Seemed to be about 5:1 male-female ratio from where I was sitting. About 150 people crammed in. Great even mix of ages from 20 to 60. Socialist Workers Union, a few handouts on the seat: in white, explaining the background and ramifications of the legislation. Yellow, "No to cuts - defend the Public Sector, Protect our civil rights" from People Before Profit Alliance. In
Summary covers the problematic bank bailouts, the qualities of the public sector, the existence of the money, defend the right to work, stop the bill and solidarity is the key.
Up at the table doing there bit as best as I could make out where,
Barbara Muldoon (Anti-Racism Network)
Gerry Gordon (Anti-Poverty Network)
Mark (People Before Profit)
Barbara starts talking about the media furore around the legislation aimed at "contentious parade", and suggests this may have been constructed, given that the link to the pdf was broken until several days after the moral panic had died down. The bill is 67 pages, and who wants to wade through that? Penalties include an on-the-spot fine if the 37 days notice isn't given.
A purpose of their bill will be to curtail objection to £billions of cuts. Barbara mentions the name of the solicitors she works with, but I didn't quite catch that. Goes on to talk about 500 people outside city hall at one days notice to support Romanian families who had been victimised. Unfortunately, racists don't give 37 days notice.
Gerry Gordon (Anti-Poverty Network)
Talks about 3 stages in what we're told: that there is some poverty, then we're re-structuring and opening up to jobs, being seen as a good place to live, and now, we're told there is no poverty. 370 million has been cut from our budget and Sammy Wilson has more cuts he wants to bring about. Gerry calls it a scythe and a shard on the public sector.
He talks about 3 campaigns he's been involved in: Housing in the Shankill, where there's houses with damp, and staircases rotted and home buildings badly in need of re-development. The young in Rathcoole on an Education Maintenance Allowance. The figure sounded like £20-£30 a week (?) He suspected there may be revisions planned, in the way of cutting this figure further. Talks about the Visteon factory dispute and the requirement of immediate protest there. Attacks on the poor, pushing through cuts.
Talks about effects on ordinary people, on socio-economic cuts. Major impact on ordinary people in the community. There are seperate definitions of protest: how many will show up? Wil we chance that it will be 49? If we have more than 50, will we have to send people home?
A bit about public order and on NIPSA and others having fallen foul of the existing law in the past on demos. Offers Gaza as an example and the TU demos, where it not for immediate notice would have been too late.
Mentions how HR Connect are a subsidiary of Fujitsu (something I didn't know when they had me to attend a civil service test this morning) If wages don't arrive on time......there is provision in legislation for emergency procedure or late notification procedure but this decision is in the hands of one or two policemen.
The opposition to the bill has been noted by the Secretariat - a note of panic.
The legislation was drafted by about 6 from various parties - meeting next week.
It's important to see the legislation from a community point of view.
Trade Union asking that if this wasn't intention, then they need to specify the exclusion of economic, industrial and social matters in the bill.
Comments on cross-section of society in the room.
Ironically, in the bill of rights forum, the only thing every political party could agree upon was the right to march.
Is this overcooking, anticipating opposition to get us to where we want to go which is asking, How do we handle contentious parades?
How does this effect strikes in court/legal terms?
We are in a radical part of the world: we will go out and protest the closure of schools.
37 days notice in protesting murders is not appropriate.
It's about the disadvantaged, being taken from. The disadvantaged are often those who will rise to protest.
Trisha talks about the strength of value (embedded) in protest - very important.
Consultation period ends - 14 July (right after some or other big march)
What kind of thinking produces a document like this?
Commission of deal on equality.
Government has said no to a bill of rights for NI.
From the Floor
Tommie McKearney points out that the Late or Emergency Protest still requires 72 hours notice.
The importance of civil and political factors also is mentioned.
Fella at the front says that this legislation has been constructed by people that aren't that smart to plan it for a nefarious purpose, it is "dumb rather than plotted". It's probably there as part of the election pledges to get rid of the parades commission.
Someone suggests protesting at gates of the consultation group at Stormont.
Chap from SU Jordanstown talks about protesting education cuts from there and viciousness of the police sentences involved in this sort of thing. Something should be done before July 14th.
Anonymous group members present and note draconian aspect. (Scientology considered criminal by the Australian senate) Anonymous pledges support.
Harry Hutchinson (TUC) talks about hospital cuts in 12 days time. Names of protestors are given forward, decisions by the few.
Joanne Smith (regeneration of the village area) talks about the running protest outside City Hall, which every party asides from the DUP visited. Also mentions Woodvale Campaign. Pledges support.
Someone asks who wrote the bill? Details in todays Telegraph apparently. Martin McGuinness involved: Discussions informing process to create the group that drew up the bill to remain confidential (at this point I keel over laughing so miss what's being said) Written by civil servants, released by McGuinness & Robinson. Criminalising dissent.
"Some..public assembly...can be resolved"
"A vicious right-wing Tory executive."
Government shifts statutary responsibility onto privare companies.
Someone mentions there's a meeting about the Policing and Justice Bill at Stormont Hotel on Tuesday 22nd. About £250 per head for politicians, judges, police chiefs, that sort.
NIPSA meeting coming up. Emergency motions to unions to respond to this.
Comparisons made with Terrorism Act and Justice and Securities Act.
Co. Armagh woman pledges support in defying the bill.
Back to panel.
Barbara: Civil liberties are rights, not priveleges. Current parades legislation covers taking a protest onto the road, as she found out when arrested while motioning defusing a race-related incident. The Public Assemblies Bill is compared to the most repressive, the Special Powers Act. There is nothing in that Act relevant to trade unions in their duties.
Gerry Gordon: Restriction of rights. Suggestion: 26th June
Brian: Action has to go hand in hand with the cuts issue. Privatisation is not better.
Trisha: Contentious Parades need sorted, said something about get-out clauses, fundamental human rights need to be exercised.
Room rental for the evening was £100 and requests funding.
Mark: Organise! Create video, local groups and local petitions. Be creative. Use what talents and specialties you can. Let's create a boomerang effect: not just win this, but also push out for more civil rights that we should be entitled to.
This text is freeware to be posted anywhere in any form. Please bear in mind it's possibly erroneous and take note of corrections. Seek verification and credit the transcriber, thanks.
More links: The NI Gov Pdf
and background and thread on the Why We Protest forums.
Added: Belfast Telegraph (11th May)