Radical political analysis, commentary and discussion in Wales
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Open letter to Rodney Berman, leader of Cardiff Council

Dear Rodney Berman,

It is not often that the tide of world history ebbs around the moat of Cardiff Castle, but on Friday of last week a group of protesters set up camp just there as part of the “Occupy” movement that has been sweeping the globe. I’m sure you’ll have noticed these protest camps, whether at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, or on Wall Street in New York. Media reports currently suggest that there are 951 camps in 82 different countries. The protests are a demand for justice in the finance sector, a revolt against the avarice of a feral banking system that has brought economic misery into the lives of millions of poor people. This industry refuses to change its own behaviour or shoulder the burden of responsibility for its actions, yet is endlessly bailed out and molly-coddled by national governments who stand and stare in hypnotized awe at the cheap tricks of recalcitrant gamblers.

The protest in Cardiff began with a rally at the Aneurin Bevan statue on Queen Street, and then moved to the grass outside Cardiff Castle, where the demonstrators set up camp and proceeded to hold a meeting. This was widely covered in local media, and it was clear to anyone watching that the protest was good natured and entirely peaceful. Despite this, and despite the fact that the camp was not even blocking the pavement, much less disrupting the life of the city or posing a public order threat, South Wales Police took the decision to forcibly clear the camp at around 9pm in the middle of a heavy rain storm, arresting six people as they did so.

We are constantly told that we are now living in an 'age of austerity', and you’ll know this better than most as Cardiff Council tries to trim millions from its budget. But as hundreds of Cardiff Council workers lose their jobs, as council care homes are closed, and as you propose to charge young children for the use of sports facilities in the city, how can it be that money can be found to mount a police operation in the middle of the night against a group of people who were endangering no one? Cardiff now boasts a castle that will happily host a motorsport rally, but will not tolerate a small group of people on a small area of grass to stage a protest that was inconveniencing no one, obstructing no one, but which was merely making a claim for the '1%' who have caused this economic disaster to be held to account.

While I know that police operations are rightly independent of political control, I have two questions for you: are you proud of the repressive action of South Wales Police against the Occupy Cardiff camp? Are you happy to lead the council of a city that has now gone down in history as having one of the most intolerant reactions to one of the most peaceful demonstrations in recent times? Although you may not agree with everything the protesters had to say, while Greece burns, Italy struggles and the rest of us live in the shadow of recession, surely you can see that something has to change with the system that has brought the world to the brink of economic collapse. These people were harbingers of a better future, and as such should not have been driven off Cardiff’s streets in the middle of the night.

I look forward to hearing back from you at your convenience.

Best wishes,
Gareth Gordon.