Thursday, October 29, 2009

London Greenpeace - a history of ideas, protests and campaigning [1971-2005]

ORIGINS - The London Greenpeace group has existed since 1971 as an independent group of activists. The group came together following the publication in Peace News in 1971 of a 'Green Peace' broadsheet - a compilation of ideas about how individuals could take practical action in their own lives to preserve the ecosystem. A number of Greenpeace groups grew up around the world, and in 1977 the Vancouver one established a centralised Greenpeace International, inviting London Greenpeace to help set up Greenpeace UK as a branch. But the London group refused, deciding to keep its autonomy and radical character.

HOW WE WORK - The original London Greenpeace has deliberately stayed as a small group of activists, without leaders, with decisions taken by initiative and consensus of all those involved. We encourage people everywhere to organise themselves to take practical action, and to network with others in order build up strong and lasting movements to effect real change. The people - not 'members' - who come to the weekly open meetings oppose the exploitation (in all its forms) of people, animals and the environment. Many opposition movements are growing in strength and continually learning from each other - including environmental movements, labour struggles, anti-car/roads campaigns, the women's movement, struggles for peace, for animal liberation, and anarchist-libertarian movements. We encourage people to think and act independently, without leaders, to try to understand the causes of oppression.

RECLAIMING OUR WORLD - Multinationals and governments dominate our lives and our planet, resulting everywhere in the exploitation and oppression of people, animals and the environment. And on top of this we are expected to put up with their propaganda! We call on people to get together, talk about these important issues and to fight back. We need to create a new society by taking direct control of our lives, workplaces, streets, neighbourhoods and land - a society based on co-operation and sharing between people, and harmony between people and the rest of nature. This means social revolution. Together ordinary people can reclaim our world, currently based on the greed and power of a minority, and create an anarchist society based on strong and free communities, the sharing of precious resources and respect for all life. The changes begin in our own lives and communities, now.

PEOPLE, ANIMALS, AND NATURE - NOT MONEY Organise Now For A Better World.
Join the struggle for human and animal liberation, health, ecology, and real life.

1921: War Resisters International (WRI) founded.

1936: Peace News (PN) founded. Anarchist revolution in Spain.

1960s: In the early '60s, large UK movement against nuclear weapons. Late '60s saw the growth of movements to defend the environment, for women's liberation, for internationalism, youth culture, street protests, wildcat strikes and general 'do-it-yourself' anarchistic/cooperative ideas.


1971: The influential Greenpeace broadsheet 'You And Your Environment' is published in Peace News. The group is founded by an individual involved in WRI & PN.

1970-74: The main work of the group is in trying to stop French atmospheric nuclear bomb tests at Mururoa Atoll (in the Pacific). Also campaigns to stop British, American, Russian, Chinese and also Indian bomb tests.

1972: Friends of the Earth (FOE) founded.

1973: In protest at the continued French atmospheric bomb tests, the group holds a London to Paris Walk. The walkers are stopped at the French border and attacked by the CRS (French Riot police). Walkers eventually get into France and demonstrate in Paris, including having a chain-in at Notre Dame

1974: The group co-founds the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). The group holds a number of marches in London against French bomb tests, then a rally at Trafalgar Square.

Ronnie Lee, who was involved in the group and the Hunt Saboteurs Association, is arrested for causing some 52,000 pounds worth of damage to vivisection laboratories and for immobilising boats that were about to be used to murder seals. Ronnie received 15 months in jail for these activities. On his 2nd imprisonment he was found in possession of 100 white mice that had been released from vivisection laboratories. Ronnie later founded the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

1974 onwards: The group starts its anti-nuclear power work.

1975: The trial of the "British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign 14" makes legal history at the Central Criminal Court - The Old Bailey. 14 people (including activists in the London Greenpeace group) are put on trial for "conspiracy to break the Incitement To Disaffection Act 1934" - ie. for handing out copies of the leaflet "Some Information for Discontented British Soldiers". After a ten-week trial, they are found Not Guilty.

1976: Works on the link between nuclear power and weapons and co-founds the Nuclear Information Network.

The Black Report, 1984
1977: At the start of the Windscale nuclear power (public) enquiry, the group holds a 'Mutants March' (in defiance of temporary bans on all Central London marches) to 'celebrate' the outcome of the enquiry. The group first highlights the activities of James Fisher & Sons, whose boats carry nuclear waste around the world. As Australia starts to export Uranium Yellowcake, the group alerts other groups in Europe and anti-nuclear activists in Liverpool where the boat carrying this yellowcake will be going into the port. The group holds pickets about the shipments at Australia house and at Tilbury Docks, while trying to persuade dockers to boycott boats carrying these loads.

The group affiliates to the National Peace Council. The Vancouver Greenpeace Foundation establishes its branch in Britain - Greenpeace Ltd - London Greenpeace decides not to join.

1978: The group becomes an associate of the War Resisters International.

The group co-founds the Stop Urenco Alliance. Urenco is the joint British/Dutch/German/Uranium enrichment company whose enrichment plant is at Capenhurst in Cheshire. In June, the Alliance holds its first demonstration at Capenhurst - a number of demonstrations and blockades were also to take place during 1978 & 1979. The group co-founds the Torness Alliance London Region which later becomes the London Region Anti Nuclear Alliance. The group is very active in the Torness Alliance. Torness was the only 'green-field' nuclear site in Britain at the time. The site, 30 miles to the East of Edinburgh, was earmarked for the building of an AGR (nuclear reactor) by the South of Scotland Electricity Board. Activists from the group (and others) occupied the site for six months, rebuilding 'Half Moon Cottage' on the site. In October, these activists were evicted but within 48 hours some 400 people arrived to take direct action on the site, obstructing, sitting in front of and within both JCB's and bulldozers. This camp was possibly the first UK such protest camp (in the '80s to be set up outside military bases, and in the '90s on planned motorway routes, airport extensions, outside vivisection labs etc).

1979: The group takes part in the Torness festival in May, which some 10,000 attend, while 3,000 people make their way over the perimeter fence and occupy the site - the machinery compound is seized and sabotaged. The largest anti-nuclear power direct action to date.

In June the group takes part in the first dockside direct action to stop nuclear waste being loaded up to be dumped at sea. The action at Sharpness Docks involves occupying four cranes and holds up the loading of the 'Gem' waste ship for some hours. The group establishes SAINT, which is one of the first attempts to monitor nuclear waste transport moving through London. This was later developed into a major campaign to stop this transport through London, including a march along the route.

Group supports indigenous Sami people under threat in Northern Scandinavia. Participates in anti-fascist campaigns.

The 1980s

1980: The group occupies the HQ of McAlpines, who are responsible for the Torness construction work.

1982: Campaigns against both sides in the Falklands War. About 10 people involved at this time.

1983-4: Initiates "Stop 'The City' - Protest And Carnival Against War, Oppression and Exploitation" - four separate day-long street blockades of the financial district ('The City') of London. One blockade [29.3.84] involved 3000 people and succeeded in causing a 100m pound shortfall on the day according to the London Times. 1000 arrests over 18 months. Group affiliates to the Federation of London Anarchist Groups.

1984-5: Supports "Stop 'The City' " type events in other towns. Supports the historic year-long miners' strike, raising money for women from a mining village.

1985: Launches highly popular campaign against McDonald's 'and all it stands for', with annual Fayres and Days Of Action.

Unilever, the world's largest food and consumer goods company, also becomes a focus for action in protest against Unilever's world-wide exploitation of humans and animals - and also to express solidarity with the 27 people who had been imprisoned for trying to expose this multinational's torture and murder of animals in their research laboratories in Bedfordshire. Supports a wide range of animal liberation campaigning.

Oct 16th, 'United Nations World Food Day' selected as the first annual world-wide day of action against McDonald's. About 20 regular activists in the group around this time.

1986: "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" 6-sided Factsheet produced.

Supports the Murdoch printworkers lock-out dispute in Wapping.

Helps launch campaign of defiance against new Public Order Act, brought in to attack the right to protest.

The group participates in protests to defend London's green spaces from development.

Organises 100-strong all-day picket of Unilever HQ.

Starting around this time and continuing into the late '80s, a regular programme of public meetings is organised around highly diverse issues (indigenous peoples, the police, industrial disputes, agriculture, sexuality, anarchism, multinationals, Ireland...). The group systematically develops stronger international contacts.

1987-8: Joins in actions in solidarity with aboriginal people's struggles for land rights - including protests inside petrol stations against BP mining operations.

Launches campaign against all State Borders in collaboration with Polish anarchists. About 30 activists involved in the group at this time.

1989-91: Campaigns against the IMF/World Bank. McDonald's agents begin an 18 month infiltration of the group.

1990 till 2000

1990: The successful Annual Fayre is transformed into a yearly general 'London Greenpeace Fayre' - up to 2,000 attend. McDonald's takes legal action (for 'libel') against activists involved with the group over the [out-of-print] 6-sided Factsheet, aiming to suppress grass roots protests and general criticism.

1991: McLibel Support Campaign takes off. As the huge scale of the battle (or war) with the McDonald's Corporation becomes apparent the group gradually concentrates more and more exclusively on McLibel.

1992: The group help initiate the London-wide 'Reclaim The Streets' Network.

1994: McLibel Trial starts - the campaign grows from strength to strength. London Greenpeace "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" flyers become (by the end of the trial) possibly the most widely distributed and famous protest leaflets in history (translated into 26 languages and handed out in over 40 countries - 3 million distributed in the UK alone during the 7 years of the case).

1995: First annual day of action in solidarity with McDonald's workers - October 12th pickets at 15 company stores.

1996: Huge and comprehensive 'McSpotlight' website launched on the Internet - soon becomes a legendary global resource for researchers and campaigners. McLibel trial becomes the longest trial in English history.

1997: 'McLibel' book published. A three hour TV 'reconstruction' of the trial is broadcast. McLibel verdict given in June - over 450,000 London Greenpeace flyers are given out in the following week (outside over 500 of McDonald's 750 UK stores, and around the world) to celebrate the campaign's 'McVictory'. (Media dubbs trial 'the worst corporate PR disaster in history'). Within a month McDonald's abandons all legal efforts to halt the distribution of the leaflets. A Global Week Of Action against McDonald's is held in October.

By November, London Greenpeace moves 'beyond McLibel', looking for fresh energy and initiatives. A group leaflet "What's Wrong With Shell?" is widely circulated.

Participate in international 'No Shop Day'.

Group help launch and coordinate an anti-censorship defiance campaign following the jailing (for 3 years each) of 3 editors of 'Green Anarchist' for 'incitement' (ie. for reporting news of environmental and animal rights direct actions - known as the 'Gandalf' case). Case eventually collapses.

1998: Launch new educational campaign and leaflet, "What's Wrong With The Body Shop? - a criticism of 'green' consumerism".

Do an international mailout with a range of new leaflets, and also call for another McLibel Day of Action on the anniversary of the trial verdict - this time focusing on local protests and showings of the independent ‘McLibel’ documentary which had been suppressed by the TV networks.

We hold a well attended ‘re-union’ of former and current collective members, showing the 1984 Stop ‘The City’ video. There is discussion about calling a new Stop ‘The City’ - coincidentally people in Reclaim The Streets have a similar idea at this time. A joint meeting launches a process leading to a international day of action against capitalism to be held in financial centres on June 18th 1999 (known as ‘J18’).

1999: A 23-day McLibel Appeal results in more damaging publicity against McDonald’s.

‘J18’ a huge success around the world. 10,000 in London hold a ‘Carnival Against Capitalism’ all over ‘the City’ for the whole day. The momentum develops and grows into a global anti-capitalist movement.

London Greenpeace Choir formed for impromptu sing-songs (Eg. Cows With Guns’ goes down a storm when the choir sings at the Earth First! activist camp). The group organises a ‘Free The World’ bike ride, distributing a range of new leaflets.

After 2000

2000: Meetings go monthly, then cease. McLibel defendants launch case in Europe against the British Government and its unfair and oppressive libel laws.

2001: At a special meeting in January 2001 we decide to suspend activities till further notice, with the option to revive the group in the future. A statement is agreed.

2002 - 2005: Hold annual LGP meetings.... 6 - 12 attend.

2005: McLibel case in Europe ends with a legal victory and massive publicity. An extended and improved McLibel documentary is shown on BBC, and released as a DVD (with information about the ideas and history of London Greenpeace). The DVD is publicly launched at a McLibel Victory event in April on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the McDonald's Corporation, and celebrating 20 years of the global campaign against the company. Over 100 people attend, and agree to call a general Freedom To Protest conference.

In October, 230 people from 80 local and national organisations attend the first ever Freedom To Protest Conference and pledge to continue to support each other, campaign and protest in the face of ever repressive laws against dissent.

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