Council 1-0 It’s Our City

For the superstitious, Friday 13th is a day known for its unluckiness. And so opponents of the Edgar Street Grid project did their best to make Friday 13th November a very unlucky day for the council.

Hereford Solidarity League members and supporters marched on the Shire Hall displaying banners and joining up with the hundreds of It’s Our City supporters their to lobby the council.

A petition signed by almost 10,000 signatures in just ten weeks in opposition to the ESG was handed over to Cllr John Stone. Inside the meeting a motion had also been put forward to suspend the project.

But luck was never going to be enough. In the face of such strong opposition, the ruling Tory group voted down the motion by a huge majority. It became clear that Herefordshire Council–for now–are intend on carrying on with their development.

Like the council, we too believe that Hereford needs developing, but not in the way that they are proposing. We don’t need more empty shops, we need to support our existing local and independent retailers. The council obviously believe that our lives are less fulfilled without large shopping centres, but we don’t need them. What Hereford needs is more housing, more community-controlled projects. We need a new library, better sports, media and arts facilities–somewhere we are proud to call home!

Hereford is a creative, vibrant and unique place. We have one of the best art colleges in the Midlands, a technical college that turns out hundreds of useful engineers, nurses and social workers every year.

Think of your favourite towns and cities to visit: Hay-on-Wye for its unique secondhand bookshops, Ludlow for its food and history, and even Birmingham for something different. Hereford is one of those last remaining market cities where homegrown products like food and drink, arts and crafts can still trade on an independent level. Creating a shopping complex and splitting the city in two will destroy Hereford’s character and atmosphere. Local pubs, shops, restaurants will close under the enormous competition that will arise from moving the beautifully developed city centre–that now revolves around the Black & White House across–to the cattle market, further north of the river.

So it may be one-nil to the council, but this fight is far from over. We will not stand by and see our city ruined. See you for the second leg.

Locals Turn Out To Oppose BNP

Anti-fascist demonstrators rallied on Ross-on-Wye’s Chase Hotel in October to protest against their hosting of the annual BNP ‘Trafalgar Club’ dinner.

Many of the party’s top brass–including leader Nick Griffin–were in attendance at their elite fundraising event.

Up to 100 local people turned out, with only 48 hours notice, to show their disapproval.

The hotel had earlier denied that the BNP were there, claiming they had no bookings all weekend. This turned out to be an out-right lie.

Upon arrival it was clear that the police were taking the protests very seriously, drafting in officers from Welsh constabularies. It has to be asked, how much did this cost the tax payer to protect these fascists? Private security hired by the hotel also stood guard at the entrance.

The protest was lively. When BNP members started to arrive protesters attempted to block their way, although the combined effort of the police and security present meant that this could not be pulled off. Minor scuffles broke out and deputy leader, Simon Darby, had his car pelted with eggs.

Two women repeatedly entered the hotel grounds in an attempt to complain to the hotel manager, before being ejected by BNP security who threatened to set their dogs on them.

Although these actions did not stop the event from taking place, they have shown that the racist politics of the BNP will not be tolerated in Herefordshire.

Recently the BNP have attempted to portray themselves as victims and use ‘freedom of speech’ as a shield against any opposition they face. This facade is as hollow as Nick Griffin’s head. The truth is that if the BNP had their way ‘freedom of speech’ would cease to exist for many millions of people in this country.

The BNP like to portray themselves as the party of the white working class, but their true colours are shown in the ‘Trafalgar Club’. It is a clear example of the elitism and of the class division that lies at the heart of the party–the ones that can afford it attend black-tie dinners in plush hotels, fill the party coffers and get a chance to spend an evening with the party leadership, most of whom live in large country houses, miles away from the people that they claim to represent.*

The BNP have a history of anti-working class policy, from calling for the army to be brought out in the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85, to calling for the revoke of the firefighters right to strike in 2003. In some areas of the country where they are in local government they have consistently voted for public service cuts, and they have been less than crystal clear on expenses claims. In short, they are the same as the rest of the parties in Westminster–a money grabbing, anti-working class party.

*Like Nick Griffin, who lives on a large farm in mid-Wales, whilst ‘representing’ his constituents in north-west England in the European parliament.

New on Heckler TV: ‘Fighting Talk’

Angelic Upstarts frontman Mensi presents a documentary on Anti-Fascist Action, who were active during the 80s and 90s confronting the National Front and BNP.

First-hand accounts are given of the fight against fascism, and why it must be stopped and not simply ignored. A must see.

Visit youtube.com/HecklerTV

What next after the climate carnivals?

November saw the last of the climate action carnivals taking place in Hereford. These carnivals–and other national actions–have again pushed climate change to the forefront of many people’s minds, and we feel that the organisers should be praised for that. Protests such as Climate Camp, Plane Stupid and the climate change carnivals have created greater awareness of the issues, but have they offered any real solutions?

The green movement is dominated by wealthy middle class people. The solutions offered by the movement seek to solve environmental issues while still preserving the privileges that many of these people enjoy. Lobbying politicians, voting Green, telling people not to fly or shutting power stations. None of this tackles the real cause of climate change.

As anarchists we see capitalism as the biggest problem standing in the way of building a sustainable society. The capitalist system of mass production, mass consumerism and unlimited economic growth will always put profits before the environment. Many environmentalists want to work within the current system and push for laws to combat climate change, but this means working with an authoritarian state that increasingly interferes in our lives. These laws would be unlikely to achieve a great deal as the state doesn’t want us to change. It certainly doesn’t want us to stop being good consumers who perpetually buy new cars, shop at supermarkets and keep voting for things to stay the same. It is naive to believe that top-down state control will combat climate change.

The goal of stopping climate change is vitally important, but so is radically changing society and we believe that you cannot do one without the other. But we also believe the only way to accomplish this is through working with the whole community, by inspiration, example and education. By organising together within our workplaces and our communities, environmentalists and anti-capitalists, can make real lasting change to both our society and our environment. The recent involvement of Climate Campers in the Vestas* dispute is an example of this.

With the inevitable disappointment of the upcoming Copenhagen climate change summit there is hope for closer ties between the green and anti-capitalist movements. Maybe this could go some way to opening up these campaigns to society as a whole.

See savevestas.wordpress.com for more information.

Our Hereford!

Land for saleAn open letter to Herefordshire Council and ESG Herefordshire Limited

Herefordshire is a great county. We love its landscape and scenery and we love its history and culture.

But we recognise that there is also a lot that can be done to make this place better. We are in desperate need of cheap housing for the thousands of the people that are on the local waiting lists. The county needs more leisure facilities, especially the younger generation who in most towns and villages have no space of their own. And like almost everywhere else in the world there is still a divide between the haves and the have-nots; we are still governed by capitalist economics that create inequality and a divisive class system. Capitalism must be destroyed in Herefordshire, and throughout the world.

But what your council clearly believe we need to improve our lives and make us so much more fulfilled is more shops, more chain stores, more useless tat. If only we could afford to buy, buy, buy we would all be so much happier.

Because what the single mother, struggling to get by on benefits really needs is a John Lewis. What the old-age couple living on a pitiful state pension would really love is a Debenhams. What a truly great county Herefordshire would be if you gave us a big shopping centre of our own! And you could really put us on the map; perhaps we could be a proper tourist attraction if Waitrose could boast they have the largest biscuit department in the whole of England.

But what your Conservative-led council has given us is initiative after initiative designed to make more money for the bosses and big business and nothing but cuts in the essential public services that each of us ‘ordinary folk’ depend on to get by. Cuts in education, leisure, childcare services, drug prevention projects Ö the list seems never-ending.

Dearest Herefordshire Council and ESG Herefordshire, we really do have nothing but a deep loathing for your ‘bright new vision’ for the Edgar Street Grid and we will do whatever it takes to get the whole thing scrapped.

You see, because if you get your way and the existing businesses on the grid have to relocate, and many of the independent shops in town close down, it will mean job losses. Many of these businesses are the ones that have already been dealt a hard blow by the recession and the costs of relocating will put many jobs into further jeopardy. That could mean families losing a significant portion of their income, bills going unpaid, the threat of bailiffs knocking at the door, cutting back on the food shop and the struggle to find another job.

This is what it could be like for many of the people working on the Edgar Street Grid; it’s a situation we hope you’ll experience too. Although we know there won’t really be any bailiffs turning up on your doorstep because all those City firms and dodgy banking companies you’ve worked for have already set you up for life. Perhaps you’ll just have to slum it in Sainsbury’s for a bit.

ESG Herefordshire Ltd must be completely wound up. It has already wasted over £10 million presenting its ‘grand vision’, and this is before any work has even started. Maybe all of this money should’ve gone straight into paying for things we actually need, like housing.

You’ve come to Hereford like a gang of cowboy builders with plans that we know won’t stand the test of time. The evidence is there from countless other towns that your idea of ‘development’ doesn’t work but you carry on regardless. Maybe one day we’ll see you all on Rogue Traders.

We believe that your vision for the Edgar Street Grid will blight the city for years to come. It’s not what Herefordshire needs, nor wants. The campaign to stop your plans has the support of the majority of Herefordians. Remember, when we get together and stick together, we are powerful and we can achieve anything. We will win!