(AA) ++ Liverpool Dockers

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 16:44:45 +0200


EXTRACT FROM FREEDOM 19TH OCTOBER 1996

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up from the current edition which is
full of activist news at our World Wide
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out THE TOP LINE on our home page (see
sig) - lingvoj

AN EVENT UNITING DISSENT

Saturday 28th September

12 noon: Myrtle Parade, Liverpool, people
assemble for a parade to celebrate the
Dockers' one-year old struggle against
casualisation. Called by the dockers as a big
'thank you' to the people of Liverpool for their
support, the event was joined by hundreds of
activists from Advance Party, Freedom
Network, Reclaim the Streets (RTS), and
other grassroots groups intending to transform
the day into a mass carnival and action to stop
the clampdown and reclaim the future.

13.00 hours: About five thousand people
march in good natured and colourful array
towards the city centre. Anarchists from
Cardiff, London, Leeds, Huddersfield,
Sheffield, Manchester, Tyneside, etc. take up
a central position, banners flying, ignored by
the police who concentrate on the RTS crowd
behind, frightened presumably of a potential
spontaneous turn to the event. The drumming
of the new-age types gets into the step and into
the blood.
Riot Police direct the parade away from the
city via flyovers towards the docks and the
Liver Building on the waterfront. There, the
rally speakers reflect the diversity of dissent-
striking dockers, a docker's wife, a docker's
child, Andrea Needham (of the Ploughshares/
Hawk trial), Arthur Scargill, a striking Detroit
car worker and the fringe groups. The
dockers' cause is relevant to everyone and
international. The final speaker advises us to
'Party till you Puke'. Repetitive beats from a
mobile sound system begin to compete and the
ravers slowly move off to join in. There is an
air of uncertainty as to what turn the supposed
three-day event will take - the crowd has
thinned out, people are feeling the cold and
hunger and thinking about the journey home
... they have not the stamina and experience of
those things of the new age. The only Socialist
Workers left are flapping in the breeze. Many
people head for home; Tyneside, Leeds and
Huddersfield Anarchists decide to tough it
out.

POLICE RESOURCES
AT LIVERPOOL
=B7 Fifteen police horses
. Eight police motor bikes
=B7 Six dogs and dog handlers
=B7 One helicopter

20.00 hours: the location of the accommoda-
tion is being discreetly disseminated and we
make our way by car to the Customs and
Excise building at Sandon Dock. Activists are
taking various routes in dribs and drabs. A
police helicopter keeps tabs overhead.
The building, a plush, newish complex of
offlces wlthin a secure compound, has
apparently been emptied due to
'rationalisation' and should prove ideal
accommodation but for the vanloads of
uninvited guests in body armour. On seeing
the stand-off between squatters and police it
seemed a forgone conclusion who would be
the last to leave. So we left and came back
sheepishly a couple of hours later to see what
had happened. To our surprise we discovered
a heaving and thriving community replete
with kitchens, bar, toilets and running water
and of course a big room for the rave. This was
a legal Section 6 to squat, set up by hardened
veterans. Evelyone is fed and watered. For
some the rave goes on till 8.00 hours. There
are plenty of rooms for all the 300-odd
activists.

Sunday 29th September
A day for renewing old acquaintances and
making new ones. Workshops on
Ploughshares, JSA, What are we doing here?,
Green Party policy. But people are keyed up
about the morrow. What's going to happen?
We know there will be a mass picket with the
dockers at Seaforth Dock. But what else?
About 4.00pm. the word goes round to join
one of three meetings. I go to 'Tripods'
because I'm tall, but this hasn't left time for
our affinity group to discuss participation,
since we haven't been told what' s going on. If
you've experienced RTS you'll understand
the need for secrecy, but there was still a sad
lack of communication. Some anarchists call
for a mass meeting and this is reluctantly
convened. Organisers eloquently inform us of
the complexity of the planned events and the
security imperative (it's taken for granted the
police are among us). They complain that the
mass meeting could have blown the action
(but that' s nonsense, for nothing new was said
there about arrangements which hadn't
already flown around about the three
meetings. These meetings would have blown
any cover). It was agreed that communication
was the problem, that we could trust the
organisation and experience of RTS and
operate on a need to know basis. Three groups
of mutually confident activists would now
meet to plan aspects of tomorrow' s operation
and report back to another mass meeting later.
At this we are not told much that is concrete.
The aim will be to disrupt the operation of the
dock and cause economic loss. News comes
that the tugboat men are out in solidarity.
Legal issues are discussed. Everyone gets an
early night.
In retrospect, there would have been plenty
of time then to d iscuss tactics such as
non-violence; approaches to and retreatfrom
the docks; facing up to police intimidation and
what to expect. Affini@y groups should have
been formed and those groups should have
discussed their intent=BFons. All this probably
did happen one way or another, but randomly.
There is obviously a lot of experience out there
but the need to share and reflect on
possibilities is vital - too much was left to
chance.

Monday 30th September
05.00 hours: Reveille. A quick breakfast and
people make their way by various means to
Seaforth Docks. About 150 of us reduce a train
to common property. Arriving within sight of
the docks we are spurred on by the sight of
activists atop the roof of the container base's
management building, flags flying (red and
black struck through by green lightning). We
race the police to the ten-foot high spiked
perimeter fence. I get pulled from the top of
the fence, arrested and handcuffed, hands
behind back. The Operational Support
Division (OSD) are abusive. They inform me
we're in for it today. I spend the next eleven
and a half hours in Crosby nick, so the next bit
is gleaned from comrades. Our column moves
around the perimeter pursued by police. There
are gaps in the fence, left there by elves and
pixies, and people stream through. Others find
a workmen's tent propped against the railings;
someone pops in to say hello and stays;
another joins them, and another, and another.
The cops get suspicious and one pops in too -
and gets evicted! Keystone cops!
Various actions take place inside. Chains of
demonstrators block lorries on the inner dock
road, cranes are climbed, office workers lock
themselves in, police run around like headless
chickens. Hundreds joined the pickets on the
main gate. Arrests are made and de-arrests.
This goes on for a few hours. Activists
negotiate climb downs with police, in return
for no arrests, and quit the roofs and cranes.
The police renege and arrest four dockers'
stewards. One demonstrator peels an orange
with a penknife and is set upon by the police.
Slowly the demonstrators abandon the docks
and join the pickets on the main gate. News
goes round that the police are stopping
coachloads on the roads to Liverpool.

18.30 hours: The picketers march en masse
back to the squat.
Released from Crosby nick with six others
we took the train to Sandhills and emerged
from the station to see the demonstration
returning. We cheered and went to join it but
were surprised at the anxious calls to hurry
that we received. Amongst the crowd the
anxiety was palpable and people were
emotionally exhausted. Many had been
roughed up and frightened by the manner of
arrests. The behaviour of the police was
different from that experienced on many road
protests in the degree of nastiness shown. The
OSD were trailing our column in vans, doors
open and homing in like sharks attacking to
snatch a victim to be made off with. They were
taking their revenge, and our column was
straggling out dangerously and there were
instances of panic. As we neared the squat
there were about a hundred OSD outside it,
and many behind us. The head of our column
began to veer away across the road in panic;
others called it back and there was a worrying
moment of indecision. It was decided to pull
together and face up to the police.
Approaching the squat it became apparent that
dockers' families were there to help us -
children, women and men. We were going in,
and that's what we did.

SCORELINE
Dockers and activists won a moral and
practical victory. In the face of police violence
they remained active and non-violent. Many
were assaulted and there were 47 arrests
ranging from breaking the peace to
aggravated trespass and assault. One activist,
hospitalised with a broken cheekbone and
nose, is now on bail. The dockers are calling
for witnesses to help document the police
violence (telephone 0151-207 3388). Up to
date information can be found on the World
Wide Web:

www.gn.apc.org/labournet/docks.
(also see introductory note - lingvoj)

Since the start of the strike the stock market
index for Merseyside Docks and Harbour
Company has fallen 140 points, 40 of those
since the events on Monday. One point equals
approximately one million pounds. Media
coverage has had its effect.
Merseyside Chief Constable John Sharples,
quoted in The Liverpool Echo on Friday 27th
September, said the dispute had cost the police
one and a half million pounds so far. He called
for a quick resolution of the strike.
A Correspondent

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