Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
Dadansoddiad a thrafodaeth radicalaidd o wleidyddiaeth yng Nghymru
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The occupation of Cardiff begins

Friday 11th November was the beginning of Occupy Cardiff. Taking its inspiration from the worldwide movement with numerous recent occupations, including one outside Saint Paul’s cathedral in London and Wall Street in New York based on the revolutionary Arab Spring. New York has had eyes on it the world over and the London occupation has been a subject of public scrutiny owing to disputes over land that the church originally gave and a resignation from a cantor over concerns of violence over the eviction. The movement claims to be occupations "of the 99%", a term used by demonstrators to signify the disparities within income and power; the working class being the 99% and the rulers the 1%. Occupy actions have sprung up here in the UK outside of London, in Bristol, Glasgow, Nottingham and elsewhere. So it was only a matter of time before the movement came to Cardiff.

After meeting at 2pm in the centre, the occupation started setting up tents just outside of the castle on Kingsway. There were signs from Cymedeithas yr Iaith (Welsh language society), and a broad spectrum of men and women of all ethnicities, religion and political beliefs were there. As were the local chapter of ‘Food Not Bombs’, a counter-culture movement that highlights food wastage by collecting unused and unwanted food from markets and such, and then cooking and serving it to people. Police presence was well felt at this point.

The evening started in warm spirits, a few left to grab a yurt to assemble, and a local politician appeared. Neil McEvoy, deputy councillor of Cardiff Council, the leader of the Plaid Cymru group and a former assembly candidate for Cardiff West. He claimed that Occupy Cardiff was really an occupation about an
“independent Wales"
and if we weren’t part of The UK, we would have a
“totally different system”.
He offered occupiers to set up in Callaghan Square, behind the train station away from the centre. Nobody wanted to take it, and vehemently opposed his hijack of the cause for Welsh nationalism after a collective debate. People were there from the wide political spectrum; and after all, who was McEvoy to jump on this horse? Even if there was an independent Wales, there would still be rulers and therefore, a 1% and a 99% to oppose them.

Soon enough someone else from the council read a served with a notice of eviction and lots more police appeared, if McEvoy, as a councillor, supported the Occupation so much, why is it that he wasn’t there? Police also announced that Cadw, the Welsh government's heritage body that looks after the castle, weren’t happy that the outside of the building was being used in such a manner. Initially, the police refused to take questions that called them to explain the laws they just read out, until cajoled by a legal observer.

Inevitably, police evidence gathering teams were also there with cameras, without asking permission to film of the people there, and refusing to ask questions as to why they were filming the crowd. There were large number of police all day whose presence increased as the event went on, they warned people that they would use force to enforce a byelaw from 1875 to remove tents as soon as people started erecting them.

Sure enough the heavens were already opening, the video of the eviction shows the police using heavy handed tactics against the wholly peaceful protestors. The footage shows no resistance, just the police pushing and jostling people in an attempt to try and provoke physical violence from the peaceful protesters to try and blacken the name of the movement. There were even mounted police on horseback as officers ‘closed in’ on the people. They warned there was nothing
“we can reasonably say or do to make you leave the area”
a very ominous statement, indeed. The small patch of sodden grass was seen as an illegal protest zone; With the maximum fine for breaking the byelaw being £2, police used Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, legislation that’s commonly used against travellers, brought in in 1994 as anti-rave legislation. The legal criteria used is:
"that any of those persons has caused damage to the land or to property on the land or used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards the occupier, a member of his family or an employee or agent of his”
which didn't take place. Six people were arrested for violation of this law, one of them was a seventeen year old boy who is currently doing his A Levels.

It seems that "A Right to Peaceful Assembly” and the “Right to Freedom of Expression” enshrined by EU Constitution under the Human Rights Convention and therefore in British Law under 1(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 were overruled by Cardiff Council. Was this the best they could find to evict the occupiers? In the recent wake of the London riots and student demonstrations the police fhave been criticised for being "unprepared". Perhaps it was this criticism of the police that lead the ones in Cardiff last night to be so heavy handed. The eviction digging up rarely used laws, manipulating them, and using force against wholly peaceful people. 100 demonstrators surely do not warrant this amount of police, with a few of them on horses and with with tasers.