implications – many in our community have felt a sadness and injustice deep enough to compel them to take action.

Thirty thousand people signed a petition, huge numbers attended a consultation – in the hope of actually being consulted – and almost a thousand people registered official objections to the planning application.

All diplomatic means of opposition have truly been exhausted and it has not served to produce a democratic or just outcome in any form.

Read our full report/ response to Lambeth’s decision here: https://www.facebook.com/savebrixtonarches/posts/1750588771876539


Understandably then, emotions ran high when the decision to approve the proposals was made. However this public response – which could be described as impolite at worst – has been manipulated by Lambeth Council in an attempt to demonise and vilify traders, campaigners and community members who were in attendance at the meeting.

False and very serious allegations have been made by Lambeth Council, which we now address in full.

In the hours following the Planning Meeting, Cllr Malcolm Clark tweeted:

“Robust debate at Planning Committee on Brixton Arches sadly degenerates after, as protesters throw stuff at officers & verbally abuse cllrs”

These accusations were then echoed in an article in the SWlondoner, which read:

“There have been incidents of glitter being thrown directly into a council officer’s face, plastic eyes being thrown at councillors with intimidating chants of ‘we’re watching you’ and repeated abusive and threatening language.”

We can confirm that contrary the above claim, nothing was thrown at councillors. Several handfuls of glitter (symbolising the blood of Brixton) and small ‘googly eyes’ were thrown directly onto the floor, five to ten feet away from councillors. All footage confirms this.

We invite Cllr Malcolm Clark – or anybody else – to evidence claims that councillors were struck by objects of any kind, on any part of their body. He will not be able to evidence this, because it did not happen.

Brixton Arches campaigners crushed after lively Lambeth Planning meeting votes in favour of redevelopment, Tuesday 2nd August 2016

This article from the SWlondoner was shameless; a Lambeth Council press release reprinted without any scrutiny by the ‘journalist’.

The council’s blatant lies were presented as facts. The journalist – like others from the Evening Standard and Daily Mirror – did not even question these claims, far less seek to provide any evidence.

To be very clear, members of our campaigns use art to protest and create symbolic imagery, not to assault people. Cllr Clark must evidence these claims, or publicly retract them.

We also wish to clarify that reported chants of “we’re watching you’ were actually chants of “The world is watching you”. These are two completely different things. Again, this is all evidenced by footage.

Cllr Lib Peck – leader of Lambeth Council – tweeted in reply to Cllr Malcolm Clark:

“Such abuse & intimidation from small hard core mob is unacceptable”

We find her choice of words here as interesting as they are slanderous. Firstly, we invite her to specifically detail the “abuse” she refers to.

Was it the trader who pleaded from across the room for the committee to do the right thing?

Was it was the man who highlighted that the committee had voted to destroy lives, businesses, heritage and community? (Which is of course abusive and violent behaviour in itself) If abuse had truly taken place as alleged, the police who were in attendance would have made arrests – or at least issued warnings. Of course, no arrests were made, no warnings were issued, nor were any attendees ejected from the meeting.

Why? Because Cllr Pecks’ claims are false. Nobody physically approached, threatened or attacked councillors inside or outside of the building. Nobody verbally threatened councillors inside or outside the building.

Brixton Arches campaigners crushed after lively Lambeth Planning meeting votes in favour of redevelopment, Tuesday 2nd August 2016

Cllr Peck will have been aware that choosing to describe us as a “mob” heavily suggests that we are some sort of violent trouble makers. On the contrary, those in attendance sat almost silently through a two hour meeting – of which only six minutes was designated for objectors to speak – only to find that all objections put forward were almost completely overlooked/ unaddressed. We view this as “unacceptable”.

Valid and key points were made by official verbal objectors and the Committee’s failure to address these points is itself what caused frustration and anger.

This “mob” was formed of ordinary members of the community; traders, friends and neighbours of Brixton.

These were not seasoned campaigners, they were ordinary people being forced to defend their businesses, their livelihoods and their very existence.

We also question whether throwing several handfuls of glitter directly onto the floor could or should be referred to as “hardcore”.

Contrary to claims of intimidation, footage clearly shows councillors smiling and laughing whilst glitter was being thrown to the floor; hardly the response that one would expect to see from people who are genuinely “intimidated and fearful” or who have been “struck in the face” by glitter.

Brixton Arches campaigners crushed after lively Lambeth Planning meeting votes in favour of redevelopment, Tuesday 2nd August 2016

Unfortunately, national press got immediate wind of these claims and went on to print full page articles, showing the faces of members of our campaign, whilst labelling them as violent abusers.

Not only is this a completely inaccurate/ unfounded defamation of character, but it conveniently served to take all attention away from the real issue ie. the scandalous nature of their decision to grant permission for Network Rail to refurbish the Arches and evict over thirty tenants/ traders.

These dishonest, slanderous and completely unfounded claims were clearly driven by the need to avert the huge amounts of negative publicity that Lambeth have attracted with this vote, and their ongoing facilitation of Network Rail’s devastating, immoral and arguably illegal plans.

It is shameful, unacceptable and frankly despicable to mindfully attempt to demonise traders and members of the community, simply for being victims. We demand that Lambeth Council evidence their allegations, or publicly retract them immediately.

We note that Lambeth Council are now reviewing access to public meetings. The Evening Standard reported:

“Officials at Lambeth are considering using more security guards and making people apply to attend meetings because of fears councillors may get attacked by angry demonstrators”

If these considerations are later implemented, we would find this to be a massive waste of money – and also fundamentally illogical.

Brixton Arches campaigners crushed after lively Lambeth Planning meeting votes in favour of redevelopment

After all, in the unfortunate event that somebody did actually want to attack officials, this would not be prevented by denying people access to meetings. Instead of reviewing the public’s access to future meetings, they should be reviewing corporate access to Lambeth Council.

It seems clear that this emerging smear campaign attempts not only to devalue legitimate challenges to Lambeth Council and demonise those who make the challenges, but to justify their new efforts to prevent future challenges.

Denying people access to public meetings would be yet another clear indication of Lambeth’s contempt for democracy and fair representation; especially when it would be a decision based on lies and propaganda.

We intend to continue to exercise our rights of freedom of speech and peaceful/ non-violent protest, where required.


Co-signed @OurBrixton

Save Brixton Arches: Network Rail and Lambeth keep traders in the dark about their plans

The vote to redevelop Brixton Arches: smear campaigns, doublethink and foregone decisions

About the Save Brixton Arches campaign:
Save Brixton Arches official website
Save Brixton Arches: online petition (29k signatories so far)
Facebook: Brixton Community United

Twitter: #savebrixtonarches

Read the latest news and join the big discussion on the urban75 forums (over 1,100 posts)

Read more on Brixton Buzz
Brixton’s A&C Deli: the inside story of a small business destroyed by gentrification, Network Rail & Lambeth Council.

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