Round 1996 | Two
years of Justice in Brighton
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.
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.
"358 people own
as much wealth as half the world's population." (UN Human Development
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)
"If present rates
of destruction continue, tropical forests have at most a decade
of life left." - (Norman
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?).
FOR A CHANGE
SOLUTIONS FOR THE FUTURE STUFFING HUNDREDS OF ENVELOPES
EVERY WEEK N YER FACE
STRESSED EVERYTIME THE WORD 'VAN' IS MENTIONED
DIY STORES IN THE YELLOW PAGES
OF 'SOCIOPATHIC CRIMINAL DROP-OUTS’ BLAGGING INTO EVERY
GIG/PARTY/FESTIVAL WITH THE STALL
A CONCEPT, A VISION
OFF YER ARSE AND GONG FOR IT
WOT DID THE SQUATTERS ESTATE AGENTS CLIQUEY (OOPS. NEGATIVE
CURVE LIKE THE NORTH FACE OF THE TIGER HOPE
TO BORING. GREY POLITICS'
OF LOCAL PEOPLE WHO MEET EVERY FORTNIGHT AND DECIDE TO
DO THINGS – AND DO THEM (MOSTLY!)
(CHECK THE PHONE ECHO!)
A SPACE FOR CHANGE
WHO PROTEST ABOUT EVERYTHING'
STILL GOING AND STILL GROWING
NO LEADERS, NO DOGMA
19 ANSWERPHONE MESSAGES BEFORE BREAKFAST
A NEW AWARENESS
OF EMPATHY, WIT, VISION & COMMUNITY SPIRIT
SENSE OF EMPOWERMENT AND FREEDOM
BIG IN BELGIUM
OFFICE SPACE BY THE LEVELLERS
TO BE USED
drop of truth in an ocean of bullshit