Cui bono? – notes on the Bristol riots

24 Mar

The first-past-the-post system doesn’t work. Our only form of democracy left is protest. And now they’re trying to take that away. Deri Smith, aged 22.

Let’s start with the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill. I referred to this a few days ago, citing and summarising a good WSWS piece1 as follows:

  • The Bill adds to Spy Cops – Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act – which became law on March 1 and authorises enforcement agencies to do things “which would otherwise constitute criminality”. The Court of Appeal ruled on March 9 that MI5 may legally commit serious crimes.
  • Just 34 Labour rebels voted against Spy Cops. Keir Starmer had meant to whip the party to abstain on the Police Bill too. Only in the wake of Clapham Common did he switch to a stance of token opposition to a bill certain to pass regardless.
  • Such legislation was borne of the XR protests of 2019, and pursued with greater urgency after the international George Floyd protests last summer – “which the ruling class recognised as anticipating a far broader eruption of class struggle”.

That post notes Labour’s dithering over the Bill. Only now, with passage onto the statute books a foregone conclusion – and events at Clapham Common having stirred the kind of widespread unease even Keir Starmer’s eviscerated party could not be seen to ignore – does it offer token resistance. In a moment we’ll see a small but telling sign of Labour’s cowardice (or worse). For now, here’s Jonathan Pie in six minutes of characteristically high octane musing on what the Bill has in store for us.

That was a week ago, on March 17. By the night of March 21, images and video beamed across the world’s screens were showing peaceful protest, over this power grab in the making, morph into one of the most violent riots Bristol – no stranger to civil disobedience – has seen.

Que pasa?

Must we be swivel-eyed conspiracy theorists2 to marvel at the timing? How neatly it serves as demonstration of the need for precisely such a thing as a Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act!!! The convenience for TPTB can hardly – swivel-eyed coincidence theorists excepted – be ignored.

With that in mind, here’s a far from swivel-eyed Dan Astin-Gregory, a man who, incidentally, has made a name for himself at the sane end of lockdown opposition. Now we see him pacing the streets around New Bridewell police station, the morning after, with a few hard questions.


Let me close with that “small but telling sign of Labour’s cowardice”. Here’s Labour’s Shadow Education Minister, Toby Perkins. Having come out in support of the police response at Bristol on Sunday night, he then had cold feet. This we’re used to. For want of principled opposition to the dismantling of Britain’s welfare state, and ‘our’ venal wars on the global south, Labour has a constantly nervous eye on the public mood – a thing highly manipulable – as flagged by focus groups and the politics of identity.

So the MP for Chesterfield had second thoughts, or his boss had them for him, leading him to rub out the boot prints. Sadly for Mr Perkins, the likes of Politwoops excel at reversing such acts of crime scene clearance, putting the evidence right back where it belongs.

In the public domain. They work (it is alleged) for us you know!

* * *

  1. “A good WSWS piece” – my standard disclaimer kicks in here. I am neither a member of the Socialist Equality Party, which hosts WSWS, nor likely to become one. I do not share its faith – much as I’d like to – in the possibility of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism in the West. And much as I admire Caitlin Johnstone and her withering critiques of empire narratives, I reject her thesis that exposure of those narratives – a necessary but insufficient condition of humanity’s deliverance from insanity – can end class rule. I fear that our rulers, their ‘open society’ exposed for the sham it is, would simply fall back on naked force, for which they hold all the ace cards. (Indeed, as a raft of post 9/11 legislation attests, with Spy Cops and Police Bills but the latest additions,  this is not a thing entirely of the future and that was the point this weekend.) Not that I have a scintilla of faith in so-called parliamentary socialism either – even under social democrats less treacherous. (See my post, the tragedy of Corbynism.) Radically new thinking is needed if barbarism is to be averted for our children and theirs. Meanwhile, and more prosaically, when I cite a source approvingly the endorsement is confined to the text cited unless I say otherwise.
  2. I don’t for a moment say all conspiracy theories are by definition false, far less that all who advance them are swivel-eyed. I’m on record as saying that (a) some conspiracy theories have later been shown to be accurate; (b) others have high likelihood of being accurate; (c) still others fail elementary evidential or logical tests; (d) use of the term as blanket put-down is lazy, stupid or cynical.

12 Replies to “Cui bono? – notes on the Bristol riots

    • Since the days of Captain Ludd and the recession following the Napoleonic Wars – and doubtless long before – there’s any amount of evidence that in a crowd situation, only a small number of agents provocateurs/false flaggers are needed for event discrediting purposes.

  1. Firstly, a technical question, Phil, in your capacity as a photographer. This concerns the podcast link in the article from outside the police station n Bristol. Do you know what has caused all the printed signage on the shops, pubs, vehicles, road markings etc to appear reversed as though looking in a mirror? It seems most odd. The limited usage I have of video cameras has never produced that kind of result.

    Secondly, Pie’s point can already be seen in practical effect here:

    and here:

    In which the selective application of such nebulous concepts is brazenly enacted by those who wield power with the clear message that any kind of verbal or written expression which contradicts the one sided narrative of power will not be tolerated.

    It gives no pleasure to observe that it was only a matter of weeks ago following the Capitol event and the Cancelling of non approved narratives that some of us were warning this was a two edged sword and that the left (or at least the experienced and practical left) would be dragged down with the purity spiral created by the naive Liberal Identity “left” (sic).

    As Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character observes “opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one.” Though what’s operating here is a “principle” based on some opinions being sacrasanct and all others being punishable by people who combine both elements of Harry Callaghan’s dictum in their character.

    Finally, there is a Kill The Bill (Bill as in the definition ” legislation” – you can’t be too careful with the way these wassocks twist meanings and definitions to suit their gangster culture) protest in Sheffield (Devonshire Green – which is some distance from the nearest police station) at 14:00 hours this coming Saturday, 27th March. It will interesting to see if there is any kind of attempt to rerun Orgreave or even another well known event from the city’s past?

    • On your first point, Dave, where writing shows in mirror form I guess it was shot that way – lens pointing at a reflective surface opposite – or has been photoshopped. The latter is unlikely on, ahem, cui bono grounds!

      Thanks for the links. Craig Murray’s account of what happened on Lismore re Jeremy Gilchrist is salutory. Craig is excellent at setting ut complex chains of event, a skill that served him – and us – well in his coverage of the kangaroo trial of Julian, corporate media having done as little as they could possibly get away with.

      There are I’m sure Kill the Bill protests planned for large towns and cities across Britain. The Nottingham one is at Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday (March 27) at 4pm. People have been asked to attend with “mask, placards and something to bang”.

      • Thanks Phil. Though I still don’t get it. Even the advertising on the buses going past and the logos on the moving lorries are reversed – as is the name on the pub (The Bay Horse) he lingers around for much of the podcast. Along with whatever is written on the yellow high viability vest someone is wearing as they walk by near the end.

        It must be a very large and movable mirror.

    • I guess so. For the record, since it will be replaced soon by the next pithy observation, the current masthead quote is by Harlan Ellison and reads:

      You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

  2. I read Assad’s Public Address speech and found it a bit disturbing, Ive’ read propagandist b/s on how Putin rules Russia, I’ve also read informed opinion on how China deals with it’s problems and Iran, Hamas and Hizbollah. Could there be any better example of the west’s hypocrisy and double standards in comparing the mentioned governments “monstrous” rule over it’s peoples than the Tory(and Starmer’s)new and totalitarian bill of law which is intended for the plebs?
    I may not be well informed but I do know quite a bit from very reliable and honest sources regarding the governance in other supposedly “non” democratized countries around the world and I truly believe that the UK is fast becoming a backwater, backward third rate supposed democracy. How will the presstitutes now present the imagined superiority of OUR democracy once this bill is passed? That’s a rhetorical question in essence, because I know full well that the previous lies, misrepresentations, misinterpretations will continue unabated in order that both cheeks will be covered with hands while words are typed on keyboards with whatever appendage is left available.

    Thanks for the article and Pie’s video,


    • An old cold war saying had it that the plebs in Iron Curtain states were in better shape than us since they knew their governments lied to them, whereas we actually believe our politicians answer to us. As opposed – in ways direct or indirect, fully and venally conscious or blithely ignorant – to big money.

      We also differ from them in believing our media independent when – even before we get to rising security services interference, as with the Guardian after Snowden – their political economy or business model subjugates them, via advertising dependency, to capitalist discipline.

      Pie is a class act, no? But by his standards, this was a relatively subdued delivery!

  3. The rapid deployment of riot police to an otherwise peaceful demonstration, the provocative use of dogs and horses, the evidence on social media identifying apparent police provocateurs’ and the subsequent virulent campaign by the Tory press to demonise the protest labelling the protesters as rioters and thugs who inflicted horrific injuries on the riot police including broken arms, ribs and punctured lungs (these claims by the police were later retracted who admitted days later that no police were injured) suggests the presence of counter terrorism officers who were orchestrating the protest to create a “Reichstag moment” to turn public opinion against the protests and opponents of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and to ensure the uncontroversial passage of the Bill through parliament giving the police more extensive powers to suppress resistance to this authoritarian right wing government which is intent on curtailing our civil liberties and ostensibly rendering the Human Rights Act impotent of protections.

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