Leeds ABC 2011 Report

The annual report of Leeds Anarchist Black Cross.

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With our small numbers, and more people than ever being sent to prison, 2011 has been another busy year for Leeds Anarchist Black Cross. Writing to prisoners, supporting them, giving advice when it is asked for, and also supporting those under arrest and facing the prospect of prison has been a daily reality. However, beyond this day to day work we have also managed to continue with our work of raising awareness of prison and of the prison struggle.

Most significantly perhaps, as part of Leeds ABC’s activities for May Day 2011, a dedicated website was launched. This has proved invaluable in terms of letting people know what is happening with the various prisoners and the cases we support, and it compliments our existing e-mail news service. We are still working on the site, but in addition to the news section, it already contains a list of the prisoners we support, advice on writing to them, graphics, articles by various prisoners, links to other ABC groups, and a list of our publications. We hope to expand and improve on it considerably over the coming months.

Leeds ABC have a well-stocked bookstall, which sells a range of Anarchist, antifascist and anti-prison publications as well as T-shirts, badges, benefit CDs, DVDs, etc. During 2011 we have done stalls everywhere from antifascist benefit gigs to Manchester Anarchist Bookfair. We are also now able to sell merchandise through our website, and the few remaining radical bookshops around the country (and beyond), as well as various distros, stock our publications.

Leeds ABC has now produced over a dozen publications, mainly pamphlets, most of which have been re-printed, and some of which are available in PDF form. As well as publishing a new edition of Mark Barnsley’s ‘If It Was Easy, They Wouldn’t Call It ‘Struggle”, in 2011 we published the text of a talk given in Holland in 2003, shortly after his release, and previously distributed as an audio CD. ‘Activism Is My Revenge!’ was, in part, a response to the infiltration into our movement of police spy Mark Kennedy, and it was done in co-operation with comrades in The Netherlands, who also published the pamphlet in Dutch.

Another new Leeds ABC pamphlet is ‘A Passion For Freedom’, which is an interview with our friend and comrade Jean Weir of Elephant Editions. The interview originally appeared in the anti-prisons magazine 325 and we were very pleased to be able to re-publish it as an A6 pamphlet. We published it as a benefit for Greek prisoners, with a third of the pamphlets printed being given to Elephant Editions and 325.

One of our earliest pamphlets was the Basque prisoner support group Salhaketa’s ‘Women & Prison’. A new revised edition is near completion and we hope to publish it early in 2012, either in hard-copy or as a downloadable PDF.

We were pleased to see our comrades in the London-based Legal Defence & Monitoring Group once again publish an updated version of their guide to arrest ‘No Comment’ in 2011, and this is one of many pamphlets we have been distributing. Our own ‘Writing To Prisoners’ guide has been revised and re-printed and can be downloaded as a PDF from the website.

As always, our biggest task has been supporting the many people who have been sent to prison, and 2011 has seen British prisons flooded to bursting point with victims of the State’s repression. Included in this number, along with thousands of other working-class people, are comrades from our movement. In particular, Leeds ABC has been very active in terms of supporting 20 antifascists charged with ‘conspiracy’ and put on trial (two separate trials in fact) in London. These comrades were not only from all over the country, but from all over Europe, and six of them were fitted-up and sent to jail. Our support for some of those targeted stretches back more than two years to the time of their arrest, and as well as supporting the antifascists on trial, we have of course been working hard to support those sent to prison. This has entailed raising awareness of the case and about their situation, writing articles, raising funds, writing letters, visiting, organising benefits, producing leaflets, and all the many things that constitute solidarity.

To support the imprisoned antifascists we have set up a support fund into which donations can be paid (details on the Leeds ABC website) and we are immensely grateful to the many groups and individuals, both here and abroad, who have contributed to it. In conjunction with our friends at the Anarchist print co-op Sabcat, we have been distributing two benefit T-shirts, with all funds raised going to the imprisoned antifascists.

As well as many articles about the case, we have also produced numerous graphics. Two poster designs have also been produced, and one of these has been distributed, in laminated form, around the country (and to a few places abroad) where it is on display in social centres, bookshops, pubs, squats, cafes, etc. Hundreds of copies of a 4-page leaflet about the case have also been produced and distributed, not least at the London Anarchist Bookfair, where several hundred were given out.

Among the benefits held in Leeds for the antifascist prisoners was a ‘Rebel Night’, with three performers (including one who is now sadly locked-up himself) performing rebel folk and protest songs from around the world. More recently a ‘Moonstomp’ ska night was held as a benefit, and we also benefitted from the Leeds gig played by Canadian Anarchist hip-hop duo ‘Test Their Logik’, as well as taking a collection at a punk and Oi all-dayer.

Thanks to the generosity of the movement we have been able to support the six UK antifascists very well, both in jail, and in the case of Thomas Blak, upon release. While Thomas is the first to get out, he has been deported to his native Denmark and excluded from the UK for 10 years. We are hoping that this exclusion order can be challenged and in the meantime are in regular contact with Thomas. We will be publishing an interview with him shortly, and we will certainly be continuing to work tirelessly in support of the others who remain behind bars, throughout, and beyond, their release.

Another antifascist we have been busy supporting is Jock Palfreeman, who is locked-up in Bulgaria. As well as distributing info on Jock’s case via the internet, we have produced various leaflets and posters in support of him and distributed the latter (again in laminated form) around the country. At the beginning of 2011 we also put on an Antifascist Film Day at Bradford’s ’1 in 12′ Club, which was organised to raise awareness of Jock’s case and to raise funds for him. We also did a banner-drop as part of our support for Jock during an International Day of Action.

Kevin Lane, is a miscarriage of justice prisoner Leeds ABC support, and as well as writing to Kevin we have been helping to distribute ‘plaques’ about his case around the country.

John Bowden, who has been in jail more than three decades, continues to receive direct support and solidarity from us, and we are always glad to help distribute the many articles John writes about all aspects of the prison struggle. Leeds ABC commissioned and published John’s pamphlet ‘Tear Down The Walls!’ And we have now made this available in PDF form.

Among the many original graphics produced by Leeds ABC is the Anarchist Black Cross graphic we use on our T-shirts. These have proved very popular and we hope to have more available shortly, together with T-shirts featuring two other original designs.

For some of those facing the prospect of prison, Leeds ABC continue to be a source of advice and information, and we are always happy to help prisoners and their families however we can. Other activities have been giving talks about imprisonment and the prison struggle, film showings, and organising regular prisoner card-signings at various events.

Leeds ABC are proud to be part of an international movement committed to supporting prisoners and we maintain good ties with our sister ABC groups and with other prisoner support organisations.

The year started with the national and international media tagging onto the three month-old story about undercover cop Mark Kennedy. Kennedy had taken a particular long-term interest in Leeds ABC members, as well as in the ABC elsewhere, especially our comrades in Berlin. His colleague Lynn Watson also attended at least one Leeds ABC benefit night together with another undercover cop, whose photograph we were pleased to be able to publish. The afore-mentioned pamphlet ‘Activism Is My Revenge!’ is our response to these scum.

Going into 2012, we see no sign of the need for our work declining and we only wish that more comrades would commit to playing a part in helping those from our class, and from our movement, who fall into the hands of the enemy. We have many activities planned already for the coming year, including an antifascist film festival, more benefits, and various talks; including hopefully the West Yorkshire launch of two new Elephant Editions books on the prison struggle, the long-awaited English translation of Xose Tarrio’s acclaimed autobiography Huye Hombre! Huye! and Adios Prision, a collection of true prison escape stories. We also have our own publishing projects.

If you would like to get involved with Leeds ABC, or you are interested in the Anarchist Black Cross, please get in touch. We are always in need of funds, and also of stamps, and both will be gratefully received (donations should be sent in the form of a postal order or as well-disguised cash). Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported us this year and we hope that we, and more importantly our comrades behind bars, can count upon your support in the coming year.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

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