Jul 042018
 

A coalition of trade unions, political parties, and equality, faith, and campaign groups will hold events in Glasgow and Edinburgh on 13th and 14th of July to coincide with Trump’s planned visit to the UK.  With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Scotland United Against Trump is a coalition of organisations and individuals that have come together to protest against the policies and politics of Trump and the corporate interests for whom he governs.

It includes the STUC, SNP, Labour, and the Greens as well as Scotland Against Trump, the group which organised protests following his election in 2016.

The SNP has also spoken out to encourage people to stand up for Scotland’s values during the President’s visit.

Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary, said:

“All of the organisations coming together for these protests agree that Donald Trump’s presidency is proving every bit as dangerous and divisive as people feared.

“Trump’s administration represents corrupt corporate interests – cutting taxes for the rich, attacking workers’ rights, undermining democracy, endangering action on climate change, and stoking resentment based on racism, sexism, transphobia and bigotry.

“At the very moment when the world needs more solidarity, more cooperation, and a greater commitment to justice, he proposes to build walls and wants to turn us against each other.”

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

“There is understandable anger at the prospect of Donald Trump coming to Scotland and a strong desire across the country to show that he is not welcome here.

“Someone who holds such misogynist, racist and anti-trade union views, and withdraws the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, should not be given the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

Scottish Labour wants to see a world that stands up to intolerance, injustice and climate change and that is why we are working with Scotland United Against Trump campaign to ensure there is a mass protest if Trump does visit.”

Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie said:

“Scotland has seen the bullying, arrogant and delusional side of Donald Trump long before his election. Since becoming President the whole world has seen far worse, as he gives political space to white supremacists, and seeks to wreck international cooperation on climate change.

We should unite to show him he’s unwelcome, and demand that the UK Government stops treating this dangerous man as though his politics are legitimate.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said:

“Scotland and America have historic ties that go back centuries and that will not be undermined by the policies of one President. We share values with the American people of equality, diversity and support for human rights and must always stand up for those values when they are threatened.

The President’s approach threatens international co-operation on key issues like climate change and it is our job to show that we will not be put off our efforts by his opposition.

If President Trump visits we have an opportunity to show that we will never compromise our values and Trump will go back to America with a clear message that in Scotland we build bridges, not walls.”

Kirsty Haigh of the Campaign organisation, Scotland Unite Against Trump, said:

“Trump likes to talk up his Scottish connections – but we are going to show that his politics are not welcome here.

A growing coalition of organisations and campaigns are coming together to say that Scotland will stand united against Trump. Over the next month, we’re going to be building support for two massive days of actions with a rally in Glasgow and national demonstration and festival in Edinburgh.

We will also send a message to the Tory government that we will not tolerate their pandering to Trump.”

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Jul 062017
 

With thanks to Aberdeen Climate Action.

Aberdeen Climate Action are organising a protest outside Barclays Bank 163-165 Union Street, on Saturday 8th July, 11am. Barclays and HSBC, both of whom have banks in Aberdeen, facilitated investments in both the Dakota Pipeline and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline’

The Royal Bank of Scotland to their credit have said that they have removed their investment links to the pipelines.

After months of protests, more than 750 arrests, and high-profile intervention the first part of the battle over the Dakota Access pipeline has ended. One of the first things that President Trump did was to overturn President Obama’s ban on the pipeline.

Oil is now flowing through the pipeline—and, crucially, beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which is sacred to local Lakota and Dakota people and their only source of water.

But the battle over the pipeline is not over yet. A legal challenge to the pipeline, and to President Donald Trump’s rapid approval of it in January, is awaiting summary judgement in federal court in the District of Columbia.

The pipeline now runs more than 1,800 miles, linking oil fields in North Dakota to refineries, ports, and further pipelines in southern Illinois.

UK financial giants HSBC, Barclays, and Aviva also have significant financial stakes in the company behind a controversial tar sands oil pipeline known as the ‘Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline’ approved by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Financial data seen by DeSmog UK shows HSBC holds almost $118 million (£93.7m) worth of shares in Kinder Morgan, which owns the recently approved Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Barclays’ shares are worth around $48 million (£38m), and Aviva holds $27 million (£21.4m) worth.

On a much brighter note, France is to stop granting Oil and Gas licences for oil and gas exploration as part of a transition towards environmentally friendly energy. Nicolas Hulot the ‘Ecological Transition Minister’ in Emmanuel Macrons Government has said that a law will be passed by the Autumn.

We need to put pressure on the UK and Scottish Governments to do the same.

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Dec 232016
 

By Suz Reid.

Several parents attending regular awareness events in Aberdeen, bring their compassionate young children, who have clear ideas on the animal welfare issue of fur farming. When you talk to these children they are naturally aware that killing an animal that has feelings is wrong.

They question everything including; why would you kill an animal for its fur and pay lots of money to wear it on a jacket, bag or hat?

“We allow the children to come as we are peaceful and want people to see even children know fur is wrong, we work together to collect signatures and hand out leaflets informing people of how barbaric skinning an animal alive for fashion is” explains Fiona Melvin (Co-founder of Say No Fur to Aberdeen Fashion).

Good question why are we so disconnected to the feeling of other animals, is it because they don’t speak our language? If you talk to someone who rescues an abused animal they will tell you how the animal responds to set emotion and responses. With kindness, structure and love they become confident and display affection. Which should open questions of why we feel we have the right to cause pain and suffering to other animals just to wear their skin.

“I feel Really strongly about the use of real fur, and we feel so upset to think people are actually buying it even when some know how it’s sourced and there’s plenty of alternatives without harming animals” said Laura Lotus Flower.

What the recent article in the local press – apart from unfounded claims by Escale France – failed to address, was the animal welfare in the fur trade or rather the lack of it. In this instance one shop Escale France named in the Press & Journal, is more than aware of the suffering of animals for the fur items bought in Europe to be displayed in her boutique. Profit margins versus animal suffering; with no information on the animal suffering being mentioned. I aim to address the balance.

Isobel from The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT) states:

“People who buy fur intentionally, have been told by retailers that fur products are ‘responsibly sourced’ and come from ‘humane fur farms’ – in all of our investigations we have never seen any evidence of ethical or humane fur farming, and what’s more we cannot agree that it is ever ethical to take an animal’s life for the purposes of fashion.”

In fur farming there is no day light let into the large barns that the animals are housed, the cages are small, metal surrounds them. They do not see any human kindness, food slop is throw in as they squirm and writhe around often covered in their own faeces…they squeal to each other communication. In a prison waiting for the day they are dragged from that hell, to the pain of its slow death.

What about the trapping method? Days go by without the trap being checked, the animal caught may be endangered. In agony the animal chews at its limbs in desperation to free itself. It might have a litter waiting for feeding. So much suffering…

When you are told they don’t get skinned alive, you are being lied to.

They are close to death but still their hearts beat, they are often still breathing, semi conscious. There is no vet checks to minimise suffering. They can’t move because they have been stunned or particularly gassed.
They have endured, suffered …and then their bodies are dumped useless, dying from the horrendous pain of having their fur taken, crushed in the final blow by mechanical machine.

That is just mink farms. What about foxes, rabbit, raccoon, dog, cat they are all animals that feel? Does it matter? Yes it does. We should care how fur is being produced, because it has come to this. We banned it in the UK so we could stop the cruelty. Yet we allow it to happen elsewhere so we don’t have to care.

Isobel from CAFT comments:

“Animal welfare has never been at the top of the government’s agenda, especially our current government who have tabled such things as repealing the Hunting Act. This is why this is a social struggle, to raise awareness amongst the public about the horrors of the fur trade, encourage the boycott of any shop that sells real animal fur, and ask retailers to adopt fur free policies in their stores.”

People from Aberdeen care, they were not from animal activist group, they found others cared. They came together online, they researched what happens, they emailed other organisations which had the proof of what goes on behind the scenes. They have had open dialogue with three other shops in Aberdeen. Two of those shop owners signed the petition against Escale France. They didn’t agree with selling fur for vanity, currently the signature total for the petition is 1600.

One owner who had old stock on sale, agreed to remove those from her shop, along with making us aware she was a vegan and didn’t agree with the fur trade.

Cruise Fashion removed a Canada Goose jacket from the main shop, however, they are still selling fur and there is UK wide protests against this with CAFT. Inverurie Garden Centre had hundreds of customers up in arms with their fur trim accessories. They claim to have removed these items, though allegation have been made by a customer who visited the shop recently of the items still being available. Several other shops in Aberdeen and the North East continue to stock fur items.

John Robins of Animal Concern issued a warning to people doing their Christmas shopping or looking for bargains in the January sales:

“Do not always assume that fake fur is in fact fake fur. Fur is so cheap and unpopular that sellers will dye it bright colours and sell it as faux fur. You also have people saying it’s “only” rabbit or coney fur.

“The argument against fur is no longer just about killing endangered species, it is about the extreme cruelty involved in the trapping, farming and killing of animals for their skins. On fur farms one method of achieving this is by pushing a metal rod up the animal’s anus and electrocuting them. My advice is not just to avoid all products containing fur but to totally boycott all shops that sell any fur.”

We are not talking fur for survival here, we are talking about the suffering of animals for a fashion item, that you or someone you know is buying.

If you still intend on being ‘in trend’ and want to wear faux fur then check out CAFT website for the check list. http://www.caft.org.uk/ Or follow Animal Concern advice and avoid fur trim altogether http://animalconcern.org/

If you have read this and decide you want to support the campaigns against the fur trade please visit https://www.facebook.com/AntiFurAberdeen/?fref=ts

Or email saynofur@gmail.com for more information.

Photos by courtesy of CAFT.

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Dec 232016
 

With thanks to Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Aberdeen Branch.

In a victory for free speech and democracy, December 14th saw a significant defeat for forces attempting to silence criticism of Israel , as a motion raised by Councillors Greig and Boulton of Aberdeen City Council was debated at a meeting of the full Council.
At first viewing, the motion had much to commend it, roundly condemning racism and xenophobia and calling for tolerance and diversity in the city.

However, on a more thorough reading, aspects of the text raised concerns with a number of individuals and organisations, who recognised the potential for the motion – if passed unamended – to actively lead to suppression of freedom of speech and political protest.

The concerning points stated that (author’s emphasis):

“That this Council..
3. Believes that the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world is to build cultural, academic and economic bridges.
4. Rejects any attempt to drive individuals, families and legitimate businesses away from Aberdeen on grounds of race, religion or country of origin and condemns any organisation that pursues such a policy.”

Any person of conscience who was involved in the international campaign of boycott against apartheid South Africa, or the current campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, will recognise the danger inherent in those innocuous-looking paragraphs – indeed, if passed in the 1980’s, the motion would have put the Council not only in a position opposing the international boycott campaign against the South African apartheid regime, but also actively condemning any organisation who did!

These concerns were proved well-founded when the joint proposers of the motion were quoted in the press, directly linking the motion to current BDS activity in Aberdeen, specifically the ongoing campaign by SPSC Aberdeen Branch against Jericho Dead Sea Cosmetics’ stall in Union Square.

The councillors voiced vague unsubstantiated accusations of ‘anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israel sentiment’, a charge robustly challenged by Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell, who responded:

“We hope the city councillors will continue with the city council’s proud historical record of opposing racism and apartheid in South Africa and by also opposing the racist apartheid policy of the current Israeli government. Criticism of the crimes committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people is not being anti-Semitic.”

SPSC members contacted councillors ahead of the debate to voice their concerns over the motives behind the motion, i.e. the bid to stifle criticism of Israel and prevent legitimate protest.

The campaign to criminalise BDS activity and support for Palestinian rights is not new, but is relentlessly gathering pace, with Theresa May’s new definition of anti-Semitism the most recent threat to legitimate criticism of Israel, openly conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

Fiona Napier from Aberdeen branch of SPSC said:

“The national boycott campaign against Jericho (targeted due to its exploitation of the Dead Sea, highly symbolic of the apartheid nature of the Israeli occupation) has been the subject of increasingly sinister attack from the pro-Israel lobby and their supporters.

“A malicious campaign of unfounded claims has seen SPSC activists in court on ‘racially aggravated’ charges, and the campaign here in Aberdeen has been subject to unwarranted constant police attention, due to a constant stream of ‘anonymous’ calls reporting alleged ‘hate crimes’. Despite this opposition, we have refused to be silenced, and it is clear from Cllrs Greig and Boulton’s remarks that this motion is being used as yet another attempt to shut us down.”

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) responded to the motion via a robust statement sent to all councillors before the debate, pointing out:

“The councillors putting forward the motion have been clever with their words, but if passed, we are concerned that this motion will put the City Council and its councillors in direct opposition to legitimate human rights campaign groups that are supported by many local individuals and organisations – and we presume many councillors too. Given the recent press comments from Cllr Greig, the motion is clearly directed at opposing such human rights groups and the ATUC as well.”

On the day of the Council meeting, an amendment to remove the two controversial paragraphs was tabled and following a vigorous debate, was passed overwhelming by 32 votes to 9.

During the debate, numerous speakers paid tribute to Aberdeen’s proud record of opposing apartheid and oppressive states, and urged colleagues not to allow that record to be compromised. Councillors recalled Aberdeen’s contribution towards fighting fascism in the Spanish civil war and the city’s active opposition to apartheid South Africa, and there were repeated calls to resist any attempt to stifle the right of individuals to speak out against injustice and oppression.

The amended motion which finally passed is certainly one that Aberdeen City Council can be proud of – one that celebrates diversity and tolerance and condemns racism and intolerance, but in no way attempts to curtail the right to lawful, legitimate protest. SPSC congratulates the Council on this principled position, and encourages others to take courage from this resounding defeat of the pro-Israel lobby in its attempt to subvert local democracy.

SPSC Aberdeen Branch
15 December 2016
aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk

7 minute video of highlights from Aberdeen City Council debate Wed 14 Dec 2016

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Nov 142016
 

escale-france-protestors-by-s-reid-sept-16bBy Suz Reid.

Fur in Aberdeen is not a new thing, yet we became less aware that it was sold, even oblivious to it. Many, including myself, thought a ban on fur in the UK in the 1990s included imports. How very wrong we were.

In the last 5 years shops selling fur has increased dramatically.

Aberdeen has its own supply, quietly located in select elites shops of high end fashion.

Escale France run by Karine Franck is one shop who proudly displays her raccoon, fox, mink and rabbit fur products online and in store. Her designer is the top offender in cruelty fur Jean Paul Gaultier.

The first I saw of Escale France was on Facebook 6 months ago, sharing her new collection of fur items, thousands were up in arms.

 “Fur in our area not in my name,” stated some comments.

I was certainly grieved by this and felt something needed to be done. Did the owner know where her fur had come from? How it was made? I asked her face to face, her response was arrogant and unemotional

“Yes I have seen the videos, I know how they die,” she stated unmoved.

A group of like minded people against the shop developed SAY NO FUR to Escale France Aberdeen UK Branch and discussed showing Karine Franck that we would not tolerate fur in her shop. We asked her to listen to her customers, many had commented on her page, disgusted at her products.

“You have such lovely items, why must you spoil it by adding real fur?” remarked one customer.

 Our first three demonstration were duly noted by Karine and her male friend, who came out to give us his view which was quite frankly sickening:

“ I would skin my cat and wear it,  I’ve eaten dogs killed alive in China, what is the difference?”

Since our fourth awareness event, one of our members acted out a caged animal being electrocuted. It drew a crowd, bringing the debate on fur in fashion to the forefront. Karine Franck responded by putting more fur items on her display, allegedly claiming to a few customers it was faux fur. These claims dismissed on evidence from her online marketing and advertising.

‘Yell.com; Real Fur Retailers and suppliers in Aberdeen – Escale France’

When I contacted her by email she responded:

wearing fur is not morally worse that wearing leather or eating meat”

This I disagree with as the fur she is supplying is from China and Poland – both have little or no welfare standards. Animals are not killed straight away, often stunned before having their fur removed. In the rest of her email she deflected the subject, avoided direct questions and was not willing to continue in any discussion or debate.

Her justification for selling fur in fashion was:

“Some people watch the Peta videos showing the barbarism inflicted on some animals for the fur. Even if these are examples of bad ranches and slaughterhouses contravening codes of conduct, you can find some of them in leather and meat industries, and to compare with them, the fur production is small.”

I guess that makes it okay then! Even if the videos are real, so what…? Since when did we lose our compassion, become so disassociated with what is fashion acceptable?

We banned farming in fur for one main reason, it was deemed cruel to kill an animal just for its fur…and nothing else. When we investigated Aberdeen’s fur trade, I met a lovely lady Amanda who runs two fashion boutiques, one in Brighton and one in Aberdeen.

When she heard of our campaign she invited me to visit her shop. She was shocked that the public in Aberdeen would allow real fur when there are so many wonderful faux alternatives. Many of these faux items where in her store ‘Sirene’ in Union Street.

“It is a cruel method for a fur trim, why would you stock that when you have stunning traceable faux alternatives”

If Sirene boutique can select faux free and still satisfy her customers, why can’t Escale France?

This is just the beginning with all shops and stalls in Aberdeen/shire being added to a list and working with Animal Concern, Respect for Animals, Craft in future campaigns. If you don’t know what it’s all about please visit the above groups, who have investigated it at length, see what the barbaric trade is all about.

For forthcoming events in Aberdeen email us at saynofur@gmail.com.We have been collecting paper petitions and have an online petition. Please sign.

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Sep 232016
 

A George Street clothing store’s unrepentant sale of fox and racoon fur items has sparked off a petition and a series of protests. The unrepentant retailer Escale France has not answered Aberdeen Voice’s request for comment on its choosing to sell items featuring the pelts of animals which would have suffered immensely in their brief, unnatural lives confined to cages before an eventual electrocution, drowning or bludgeoning to death.

As Escale France can neither find any words in defence of its position (if such is possible) or is unwilling to speak to the press, the press speaks to animal welfare groups, individuals, fashion experts – and children – as to what is wrong with the fur trade. By Suzanne Kelly

escale-france-protestors-by-s-reid-sept-16b

Protestors attended legal demonstrations on Thursday 15 and Saturday 18 September

Fur is making something of a comeback; a comeback among people who by default are lacking in compassion and empathy.

Horrific existences in small wire pens, torture, suffering and eventual terrifying deaths await fur bearing mammals that exist in the fur industry.

There is no excuse that their meat can be used to feed the hungry.

Depending on the animal, dozens of animas will be skinned (sometimes alive) to create a single garment. Escale France is not bothered.

Here are quotes from some of the protestors who attended legal demonstrations on Thursday 15 and Saturday 18 September (more demonstrations are planned).

Christine Arnold Solomon, fashion lecturer who is opposed to the use of animal fur, told Aberdeen Voice:

“Stella McCartney has built a whole designer empire built on not using any animal products in anything including perfume; she uses lots of beautiful faux furs and gets the same aesthetic.”

Fiona Melvin said:

“How the animals are raised; they grow up in a cage and the doors never open until it’s time for them to die.

“They are anally electrocuted when they are often still alive – they are shocked, terrorised beyond belief.”

Kairhys, a young man, said:

“It is murder. I have a dog, two rabbits, two rats, 3 cats… they all have feelings; they can get scared.”

The demonstrators had informed the police of their plans in advance; the police who attended were found to be very helpful by the protestors. Signs and  placards, chanted slogans and discussions with passers by took place.

Many people were shocked to find a store in Aberdeen selling real fur; one such piece for sale is a dead racoon’s pelt dyed a pink colour – which further begs the question as to why fake fur was not used – should any argument be  in the first place – a fake pink fur could have sufficed without the animal destruction.

A petition for those against this store’s use of fur can be found here:

Anyone wishing to join the peaceful protest group can leave a comment on this article, asking to join the closed Facebook group. A further protest is planned for Saturday 24 September at Escale France from noon until 3pm, close to John Lewis.

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Aug 182016
 
GazaIsraelBigRide (5)

The Big Ride has set out to draw attention to the 547 children verified as killed during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2014.

With thanks to Greg Challis, The Big Ride.

Hundreds of cyclists and their supporters who blockaded a Midlands factory in protest at its sale of drones used by the Israeli military have vowed: “We’ll be back.”
The Big Ride for Palestine staged four feeder rides from London, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield which converged on Birmingham for a festival in Sparkhill Park.

The peloton then moved off en masse to a rally at the factory gates of UAV engines, in Shenstone near Lichfield.

UAV is part of the Elbit group and has been the target of repeated protests by activists, appalled at the way drones have been used against Palestinian civilians.

The Big Ride has set out to draw attention to the 547 children verified as killed during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2014.

Protesters pinned photographs of child victims on the fence surrounding the factory and, during a two hour peaceful action,heard first hand testimony from a Palestinian doctor working with children in Gaza.

The event also created a minor internet sensation with ten of thousands of views of a video posted by the Friends of Al Aqsa group and You Tube footage of Tom from Manchester performing his rap composition, There’s Nothing new about the News.

Dr Mona El Farra, who lost nine members of her extended family in 2014, told the crowd:

“With your support and solidarity, we are helping some of the thousands of children who are traumatised by the loss of the families, their homes, their schools. Even though Gaza has been reduced to rubble in places with the support of arms manufacturers like Elbit, who own UAV, we are doing everything we can to rebuild lives.

“The children are all our futures, and they are so brave, but I can’t tell you how damaged they are. They have to learn how to play again, to be children. This is nothing more than collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the Israel and we say that it is a war crime.”

The Big Ride drew support from MPs, MEPs, trade unions and celebrities, including film director Ken Loach and campaign and charity groups including War on Want and Campaign Against the Arms Trade. They have set a target of £20,770 to help the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance, which funds projects on the ground in Gaza.

Activists are now meeting with other grass roots groups to step up their campaign against UAV and the Government supported arms trade with Israel.

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Sep 102015
 

With thanks to Radical Independence Aberdeen.

Radical Independence CampaignAn anti-austerity rally is planned for Sunday 13 September, with an additional refugees welcome message in light of the ongoing crisis in Calais.

Last year, on the Sunday before the referendum, a flashmob of over 1000 people gathered in the Castlegate in support of a Yes vote for Scottish independence.

This year’s event calls for people on both sides of the independence debate to come together against austerity, and in support of refugees.

The event’s organisers, from the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), explain the connection:

“it’s all part of the same problem, the same mind-set where rich politicians get to decide the fates of people who are less fortunate. Thousands of people are dying in the Mediterranean. Thousands of people are dying within weeks of being declared ‘fit for work.’

“Thousands of families are relying on food banks and charities to survive, both in Calais and right here in Aberdeen, one of the richest cities in the UK. This can’t continue.”

The event is strictly non-party-political, though politicians are encouraged to attend. Speakers will represent a range of charities and activist groups, including Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE), Future Choices, Aberdeen CND, Aberdeen Anti-Fascist Alliance and RIC Aberdeen. There will also be people sharing their personal stories of how austerity has affected their lives.

In addition to speakers, there will also be a food bank collection by CFINE, information stalls from local charities, and music from Guarana Drummers.

The event will take place on Sunday 13 September, at 2pm, in the Castlegate. For more information please contact ricaberdeen@gmail.com.

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Jan 302015
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal protest (6)a

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January. The protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there. Credit: Suzanne Kelly.

Marischal College played host a large demonstration on Saturday 24 January, as hundreds took to the city council’s offices to protest a development which will change the area’s character forever.

Directly across from Marischal College, one of Scotland’s most important modern buildings, another glass box office / retail complex will add to our growing collection of anonymous, soul-less architecture.

With the old St Nicholas House now torn down, space and light enters this part of the city; the Provost’s House and Marischal College are both set off to far better effect.

A natural civic square – if such a thing is really needed further to the Castlegate (which hosted a protest last Saturday for Charlie Hebdo solidarity) – exists where St Nicholas stood, which would have required hardly any money to create. Sadly, it seems that commercial interests override scale, the existing architectural environment, and the historic importance of the Provost’s House.

A protest was held at 1pm at Marischal College on Saturday 24 January; the protestors came from all walks of life and all age groups; at least 200 were there.

I spoke to some of those present; all believe that an opportunity has been lost at the site of the former St Nicholas House and Provost Skene’s House, a small historic structure which will be claustrophobically dwarfed by the glass box architecture Muse developments have agreed with the city.

What this will mean either for road traffic or for the city’s chronic air pollution issues (we have 3 of Scotland’s most polluted roads with air particulate levels well above European emission rules). But it seems certain the plans will go ahead.

Alan Spence said:

“I think it’s a complete waste of money; it’s a monstrosity that nobody wants.”

One of the prime organisers, Gordon Robertson, added:

“Last week’s protest had only about 30 or 40 protestors, hopefully with today’s turnout we can drum up more support and get more signatures… I just think the new building is far too big; it’s not in keeping with the style of the existing buildings. It’s not what the people want. We have six shopping centres already; we have offices … this just isn’t the place for this development.”

I spoke to Alan Morocco who likewise was protesting. He spoke about Dundee’s public spaces, and felt we compared badly besides that city. Morocco said:

“We got rid of one monstrosity and it appears we’re replacing it with another. I don’t think it’s in keeping with the area.”

Most of the protestors were citizens without any particular political axe to grind. However, some people showed up who just might have been there for political point scoring.

Kevin Stewart of the previous ACC administration was in the crowd.

Marischal protest (4)When he was in power, we saw land being sold at prices so low that Audit Scotland condemned the practices which cost the taxpayer dearly in terms of money and space.

Stewart of course had been instrumental in implementing the draconian cuts to social programmes which saw thousands take to the streets in protest.

His particular time in the city council didn’t exactly take the views of the citizens into account when it came to budget cuts or to developments either; that government’s fondness of developers saw parcels of land handed to developers like Stewart Milne for small amounts of money and allowed longstanding environmental protection to be swept aside at Loirston Loch.

Tom Smith of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust was there – although there seems to be no record of his group – which was poised to take over Common Good Land in the form of Union Terrace Gardens for the £190 million ‘granite web’ project – objecting to the Muse plans formally.

As a formal objector to the plans myself, I had been one of many people given an opportunity to address the full council on the matter – but by the time the full council was to meet, the plans seemed all but finalised to me. It would be wonderful to think that someone, somewhere in planning could look at the scale of this proposal, the problems it will bring, and even at this late date admit this is a huge – and very huge – error.

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Jan 082015
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryBefore I weigh in with the usual weekly attempt at satire, I hope you will forgive a few non-satirical comments in light of the slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, journalists and activists in Paris yesterday.

My paragraph order is shoddy today; my words are not going to be honed (yes, sometimes I do try) – but expediency is key this week I think.

Before the events of 7 January in Paris, I had nearly finished writing a piece on the role of protest and the different forms dissent can take. This was spurred on by several factors.

A USA Today article seemed to suggest that protests didn’t really do much, and that even if it seemed that there were many protests around the world in 2014, there weren’t that many, and they weren’t hugely successful.

That no dictatorships instantly toppled at the first sign of protest last year was taken as a proof that protests don’t amount to much. The Occupy movement was put down as being ‘a spent force’; and lip service was paid to events such as the Arab Spring and recent protests against police shootings in the USA.

Another factor was a local activist had given up on a campaign trying to save a local landmark. They felt that the city was going to do whatever it wanted to do anyway, despite what the people might want. This seems true most of the time – I doubt anyone will forget the Aberdeen budget cut protest march of 2008. Several thousand people marched, and alas there was little immediate good outcome.

It actually took time to get rid of some of the elected authors of the cuts to services – cuts that hurt the most vulnerable in society. At the same time we had been selling the family silver in the form of property for next to nothing; beneficiaries included local luminary Stewart Milne (as per articles past).

Then an artist expressed doubt as to the value of the political commentary some of their work made. Can music and art make any headway or have influence when it comes to the art of protest?

On a personal note, my annual Christmas satire on local events hasn’t been without some backlash. I’m used to that kind of thing now – my columns have seen me threatened with legal action (such threats have all come to nothing), the odd (and I do mean odd) personal attacks on social media, a threat with being reported to the Scottish Football Association (which backfired spectacularly), the odd whispering campaign; I’ve been personally threatened, and I earned the title ‘Odious Susannah’ from the Liberal Dems.

It just makes me more determined. But no one should have to pay for their beliefs, their right to legal expression and their creativity in any manner – least not with their freedom or their lives.

Many people are disgusted with the bias shown by media; our very own little city is a classic example of how the powerful prevail when they can exert control over the news.

When bias editorials commingle with factual articles, and there is no acknowledgement of the blatant bias on the part of those whose self-interest dictates what news is presented, we need more than ever voices from the artists, the songwriters, the disenfranchised for counterbalance.

The evidence supporting the power of protest art, demonstrations and satire is everywhere. To the discouraged and downhearted I’d say look around, take courage and carry on. Even when a petition, protest or campaign fails, you never know who may take inspiration in the future, or what seeds your ground work may sow.

Let’s see. John Lennon’s piano is currently on a peace tour. The Creedence Clearwater Revival Protest Song ‘Fortunate Son’ reignited debate when it was performed by John Fogarty, Bruce Springsteen and (the venerable) David Grohl at a veteran’s concert at the end of 2014.

The song highlights the iniquity in American society at the time of the Vietnam War (or conflict as the propaganda machine preferred to call it) – and it’s clearly still hitting a nerve and creating debate over 40 years later.

Satire is nothing new, and seems part of the modern human condition. From the early Greek satire The Frogs through Gulliver’s Travels, Gargantua to name but a few, writers and poets such as Milton and Dante created enduring literary classics when they embarked on scathing satire.

Magazines such as Charlie Hebdo and Private Eye have brought stories to light which other newspapers either ignored or picked up later (often claiming ‘scoops’ where Private Eye had already laid stories bare).

Music is memorable, is influential, and a great song will keep a story alive longer than a newspaper article or online story. We remember heroes and villains of the past and distant past precisely because of art and music.

Some may argue that protest and satire are pointless and ‘offensive’ respectively; I would respectfully argue in today’s high-surveillance, unequal, unfair, violent, corrupt climate that it is essential to get as many songs of protest and politics written as we can for the benefit of educating people today and for helping to record events and feelings for the benefit of generations to come.

JK Rowling may be best remembered for writing books for children about magic. What I got out of reading her works (besides some good old fashioned fun and adventure) is that people need to question authority and stand up to corrupt bureaucracy wherever they find it, and how badly wrong things can go when people are complacent or deliberately hide their heads in the sand.

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!” – J K  Rowling

The USA today piece’s author seems to feel that unless a protest, movement or act of defiance has some immediate, measurable outcome, it is an inconsequential failure. It’s just as well that the Suffragettes didn’t share that view. If we were to take this article as guidance and not bother to speak out, protest and act out, we would soon have the homogenous, repressed world order that many in power would like us to have.

Perhaps An Sang Su Ki should have backed down after the first year or two of her arrest?

As with any other endeavour, the only way failure is assured is to either allow complacency and inertia to end it, or for the prospect of failure to stop a movement starting in the first place.

Perhaps the State, the extremists and private interests would like people to believe that protests, protest music and art and political satire are worthless. But if protest is the privilege of people in a democracy, then surely propaganda is the tool of the powers that be against the people.

On a local level an anecdote comes to mind.

Several artists who were turned down for an arts grant from Aberdeen City Council contacted me with concerns about one of the grant recipients. This particular recipient was someone who worked for the council… giving out arts grants.

And the proposal they had which won funding over other artists? They created a short film showing all the positives of Aberdeen City which is veritably an advert for this city, warts removed.

As an artistic endeavour the film is not without merit. However, when you consider the job of an artist is in part to select and comment on the world around them, it is very handy indeed that the city and the artist could find no wrong in Aberdeen, and the resulting grant-winning project doubles nicely as a promotional piece for the city.

If you were to contrast this film with the gritty, excellent documentary ‘Run Down Aberdeen’ created by Fraser Denholm, it becomes apparent which is the more honest, holistic – and artistic piece of work.

Can a song have influence? Mark Edwards took Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, and used it as the unifying theme and inspiration for his Hard Rain project. This is a globally-touring photo essay on the state of the world, the good, the bad and the ugly; it makes the viewer question where we are, where we are headed, and what could and should be done to improve the lot of humanity and the state of our environment.

All this from a 3 minute song. If songs were without power, do we believe the major political parties would spend so much time worrying about what song to pick for their conventions?

Around the world journalists, activists, writers, musicians and artists languish in prisons because they have dared to stand up to dictators. In the West, we have a tradition of political satire which is to be preserved at all costs – as sadly some people have paid highly for this freedom.

The courtiers of Versailles were satirised in the extreme; the simple cartoons summed up succinctly the excesses and cruelties of the day for all to see. Did they contribute to the Revolution? Absolutely.

If art had no power, Picasso’s epic Guernica would not have been created in response to Spanish Civil War atrocities and would not have been hung in the United Nations building (where are the UN and what are they doing to protect the individual’s rights seems a fair question) – but that’s not the end of the story.

When the US decided to ‘help out’ Iraq in 2003, it despatched Colin Powell to the UN to break the news. The only problem was that painting. It commemorates the bombing by Germany of the Spanish town for no other reason than to test its new military air prowess. The painting was removed lest it stir up any anti-war sentiment.

The powerful don’t want you and me to take to the streets, to write letters or write songs, to pen cartoons or poems and will denigrate such acts. But make no mistake, the powerful understand the value of propaganda and the power of protest music and art.

I’m sure the USA Today writer has more experience, credentials and skill than I do (who doesn’t?). If his position that protests don’t matter is ever proven, let’s keep it our little secret. Please don’t tell Banksy, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Ian Hislop, Jello Biafra, Peter Gabriel, Doonesbury’s creator Gary Trudeau, Rage Against The Machine, Steve Bell, http://www.original-political-cartoon.com/, TV Smith, The Sex Pistols, etc. etc.

Definitely don’t tell Spitting Image’s creators Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn – for rumour has it they might bring the show back (and do we ever need it). And please don’t tell Charlie Hebdo. Do think for a moment what a drabber world it would be without these voices.

Someone sent me this lyric the other day; perhaps it sums things up rather nicely when it comes to why we need protest music, protest art, cartoons and satire:

“We’ll fight, not out of spite For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing”
– Jewel (Thanks Nicky Cairney)

But I think the fallen of Charlie Hebdo might have preferred it if I just carried on with a bit of satire this week as usual, so here goes. Thank you for bearing with me, and now it’s time for one quick definition.

Religion: (ancient archaic noun) Belief systems shared by individuals.

Many religious movements started with simple, peaceful intentions – ‘love one another’, ‘do no harm’ etc. etc. But sometimes a little violence, torture, war and guerrilla warfare is needed to spread the love.

All religions are valid. Confucianism and its passion for logic is just as valid as believing in an American who thinks some of us came from the Planet Zog and are really giant lobsters – who for a small fee can get higher up the cosmic pecking order. The use of any intellectual prowess to consider whether or not a religion has any redeeming features is offensive.

Criticising, doubting, questioning any religious group – be they Branch Davidians who believed in guns and child molestation, or extremists who want to save us by killing anyone who disagrees with them – is bang out of order.

Wanting to subjugate women, stone homosexuals and bisexuals and control freedom are all valid religious values and as such are not to be criticised. It is important to never question your own belief system, anyone else’s belief system, and to keep quiet. Occasionally it seems religion is being used as an excuse for violence, but that’s only if you’re a non-believer.

So if anyone’s looking for me after my eventual demise, look no further than the Lake of Fire in Hades. And please bring marshmallows, BrewDog and Jack D.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

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