Speech at the KillTheBill Protest today 1

Tash in action again [photo: Laura Wilson]

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Guitarist in action

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Police surveillance and protests

Apr 1, 2021 | Support Us | 0 comments

Police carry out intense surveillance on protest movements, collecting even seemingly innocuous personal details in order to build up a detailled picture of the groups and individuals they are targeting. Here’s our guide to interacting with the police and staying safer on demonstrations.

Watch out for Police Liason Officers (PLOs)

The friendly police officers in light blue bibs that you see on protests are Police Liaison Officers. They are specially trained officers whose job it is to engage you in polite conversation, and record any and all details that you give to them. We advise that, for your safety and the safety of people you’re with, that you do not engage with them. There’s no such thing as a friendly conversation with the police- and you may be giving away more than you realise. If they try to engage you in conversation, you can reply with “No Comment” to their questions- or simply ignore them until they leave you alone.

Watch out for the evidence gathering team

Also present at protests are officers with orange tabs on their vests. These are the evidence gathering team. You will often see them in pairs recording or photographing activists, and surveilling the crowd. Their job is to record who is at the protest and what they are doing, and their evidence is used against activists later. You are allowed to walk away or hide your face if they are filming or photographing. For more information, see Green and Black Cross’ guide to filming and photography at actions.

Wear your face mask

Unless you have a medical exemption, everyone should be wearing facemasks when out in crowds due to the risk of coronavirus. You also have the right to cover your face at a demonstration. Don’t make the evidence gathering team’s job easier- keep your mask on. The police cannot require you to remove a face covering unless it is during a Stop and Search, or there is a blanket 60AA power in place and “there is reason to believe that the item is being worn wholly or mainly for the purpose of disguising identity”. For more information, see Green and Black Cross’ resources on facemasks at demonstrations.

Keep your camera trained on the cops- and don’t livestream

If you’re taking a camera or filming at demonstrations, make sure your camera lens stays trained on the police, not on people in the crowd. The police are already monitoring the crowd and carrying out surveillance on protesters- don’t add to their evidence by posting identifiable footage online! Netpol also advise people not to livestream from demonstrations. No matter how careful you think you’re being, you’re sharing unfiltered images of the people around you with little or no control over what is being shown in the background of your film, and your footage could lead to arrests or targeting later on.

Be mindful what you share on social media

The police monitor social media sites as part of protest surveillance, and use images, video and posts to keep track of who is present. Your location is trackable from social media posts, and tagging others in posts can identify them as part of the protest. Think about what you are sharing as a status update- and how much information you are potentially sharing with police, far right groups and potential stalkers . If you’re posting images online, we advise you to blur or cover the faces of the crowd. There are some simple apps that you can use to do this, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others. For more information, check Netpol’s guide to organising online and safer social media sharing.

Leave your phone at home, or log out of apps that track your location

Many people choose not to take their smartphones on demonstrations, especially if they think there is a risk of arrest- if arrested, the police can access your phone and all the data that you have, including emails, messaging apps, logging into your social media accounts and accessing your pictures and videos. If you are taking a phone with you, we advise that you log out of all apps that track your location data- such as google maps, Uber, and any free apps that use your location data as part of their targetted ads. See Netpol’s guide to online organising for more details.

Go with friends

We advise anyone attending a protest to let people they trust know where they are going, and when they plan to arrive home. We also advise that you arrive and leave with friends, as police or counter-demonstrators often target people on their own who are travelling to and from the protest site.

Remember the 5 key messages

No Comment. You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.

No Personal Details. You do not have to give personal details under ANY stop and search power, so don’t. One exemption to this is if the police are issuing a on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notice (fine) for breaching coronavirus regulations, in which case you are required to give your personal details.

Ask “What under power?” to challenge the police to act lawfully. Some police officers rely on you not knowing the law. If you are asked to do something by a police officer, ask them what power (i.e. what law) they are using and why they are using it.

If arrested, use a recommended solicitor with protest experience, not the duty solicitor. Duty solicitors are not experienced in protest law and often give bad advice.

No Caution. Offering you a caution is a way the police may ask you to admit guilt for an offence without having to charge you. It is an easy win for the police, as they don’t have to provide any evidence or convince a court of your guilt.

For more information, see the Green and Black Cross website.

Know your rights on a protest: no comment, no personal details, what power?, no duty solicitor, no caution
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Charlie Phillips: why did it take so long for one of Britain’s greatest photographers to get his due?

His photographs of Muhammad Ali and Jimi Hendrix sold around the world. Cartier-Bresson was a fan, while Fellini liked him so much he put him in a film. Yet in the UK, Phillip’s work was ignored for decades

by Steve Rose Thu 25 Mar 2021 06.00 GMT

Charlie Phillips never planned to become a photographer. His childhood dream was to be an opera singer, or a naval architect. But then a camera fell into his lap. It was 1958. The 14-year-old had arrived from Jamaica two years earlier and was living in Notting Hill, west London, at that time the first port of call for many Caribbean immigrants. The area was also a destination for African American soldiers stationed at nearby military bases, who didn’t feel so welcome in central London’s white venues.

“On Saturdays, if you had a basement flat, you’d move the furniture to one side and make a party,” says Phillips. “And these GIs used to bring their rhythm-and-blues records and cigarettes. They’d come to have a good time and, you know, dance … and the young Afro-Caribbean women would come to meet them.” Phillips’s family often befriended these GIs. “One of them got legless one night and couldn’t get back to his base, so he had to borrow 15 shillings from my dad. He left behind a Kodak Retinette camera, but he never came back to pick it up. So I kept it.”

That camera became Phillips’s passport to a career that took him across Europe and into contact with notable figures including Jimi Hendrix, Federico Fellini, Muhammad Ali and Henri Cartier-Bresson. At the same time, Phillips was one of the few people minded and able to document London’s African-Caribbean community. His images, many of which were gathered together in the book Notting Hill in the Sixties, capture the richness and complexity of the landscape. Children play on litter-filled streets; young Black people show off their fashionable attire outside rundown houses.

A group of children on Basing Street in west London, 1969.
A group of children on Basing Street in west London, 1969. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

This was an era marked by regular racist assaults on the African-Caribbean community, and the 1958 Notting Hill “race riots”. Phillips’s images show hand-scrawled adverts for rooms to let, spelling out “No coloured”, and graffiti on walls reading “Keep Britain white”. But his work also captures black and white Londoners socialising together, laughing, drinking, kissing. One of his best-known photographs, known as Notting Hill Couple, has come to symbolise that spirit. Taken at a party in 1967, it depicts a young Black man with his arm around a young white woman. Both look into the camera with serious expressions that could be interpreted as hopeful, innocent, perhaps even defiant.

Phillips chronicled African-Caribbean funerals in London over several generations, in all their passion, style and sartorial exuberance. This was his own community, and his images speak of an insider’s intimacy and familiarity. “As far as I’m concerned, we haven’t been given a proper platform to show our culture, our side of the story,” he says. “It’s not Black history; this is British history, whether you like it or not. And we’ve been sidestepped. I feel that personally.”

Portobello Road in the late 60s.
Portobello Road in the late 60s. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

Phillips has good reason to feel excluded. As well as that fateful camera, his career has been shaped to some extent by British attitudes towards race. Like many Windrush-era immigrants, his family did not come to Britain because they were poor but because they were invited. In Jamaica, his parents ran a business making tourist souvenirs, employing six other people. “The mother country called, so we answered,” he says. “But we never had any welcoming party; we had to fend for ourselves.” The now-gentrified Notting Hill was “a ghetto” at that time, populated not only by Caribbean but also Irish and Hungarian immigrants. Phillips’s first accommodation was a boarding house in Blenheim Crescent, where he slept three to a bed with other recent arrivals. Later, his parents would move into a room, then two rooms in a shared house.

At school, Phillips’s mostly white classmates were less hostile than curious, he says. “They would call me ‘Curly’ and sometimes feel your hair. There were rumours that we had tails on our backs.” Phillips was surprised by their ignorance. “I’d say: ‘I’m from Jamaica.’ They’d say: ‘What part of Africa is that?’ The British empire was all over the world, and yet some of the local population was so ignorant about the colonies. It was unbelievable.” His teachers were equally surprised that Phillips knew how to read, write, draw, do geometry and even sing Ave Maria in Latin. He had a good voice, he says. He also had a fascination with ships; in his free time he would take the bus to Victoria Docks to watch them. But as a Black child in 50s Britain, Phillips’s dreams of designing ships or singing opera were not considered realistic. “They laughed at me. The youth employment officer said: ‘Why don’t you get a job with London Transport? That’s more security. Or join the RAF or get a job with the post office.’”

Notting Hill Couple, 1967.
Notting Hill Couple, 1967. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

To pass the evenings in his family’s one-bedroom flat, Phillips began to take an interest in the camera. With money from his paper round, he bought a do-it-yourself photography book from the local chemist. He began developing his prints at night in the bath after everyone else had gone to bed. His first photographs were of friends and family in the neighbourhood, who would pay for a photo to send to relatives back home. “I used to take ‘snaps’ of people,” he says. “We never called them ‘photographs’ in them days. It was just for fun, as an amateur, because we only thought we’d spend five years in England.” After leaving school in 1960, he bought a better camera and continued his DIY photography education. He never had any formal training. “It was just common sense. This is how I picked up my trade.”

By the mid-60s Phillips’s parents were running a Caribbean restaurant in Portobello Road where he would help out. In his free time he snapped other aspects of local life: people and scenes on the street, events such as the Jamaican Independence Day celebrations in 1962. He would take his camera along to student protest marches against nuclear weapons, apartheid and the Vietnam war. In solidarity with the student uprising of 1968, he decided to take a boat to France to see what was going on in Paris. “I’ll always remember, I was outside the Gare du Nord, and it was a big student riot and the police were there, and a student got his head busted in. I saw the blood spurting, and I got panicky. It still shakes me up.” He decided to hitchhike around Europe, and ended up in Rome.

Waiting for the Tube, 1967.
Waiting for the Tube, 1967. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

The term “paparazzo” had been coined eight years earlier by Fellini in the movie La Dolce Vita, which mapped a postwar Rome of frenetic modernity and celebrity culture. Phillips found himself living that life for real, hanging around with genuine paparazzi in cafes or outside film studios, waiting for a tip or a sighting of a passing star to snap: Marcello Mastroianni, Omar Sharif, Gina Lollobrigida, John Mills, Peter O’Toole, spaghetti western actors – Phillips got them all. Claudia Cardinale was especially friendly, he says. She once gave him tickets to the premiere of Oliver!. Lesser-known actors would pay to be photographed for their own portfolios.

It was an exciting, if hand-to-mouth lifestyle. “An agency would take some of my work. You’d get two or three quid, which was survival.” He even met Fellini himself, who cast him as an extra in his 1969 film Satyricon. Easygoing and conversational, Phillips seems to have made friends wherever he went. “Sometimes in my travels, people took a liking to me,” he acknowledges. “That’s how I survived. Seeing as I was the only person of colour, everybody was curious: who’s this Black guy taking photographs?”

Portobello Road, 1966.
Portobello Road, 1966. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

Phillips still harboured dreams of opera, despite living in a commune with Italian revolutionaries who considered it “borghese”, or bourgeois. He often worked as an extra at La Scala, an opera house in Milan. But as a photographer, he was doing pretty well. He sold work to Italian magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Life. He would travel to ski resorts or to the south of France as a paparazzo. And he was travelling back and forth to England. “This is when I started photographing my community in a more serious fashion,” he says. As well as the streets and the Caribbean funerals, he visited the pubs, the shebeens (illegal drinking clubs) and nightclubs such as the Cue Club in Paddington, a venue for soul and bluebeat (early ska music), which was frequented by Black celebrities and rock stars. “I was in the alternative culture of London at the time,” he says. “The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll era, the free love era.” He captured rock stars such as Hendrix and Eric Clapton visiting the head shops and fashion boutiques in Portobello Road. He spent more time with Hendrix and others at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970. “I managed to get backstage. I had photographs with Hendrix, Joan Baez, Tiny Tim, I think some of the Who were there, Sly and the Family Stone.”

Silchester Road, demolished to make way for the Westway flyover, 1967.
Silchester Road, demolished to make way for the Westway flyover, 1967. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

In 1972 Phillips held his first solo exhibition – on Notting Hill life – in Milan. To his surprise, the show was visited by Cartier-Bresson, the godfather of street photography and one of Phillips’s idols. “As a matter of fact, I used to dress like Cartier-Bresson. I used to wear a beret at the time. Some of my Italian friends used to compare my work with his.”

By 1974, Phillips was getting homesick and decided to return to England, but again, there was no welcoming party. Showing his photographs to editors and galleries in London, “people would say: ‘Did you really take this?’ Nobody believed I took them. I used to get fobbed off all the time. I couldn’t get any assignments.” One gallery even had a photograph of Muhammad Ali, taken by Phillips, on the wall (taken in Zurich in 1971, during Ali’s bout with German champion Jürgen Blin; Phillips went on to meet Ali on numerous occasions) yet refused to believe Phillips was the photographer. “This is how absurd it was.” Did the fact that Phillips was Black have a bearing on his treatment? “I can’t comment on that,” he says. “I think that’s a question you should ask the institutions.”

Ali on Boxing Day ... Muhammad Ali in Zurich before his fight with Jurgen Blin, 1971.
Ali on Boxing Day … Muhammad Ali in Zurich before his fight with Jurgen Blin, 1971. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

Phillips grew demoralised. “I became homeless. And I became kind of destitute. I ended up washing up dishes and working in a cafe and restaurant and I put the photography aside.” From 1974 until 1991, Phillips didn’t take a single photograph. Making matters worse, moving between various squats and bedsits, he lost many of his photographs. His images of Hendrix, Cartier-Bresson, the Paris 1968 protests, the Dolce Vita movie stars and so many others are now missing. “If anyone can find my Jimi Hendrix collection, that’s my pension fund.”

In 1988 Phillips opened a Caribbean diner, Smokey Joe’s, in south London, which he ran for 11 years. During that time, his previous career underwent a process of rediscovery. A music magazine contacted him in 1991, seeking to use his photographs from the bluebeat era, he says. By chance, when a courier returned Phillips’s photographs to his diner, one of his customers was Ben Bousquet, a local Labour councillor. Bousquet, originally from St Lucia, had also grown up in 60s Notting Hill. He was amazed when he discovered Phillips’s archive of London immigrant life, which had lain forgotten in a box under his bed. “He said: ‘Bloody ’ell. You mean you have all these photographs sitting there? This is history here!’”

At the ‘Piss House’ pub on the Portobello Road, 1969.
At the ‘Piss House’ pub on the Portobello Road, 1969. Photograph: Charlie Phillips/Getty Images

That led to the Notting Hill in the Sixties book, and a steady career rehabilitation. In 2003, the Museum of London exhibited Phillips’s work, and it has featured regularly in exhibitions since then. His photograph of the young Notting Hill couple is now part of the V&A’s collection. Simon Schama included Phillips’s work in his book and TV series The Face of Britain, describing him as “one of Britain’s great photo-portraitists”. Just last year, Steve McQueen requested Phillips take his portrait when he guest-edited the Observer. Phillips is somewhat ambivalent about his newfound recognition, however, especially when he is pigeonholed as Black culture, rather than just culture. “I feel sometimes I’m being used as political propaganda when they talk about multicultural Britain. I’m sorry, I don’t want to play the colour game. I’m tired of ticking the boxes, because they only call you in Black History Month to show images of Black people, and I’m fed up of it.”

Charlie Phillips.
Charlie Phillips: ‘I feel sometimes I’m being used as political propaganda.’ Photograph: Aliyah Otchere/The Guardian

Phillips still takes pictures, he says, but just for himself, “as a hobby”. Occasionally he travels down to the coast to photograph ships. He loves photographing horses. “I still haven’t taken the perfect photograph yet,” he says. “I still make a lot of mistakes.” He now lives in Mitcham, just outside London. “Nothing happens over here. Everything finishes after the News at 10,” he jokes. “All I wanted to do was to spend more time in my allotment and catch up on my reading. I’ve been reading War and Peace for about the last 20 years and I still haven’t finished it yet. But they took me out of retirement because people think I’ve got an interesting life.”

In 2015, he received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to manage his archive. “This is the only thing that keeps me going. I’ve got lots of young volunteers who say: ‘Uncle Charlie, you’ve got to keep your legacy alive, because we don’t see this in schools. We don’t see this in exhibition centres.’ I think we’re not well-represented within the culture of England how we should be. There has been a missing section in our history. Most of our records have been destroyed or weren’t there in the first place … I’m just here to document our side of the story.”


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Jamin mucicians

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Singer Portrait

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Trans Global Underground

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Jules . A sound engineer

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My MA Show, few years ago, at the Surface Gallery

My MA Show, few years ago, at the Surface Gallery / Nottingham Trent University

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Clock forward one hour

Well …. Avebury …. but same funny

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Hot tent

Walking around the site in ’84, I came across a young dude sat cross legged outside his one man tent shouting “Hot tents for sale! only £1!” He also had a crude cardboard sign, scrawled in black felt tip, taped to the tent, advertising HOT TENT £1.
wtf? I thought to myself?
‘What’s a hot tent mate?’ I asked.
‘Have you got a pound?’ he replied.
Upon receipt of the coin he encouraged me to come into the tent and zipped it up.
He unravelled a chillum and began packing it with a mixture of grass and hash.
“Basically” he said “I puff on the chillum, the tent fills up with smoke and you unzip it when you’ve had enough”.
With that, he began chugging away, the smoke quickly filling the tiny tent. An instant fog engulfed my vision. Breathing it in and out, in and out with every breath, it was intense. My eyes started to burn, I couldn’t see shit? let alone the zip! but I found it.
The smoke went first and I followed after. Coughing and spluttering, crawling on my hands and knees into the fresh air of freedom.
“Thanks buddy” I croaked.
Pure innovation.

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‘More police power is a recipe for repression’

Zarah Sultana on #KillTheBill

Last weekend, demonstrations in Bristol were met with horrifying levels of police brutality. These scenes should galvanise people in defending their fundamental right to protest, writes the MP for Coventry South.

On 18 June, 1984, striking miners assembled outside a coking plant in South Yorkshire. Three months into the Miners’ Strike, and the men were determined to defend their jobs, their communities, and their class. They were picketing the plant, seeking to dissuade scab lorries from undermining the strike.

But Thatcher and the Conservative government had other plans. Deploying 6,000 police officers from forces across the country, paramilitary policing tactics came crashing down on the workers.

Dubbed “the Battle of Orgreave”, it was closer to a police riot. Mounted police charged the miners, with truncheons raining down as workers ran to safety. Armed with riot shields, the police hospitalised scores of miners. Bones broken, skulls fractured, and terrified by police brutality, the workers were given a lesson in what it meant to be Thatcher’s “enemy within”. Some never recovered from the assault.

But this isn’t how the media portrayed it. Instead, the miners were depicted as instigators of violence, with the police simply acting in self-defence. On the evening news, the BBC showed footage of the scenes out of order, making it seem as if the miners started the violence. 

While Conservative politicians salivated at punishing the “violent thugs”, the case against arrested miners collapsed. It was abandoned by the prosecution when police evidence was found to be “unreliable”, including forgeries and identical statements. Michael Mansfield QC described it as “the worst example of a mass frame-up in this country this century”.

This dynamic – police wrongdoing and then establishment attempts to hide it in the interests of ruling powers – is not unique to Orgreave. Far from it. Notable examples abound, from Hillsborough – where 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed due to police gross negligence, as a 2016 inquest ruled, even as The Sun claimed the fans were at fault – to the Mangrove Nine – where protesting Black activists were met with police violence, only for the subsequent trial to clear the activists of inciting a riot and instead find the Metropolitan Police guilty of racism. 

This history should disabuse anyone of the presumption that protesters are always guilty and the police always benign. And it is this vital lesson that is necessary to make sense of what happened in Bristol on the weekend.

For the third time in a week, on Friday, protesters took to the city’s streets, demonstrating their opposition to the Conservatives’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a draconian piece of legislation that gives the police powers to outlaw protests deemed a “nuisance” or that are too “noisy”, as well as attacking the rights of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, expanding stop-and-search powers and extending sentences for defacing statues to 10 years. 

In Bristol’s city centre, around a thousand protesters gathered. They held their hands aloft, making their intentions clear. But, it seems, Avon and Somerset Police had other plans.

the aggression on the street is unrelenting pic.twitter.com/n5JZK3Y9gz

— huck (@HUCKmagazine) March 26, 2021

They came armed with riot shields and truncheons; officers mounted, ready to charge. Video footage shows police officers using their shields as weapons to beat down on sitting protesters; another shows a man lying prone on the floor, holding his head while an officer hits him with a truncheon; in one, a woman is knocked off her feet with a riot shield blow to the head. The aggression wasn’t just targeted at protesters. A recording from a Daily Mirror journalist shows police officers assault him, hitting him with a baton as he pleads his journalist credentials.

Eyewitness reports and the city’s local media make clear who started the violence. As the Bristol Post reported, “Officers dispersed the crowds by force, initially with riot police pushing and hitting protestors with their shields, and then using mounted police charges, police dogs and officers with batons to scatter the protesters and force them back.”

But this isn’t how it was reported in the national media. Instead, on Saturday, the country woke to statements from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, portraying protesters as the sole guilty perpetrators of violence. These framed the stories from the BBC and others, who used the police lines without question, unperturbed by the unreliability of their false claim just days earlier that officers had suffered broken bones and punctured lungs.

The picture was again set: violent, thuggish protesters, acting without cause or reason, attacked the police, upon whom no fault lay. This is a dangerous, deeply illiberal framework.

An old, simple and sound liberal principle says that you should hold the state to higher standards than the people. It acts, after all, in our name and – supposedly – at our behest. But that is not a principle that the establishment shows any adherence to. Quite the reverse. In their eyes, the repressive state apparatus is always benign, the masses always suspect.

The events on Friday night show the police already wield excessive power against the people. Handing them more power is a recipe for repression. And there is an even more sinister side to it.

In the months and years ahead, we can anticipate grossly unjust and unpopular Conservative policies. The fallout from the pandemic and the growing destabilising effects of the climate crisis will see to that. The Conservatives foresee it too. The Police Crackdown Bill is aimed to weaken our power to resist it.

The Conservatives tried to rush it through Parliament. A bill standardly faces weeks of public scrutiny before being voted on by MPs. They gave it just six days for this Bill. But protests led by Sisters Uncut unnerved the Government and delayed its passage. It will be voted on by MPs again, but now we have longer to prepare.

Throughout our history we see that there is power in the streets. It’s precisely because of that power that the Conservatives want to pass this Bill. If we are going to kill it, we will need to mobilise that power – protesting loudly, defiantly – and building the opposition that can defeat it. It won’t be easy, but it’s not called the struggle for nothing

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Party People

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Horsedrawn folk

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A Rock’s Timelapse [in my backyard]

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Rock on edge, Peak District

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Mass Trespass. Kinder Scout. 1932

Mass Trespass is a documentary short about the Kinder Trespass of 1932. An event in the Peak District that helped pave the way for our right to roam on mountain and moorland throughout the UK. A shining example of how mass action and protest can bring about great change around the world.
Featuring interviews from Roly Smith, Martin Porter, Mark Metcalf & Kate Ashbrook.

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Kill the Bill, Nottingham March 2021

Protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Forest Ground Nottingham 27th March

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