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On Saturday 10th there was a massive police operation in central London to control a passionate but mainly peaceful protest by up to 1000 Congolese people which began in Whitehall spread to Trafalgar square and ended with breakaway groups marching through the West End. In the latest example of 'Total Policing' 143 arrests were made.
Mainstream coverage has been minimal. Saturday's protest was the third that week. Tuesday saw serious clashes between police and hundreds of protesters outside Downing street. On Thursday evening Oxford Circus was briefly blocked forcing police to arrange for an empty train to ferry protesters to Seven Sisters station for dispersal in Tottenham. Serious stuff. but you'd be hard-pressed to find much about these events on the BBC or other mainstream media other than a brief report of 143 arrests, with no explanation of the issues other than it being 'a demonstration over election results'.
According to the very passionate voices on the streets tonight, the issue is years of mass rape, genocide, and repression in the (with UN estimates of more than 5 million, nearly a tenth of the population murdered in the past decade) and the Western states' support for an illegitimate leader instated after rigged elections. The protesters believe that Joseph Kabila, who this week was announced as clear leader in the first democratic elections in the country in 40 years, is a corrupt Rwandan military man with a private army of 7000 soldiers backed by Western interests. They believe that his opponent Etienne Tshisekedi received the lion's share of the popular vote, with estimates of support above 50%.
It is not hard to see why the western corporations would meddle in the affairs of this huge country and install a puppet regime. It has vast mineral wealth, being the main world source of coltan (a mineral used widely in mobile phones), as well as cobalt, copper, uranium, gold, diamonds, tin, and zinc.
As is the rule in Africa, despite these huge resources, the standard of living of ordinary people in this rich country has been spiralling downwards for years. The Congolese protesters see Cameron, Sarkozy, and Obama as the three biggest hypocrites, looters, and supporters of the illegitimate regime responsible for the human rights abuses in their country. With the first results of the election coming out, they see Western support as a key ingredient in the rigged vote. That's why the Congolese ex-pats are out on the streets.
(Thanks Rikki for this piece. To see the complete original article on London Indymedia, click here)
Below is a first-person account of Saturday's demo by London based activist Skywarrior.
Millions die, get raped and are displaced, just so you can have your shiny new iPhone. The precious metals that make these devices possible are sourced in Africa, not without a heavy cost on the African people. These peoples don’t benefit from any of this mining. That’s the thing about capitalism, it’s only the 1%. However, To describe the Congolese people’s as the 99% is somewhat misleading. The 99% are listening to free concerts by Radiohead and tweeting about it on their cool new smart phones. Yes I know, something wrong with this picture. I had known for quite some time about the carving up of Africa for it’s natural resources, I also was aware that the US had troops in Uganda, and that this all was connected to the downfall of Gadhaffi. It’s easy to be a left wing philosopher about all those things, but nothing prepared me for the raw emotion I experienced from the Congolese yesterday in central London.
Yesterday was just like any other Saturday, I had intended to do some revision for my exams in January, however, I decided to link up with my friend Maria at Parliament Square to chew the fat and discuss possibilities for 2012.
On arrival I was straight into a discussion about the attack on a Congolese protester by a member of Territorial Support Group, the protesters are calling for the election result in their country to be recognised. The member of the TSG had head butted the protester, breaking his nose, it’s all on tape.
Being there to support these people as brothers and sisters is not easy, that night a female activist was surrounded, she was there to film the police violence. The Congolese are very suspicious of being infiltrated, who would really blame them? Last night, I was questioned with suspicion, it felt dangerous at one point, one of the protesters informed me that it wasn’t safe for me to be there. I appreciated the advice, but been there done that, comes to mind. We were there to record the behaviour of the police, as the night unfolded I am glad we didn’t leave.
The night of the 9th of December they had deployed police horses, reports were that protesters nearly got hurt, this was all too familiar, reminiscent of the student protests, I was thinking they might use the same tactics. I must say, the Congolese people know how to protest. Some had arrived in partial military uniforms, many were singing and dancing. I fought the urge to join them.
It wasn’t long before my old friend QK 332 stealth FIT officer with the MET police turned up. I first encountered him last year, I particular nasty piece of work. I looked all over the Internet looking for a picture of him, with no luck. He wouldn’t escape the lens this time. I feel it is vitally important to turn the tables on the intimidation employed by the MET, especially from the would be spooks in Forward Intelligence. QK332 always teams up with a female officer.
Within a few hours of the protest the Congolese started to dance up and down in the protest pen that had been constructed on the pavement far away from Downing St. They were carrying a fake coffin with a crucifix, to represent all this that have died at the hands of Western appointed dictators. The Met police looked scared, maybe they wished for the students to be back on the streets. Easy prey for their batons and horses.
After a while, the chanting, singing and dancing paid off, a massive group of protestors broke through the police lines, like a knife through butter. Whitehall was blocked. It wasn’t long before fireworks were being set off and thrown, some nearly making it into Downing street, many hitting the War Cabinet rooms, oh! The irony. This was the cue for the police to put on their NATO helmets, it was also a good opportunity for them to deploy snatch squads. Little did they know that this would end in very red faces among the top brass. My comrade QK 332 was doing the spotting and seemed to be directing the snatches ( that doesn’t sound right). It was at this point that I was given advice to move away as it was dangerous for me to be there. I did move back a few metres and I am glad I did, it was at that point that a snatch moved it. Complete with it’s very own FIT team. The Congolese resisted and surrounded the cops, could this be really true? Was I witnessing the first reverse police kettle? They got quite a slapping, the look of fear on the face HT 496.
They weren’t going to bully these people, from what I sensed they had suffered enough. Many were displaying horrific pictures of of fellow Congolese who had been murdered. I decided to take a break, I had only sat down and a breakaway group ran past the cafe to take over Trafalgar Square and close the strand. Their singing, was music to the soul. The singing in unison, calling for real democracy, pleading with shoppers to listen. Trying to get those rushing to get their new gadgets to just take a moment and think of the real cost. I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion. These people were begging me to listen, I was listening more than they can imagine. I know what it’s like to live in conflict. I know what’s it’s like to have members of your community murdered, maimed and displaced. Maybe not on the sale of Africa, but it takes it toil. My feeing on it all, enough is enough. I can honestly say here that I can’t undo the hurt and pain that has already happened, but I can make sure from this point I don’t add to it. That’s why I for one will never buy another new laptop, smartphone or any other gadget. I had made this decision a few months ago, but I mean it now more than ever.
The mix of those shopping, getting drunk for Xmas parties and these Congolese was surreal. The most disturbing incident of the night happened when the crowd moved to block another part of the strand. Jeremy Hunt, known protagonist with the Forward Intelligence Team, MD 187 assaulted a young girl of 15, despite her protests, he grabbed her by the throat, shoving her off the road. I have met Jeremy a few times, but he wouldn’t remember me. I am sure when he tucks into his Christmas dinner and his children unwrap their new iPads, paid for with his overtime. He will reflect on that young girl. Who knows, maybe a little crocodile tear will roll down his face as he imagines the blood dripping from that device. The life blood of innocents.
When you talk to an officer from Forward Intelligence the whole conversation is recorded. SO DONT TALK TO THEM.
Show your solidarity with the people of the Congo
The next demo by pro-democracy Congo protesters is on Wednesday the 14th Dec, leaving the Congolese Embassy 45-47 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LT (nearest tube, Oxford Circus) at 11am for Downing Street.