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GM crop-stomping protest! - 18 July 1999
A selection or reports.
Stop the Crop National Rally
personal account by Keith Parkins via the ALLSORTS mailing list
Coaches from around the country headed for the rally. As the site was approached, Police road blocks were encountered. Ironically, the only people the Police were letting through were the protesters and the media (who were out in force). Already on site were TV crews with their satellite dishes. The site could not have been better located, a field on top of a hill, opposite the GM crop.
A farm trailer had been converted into an impromptu sound stage. Food, drink, and a herbal medical centre were available on site During the afternoon, the protesters were entertained by speeches and music. The speakers included Alan Simpson MP (Labour Member for Nottingham), food writer Lynda Brown (local resident), and environmental writer and journalist George Monbiot.
Alan Simpson told the crowd how it was only mass civil disobedience that changed anything, gave an insight into the power of global corporations and the undue influence they were having on government; Lynda Brown told how this was the only issue food writers had ever felt sufficiently concerned about to campaign on, that it was a gut reaction that something was rotten, GM was not needed and was doing nothing to improve the quality of food; George Monbiot launched a scathing attack on the flawed basis of the experiment that was going on across the road and the global corporations who were engaging in exploitation and neo-colonialism.
During the afternoon, protesters were handed out a leaflet, detailing the agenda, and a map of the site. On the back was legal advice in case of any problems with the Police.
After the speeches, everyone was to leave the rally site, line up in two columns, then in a clockwise and anticlockwise direction, walk around the test site using lanes and public footpaths. The protesters had only got a short distance along the road in either direction, when individually and spontaneously, they all headed straight to the test site and started wandering across the field.
Of the 500 protesters attending the rally, virtually all those present, clad in white biohazard suits and wearing face masks (a necessary precaution against pollen and the sprays that had been used on the field), all walking across the field to the sound of Pink Floyd. Standing on the sound stage it was an amazing sight to watch.
The small handful of Police standing in the road (far fewer than at the picnic two weeks previous) were outflanked. There was little they could do, other than radio for help, and watch, trying very hard, and not very successfully, not to laugh. The Police too, than went into the test field, though not to accost the protesters but to seek shelter under the trees from the hot sun.
It didn't take long for Police reinforcements to arrive. A Police helicopter arrived on the scene and then hovered around for about an hour filming the action below.
A long time later, maybe an hour, Police reinforcements started to arrive en masse, but still heavily outnumbered by protesters. A small posse of Police then headed into the crops, trampling down more crops than the protesters. Most of the protesters had by this time left the test site to visit the Alternative Model Farm.
A hard core of protesters were left in the field. With a large number of Police assembled, the press reported 80, the mood started to turn ugly. Up until then there had been a good rapport between the Police and the protesters. The new arrivals were psyching themselves up for action, the body language was different, and they were clearly out looking for trouble.
It looked like the Police may be considering going into the field and rounding up the hard core, but they were pre-empted by the protesters waltzing back out of the field. The Police ran up the road to block them off, and physically blocked off the road by weight of numbers. By this time the cavalry had arrived, a couple of Police motor cyclists, and Police on horseback.
The Police opened up the road block, and, to the cheer of all the onlookers, the protesters peacefully walked down the road, arm in arm heading towards the rally site.[At this point all those without suits were being protected by those in suits and everyone was singing "We'll meet again" - it was an amazing moment.]
As the field gate was approached, a handful of Police officers launched a brutal attack on two or three of the protesters. There was no provocation, the protesters were peacefully walking down the road, there had been no calling of insults or taunting of the Police, it was Police brutality pure and simple.
Those involved simply laid into protesters, they were nothing better than thugs in uniform. One girl was grabbed by the hair, and had her hair pulled out by the roots, another protester was wrestled to the ground, down the side of a Police motorcycle, Police fists flying, another protester was wrestled to the ground, sat on by a fat overweight officer, then dragged along the road a short distance, face down.
Several officers were involved in violent assaults on individual demonstrators. Whether this was action under orders, if so whose orders, is not clear. It looked as though the officers had it in for those targeted, and the attacks were personal, rather than randomly picked on protesters.
Other protesters were then pushed, jostled and herded towards the Police horses. It was sheer luck that no one fell under the horses hoofs and was seriously injured. The officers on horseback appeared to be losing control with the horses prancing all over the place.
A tense several minutes ensured whilst the protesters retreated back into the field. The gate was shut to prevent Police getting into the field and the Police in turned blocked the gate to stop protesters leaving. If it hadn't been for the protesters keeping their cool and maintaining control over the situation, something the Police seemed incapable of due to the action of a few rogue officers, a nasty situation could have turned very nasty and spiralled out of control.
A few of those present with more sense than the Police went round asking everyone to stay calm and not be provoked by the Police. The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police should launch an immediate investigation into the failure of his officers to exercise crowd control (in fact no crowd control was necessary), and to root out those officers who were involved in violence and kick them out of the force, as there can be no place for thugs in uniform if the public is to have any confidence in the force.
If these officers can engage in violent assaults in broad daylight, before many witnesses, it begs the question as to what they get up to when out of sight. The Police Complaints Authority should launch an immediate investigation. What had been a peaceful, enjoyable and successful day, was marred by uncalled for Police violence and brutality.
Those who witnessed the event, were shocked by what they saw. Those who had been on past peaceful protests said past experience had taught them what to expect and this was nothing new. It cannot even be claimed that the Police panicked as they were not under any threat.
Someone, whether the individuals involved, or orders from above, took a decision to attack peaceful protesters. Genetic Engineering Network, has asked that anyone who was an eye witness to the Police violence or to anyone being arrested with excessive and unreasonable force to contact their London office immediately.
Any photos or video recording of the event would be very welcome. Genetic Engineering Network - tel 0181 374 9516 e-mail both firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
[WORD OF CAUTION -Any named protesters could be accused of engaging in criminal damage. But who are the criminals, the protesters who have tried to stop a major biohazard, or Lord Macclesfield and a biotech company in collusion with the British government who are deliberately contaminating the countryside with a biohazard?
As the coaches left, the protesters smiled and waved to the security men lounging on a landrover, the security men smiled and waved back. Throughout the day, security men and protesters stayed on friendly terms.
[Some of them even cut through the barbed wire fence on the meeting site so that people could get away from the police violence]. The security men showed a great deal more professionalism than the so-called professionals (excluding the officers who were there at the beginning who caused no problems). The occupation of the test site by several hundred protesters was one of the largest acts of civil disobedience seen in the country.
Stop The Crop: The Watlington Rally
personal account by Phil Chandler
On Sunday 18th July 1999, hundreds of British citizens took the law and several acres of genetically modified oilseed rape into their own hands.
At a farm-scale AgrEvo test site near Watlington, Oxfordshire, a peaceful gathering of white-clad protesters calmly walked past a handful of police and into the crop. Two hours later, the greater part of it lay flattened and unharvestable, rendering the test useless.
Thames Valley police seemed unsure how to respond. This was a situation they had clearly not been trained to deal with: several hundred ordinary people openly committing a non-violent yet criminal offence under their noses and in broad daylight.
No doubt they would have known exactly what to do had the crowd been armed and attacking them, and their frustration finally showed itself in a provocative set-piece manoeuvre at the end of the action when, having sent for reinforcements, they linked arms and used horses to intimidate the protesters, closing in on the end of a line of people returning from the test site onto the gathering field. A mounted policeman lifted one woman by her hair, and in front of TV cameras it was made to look as if the jubilant and good-humoured crowd was an angry and violent mob.
Most of the time, the police seemed more intent on making home videos than trying to stop the action taking place. They filmed people getting off the half-dozen coaches which arrived from all over the country. They filmed people listening to music by Seize the Day from Glastonbury and Hunters Moon from Totnes, and they filmed them listening to speeches from Labour MP Alan Simpson and among others journalist and campaigner George Monbiot.
From a helicopter hovering over the test site they filmed people wearing white decontamination suits. What use they make of the footage remains to be seen, and several newspapers reported Thames Valley police/ís intention to "track down everyone they could find" and charge them with causing criminal damage. But the real criminals will remain uncharged.
They are the representatives of our government who allowed the planting of a wind-pollenated genetically altered crop in the open Oxfordshire countryside. They are the scientists who think they have a license to tinker with nature and expose us and our environment to their cynical, profit-motivated experiments.
They are the directors of the biotech corporations who regard us as mere demographic data in their egoistic drive to conquer international markets and bludgeon the world into submission to their will. It is they who should be charged with criminal damage, and negligence, and assault on our freedom to choose not to be a part of their brave new corporate world.
The people who were at Watlington on that hot July Sunday, varied though they were in age and aspirations, were united in one respect: they knew they were fighting a desperate, bare-handed battle in a one-sided war.
Ranged against them were billion-dollar interests and a deaf government. On their side was the knowledge that they were representing the desire of the great majority of the British people to be rid of the unwanted, un-needed and un-called-for products of corporate imperialism which threaten to contaminate forever our food and our countryside.
They knew that this was an historical moment - ordinary people driven to openly defy a law which protects capitalism and denies them their rights.
Those who were there can be justly proud of their action. They were there to stand and be counted; unfortunately a task beyond the abilities of some of the journalists present, notably the BBC reporter. If challenged, most of them will, I suspect, be proud to say they were there and they played their part. It remains to be seen if the government takes note and finally listens to the will of the people.
© Phil Chandler 1999
MULTI-COLOURED SWAP SHOP
from SchNEWS Issue 221, Friday 23th July 1999
Protestors attending a 'Stop the Crop' rally in Oxfordshire last Sunday, did just that. About 400 hundred people donned bio-hazard suits and de-contaminated (read trashed) one of the UK's largest genetic farm scale trials. The 25 hectares of genetically modified oilseed rape was one of six major GM crop trials currently taking place in the UK. The rape at Model Farm has been modified to tolerate the AgrEvo corporation's 'Liberty' herbicide, killing all other nearby wildplants dead. Pollen from oil seed rape is also known to travel 2.5 km on the wind, and bees and other insects aren't too clued up on telling the difference, leading it's feared to so called 'superweeds'.
Gene pollution is not the only problem. A recent experiment in the US, revealed that the Monarch butterfly was poisoned by contact with pollen from crops which are modified to contain herbicide. Six people were arrested and the police droned on as per usual about "a peaceful and enjoyable day for many people has been spoilt by the criminal actions of a few." The cops are also threatening to study footage taken by the police helicopter - but with everybody looking the bloody same, SchNEWS wonders have the dirty perverts got x-ray cameras.
Despite claims by the bio-tech industry that genetic engineering would reduce the use of pesticides, statistics from the US Department of Agriculture from 1997 show that expanded plantings of Roundup Ready soybeans (i.e. soybeans genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide) resulted in a 72% increase in the use of glyphosate.
Genetic Engineering Network, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel 0181 374 9516
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