Home | SchNEWS Round 1996 | Two years of Justice in Brighton

Justice? Brighton’s Campaign in Defiance of the Criminal Injustice Act

Justice? Two Years

Recounting two exciting years of Justice in Brighton from the Courthouse to SchNEWS to the Direct Action Conferences, Community Allotment and beyond...

IN THE BEGINNING...

"a quickly put together office containing nothing but lots of paper and the energy of those who run it " (Evening Argus)

Justice? defies not just the law, but definition. It used to be simple. We were ‘Brighton's Campaign Against the Criminal Justice Bill’ (hence the name - clever, heh?). The desk was a kitchen table, the office: Gail's bedroom. "On the desk is a motto: a task without vision is drudgery, a vision without a task is a dream." The task was to go all out to scream and shout about this horrible new shadow, this strange hotch-potch of prejudices masquerading as a law. An alien and dangerous invasion into people's lives and lifestyles. That was in the summer of ’94. The vision just keeps on growing - the possibilities boundless.

THE COURTHOUSE...

"Temporary Autonomous Zone: a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere " (Hakim Bey)

Q. What happens when hundreds of people who don't know each other spontaneously renovate, run and maintain an entertainment and information centre 24hrs a day, seven days a week?

A. Pure magic. For six weeks two dozen people schemed, plotted and planned from scratch to take over a empty, derelict in-yer-face building as a protest and a meeting place. Everyone had a piece of the whole sketch. Some knew the law, how to crack the squat. Some knew how to run a cafe, others an art exhibition space. There was a crèche posse, plumbers, electricians, chippies, sparkies. But no-one could have been prepared for what happened in the next 51-days, the waves and resonances that can still be felt today two years down the line. It was the trigger for the sweet gun of party and protest - the birthplace of a million dreams.

Overnight, well, over three nights the old Courthouse (poetic Justice?) opposite the Royal Pavilion on Grand Parade was occupied and transformed beyond belief. Over 1,000 people a week came through its doors. Three times a day meals for hundreds of people miraculously appeared. Workshops, giant cinema screenings, choir practice, meditation, live bands, theatre, poetry nights - a struggle as a celebration. Nowadays it sits as a ghostly reminder, still empty and boarded up after the eviction, but the spirit lives on.

THE SchNEWS....

"358 people own as much wealth as half the world's population." (UN Human Development report 96)

We took a mental techno track - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! THE WORLD IS UNDER ATTACK! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! - as our theme and launched an orgy of information. Imagine a newsletter that doesn't completely bore the arse off you with long-winded meaningless crap - from Bougainville to Belfast, from Newbury to new & nasty laws, SchNEWS covers the world with a network of intrepid reporters armed with the latest computer technology. Its dedicated team of highly professional office workers, writers, designers & printers (!) deliver you the news from nowhere - DiY-stylee, for free and for freedom. We continue to knock it out once a week and it grows and it grows, it builds and it builds. READ IT! (see ad). Even before the printed version began, SchNEWS was reviving the olde idea of reading the news aloud in public. This year it took to the road on the SchLIVE! tour with our mates Conscious Cinema (01273 278018) for a wonderfully successful multi-media anti-roadshow. Look out for us on the Levellers tour in the autumn...

THE CONFERENCE ...

"The most bizarre conference ever held in Brighton." (Evening Argus)

Brighton's first direct action conference was held in a disused (until squatted!) Bingo Hall in the centre of town. Speakers and workshops covered just about everything that you could think of. How people should spread out from single-issue campaigns to a wider issues such as struggles against the state, anti-roads, animal rights campaigns, prisoner support and even a self-defence class.

"I think they're nice, but mad."

Over 600 people turned up from all over the country and some from even further afield! The conference was intended to get people together who were already active in various direct action campaigns and people who had never been involved and people who just walked in off the streets to see what was going on. Hopefully people went home realising that there's more to life than either sitting at home moaning about things or just getting involved with single issue campaigns.

We finished off the day with a party that has been hailed as one of the best ever in Brighton by some of the biggest and best party goers around. There were five sound systems and Kamikaze radio, a local pirate station there with 2000+ (police surveillance estimates). Through donations at the door Justice? raised almost enough money to get their van which regularly took people to the Newbury bypass campaign.

As this book is being written, we are preparing for another intense weekend: Saturday 23 November, 1996 - Direct Action Conference II, with people expected from all kinds of groups and places, and featuring workshops, discussions, practical training, food, a crèche, and a major party. SchNEWS will record our ideas on "where do we go from here?"

"The concept of a single issue group is now meaningless. Campaigns about transport, housing, jobs, local communities' needs, civil liberties - they're all linked up because they're all about people standing up to a system that offers most people very little indeed. Direct action protesters know this and are making more and more links all the time." (Direct Action Conference flyer)

THE ALLOTMENT

"If present rates of destruction continue, tropical forests have at most a decade of life left." - (Norman Myers)

We do chill out (sometimes!). Up on the sunny banks by Moulscombe train station we are growing a forest. A tiny replica of a natural ecosystem, the allotment provides safe organic veg with minimal labour and maximum yield. Called 'forest gardening' it shows how planting a seed is a political act and stands as a practical positive vision for the future. There is hope!

THE END OF THE BEGINNING ...

"A single act of defiance is worth a thousand angry words"

We ain't got all the answers (who has) and it's easy to criticise behind your pint/spliff and slag us for everything that's wrong but it's only people's involvement that changes things. It'd take a book to rival the length of War & Peace to do justice to Justice? and all the crazy tales to go along with it. Heady days, indeed. Thing is, I think we are still on the first chapter. It's a long way to Mardi Gras, baby.

Justice? can be contacted on (01273) 685913. Or write to: Justice? c/o on-the-fiddle, PO Box 2600, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 2DX.

To subscribe to SchNEWS, "the protest movement's national newsletter", send 1st class stamps (e.g. 20 for next 20 issues) or donations (payable to Justice?). ENJOY!

Justice? Is…

  • POSITIVE DIRECT ACTION

  • INFORMATION FOR A CHANGE

  • PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE STUFFING HUNDREDS OF ENVELOPES EVERY WEEK N YER FACE

  • HIGH PROFILE CAMPAIGNING

  • FEELING STRESSED EVERYTIME THE WORD 'VAN' IS MENTIONED

  • NON-STOP MADNESS

  • LATE-NIGHT DEADLINES

  • HARDCORE MEETINGS

  • FULL-ON-PROTESTING

  • NO MONEY BUDGETTING

  • LISTED UNDER DIY STORES IN THE YELLOW PAGES

  • COMPLETELY ADDICTIVE

  • A BUNCH OF 'SOCIOPATHIC CRIMINAL DROP-OUTS’ BLAGGING INTO EVERY GIG/PARTY/FESTIVAL WITH THE STALL

  • ABOUT DEEDS NOT WORDS

  • AN IDEA, A CONCEPT, A VISION

  • A 'DISORGANSATION'

  • EXTREMELY ORGANISED

  • ABOUT GETTING OFF YER ARSE AND GONG FOR IT

  • FLUID, ORGANIC, EVOLVING

  • SYMBOLIC

  • TWO YEARS OLD

  • THAT LOT WOT DID THE SQUATTERS ESTATE AGENTS CLIQUEY (OOPS. NEGATIVE ONE!)

  • A LEARNING CURVE LIKE THE NORTH FACE OF THE TIGER HOPE

  • 'AN ALTERNATIVE TO BORING. GREY POLITICS'

  • A BUNCH OF LOCAL PEOPLE WHO MEET EVERY FORTNIGHT AND DECIDE TO DO THINGS – AND DO THEM (MOSTLY!)

  • BASED IN BRIGHTON

  • INTERNATIONAL NETWORKERS

  • UNDER SURVEILLANCE (CHECK THE PHONE ECHO!)

  • PARTY, PARTY, PARTY

  • LAGER, LAGER, LAGER!

  • CREATING A SPACE FOR CHANGE

  • 'A GROUP WHO PROTEST ABOUT EVERYTHING'

  • MIRACULOUSLY STILL GOING AND STILL GROWING

  • NO MEMBERSHIP, NO LEADERS, NO DOGMA

  • LOGGING 19 ANSWERPHONE MESSAGES BEFORE BREAKFAST

  • A NEW AWARENESS

  • A FORCE OF EMPATHY, WIT, VISION & COMMUNITY SPIRIT

  • A FRESH SENSE OF EMPOWERMENT AND FREEDOM

  • SETTING THE AGENDA

  • BIG IN BELGIUM

  • GIVEN FREE OFFICE SPACE BY THE LEVELLERS

  • A RESOURCE TO BE USED

  • A FUCKIN' GOOD LAUGH


A drop of truth in an ocean of bullshit

 


SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 0EF, England
Phone/Fax: +44 (0)1273 685913
email: schnews@brighton.co.uk

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