Refuse to Collaborate

When we saw the Refuse to Collaborate Tumblr, our heart skipped a beat – thank god someone finally said it. So we decided to put their open letter onto paper, and asked the always excellent Peter WIllis to create an illustration to go with it.

Now that someone’s said it, everyone really should read it…

Illustration by Peter Willis

Refuse to collaborate – an open letter

This is an appeal to friends, comrades and organisers of protests. In light of the mass arrest of 286 anti-fascist protestors on 7th September 2013 (as well as Fortnum and Mason, Critical Mass, BNP Whitehall etc) we appeal to all organisers of protests, from all organisations, to immediately cease negotiating with the police in any form whatsoever and, for protests currently being planned, that organisers withdraw immediately from communication with the police.

The police have become the protest organisers. It is they who organise what happens on the day, who goes where, what is said and not said, how the protest acts, behaves, moves and demonstrates. We now have not only state-sanctioned but state-organised protest. Be effective and you are liable to mass-arrest; deviate from the meticulous state planning and you’re liable to mass arrest. We must not get used to this!

The police have markedly stepped up their intentions against street protests and demonstrations. This is a planned strategy to suppress effective protest and is part of the Total Policing agenda of the Metropolitan police. There are those who believe that effective street protests are not just about letting-off steam or performing a state-sanctioned role in the political system, but are one of the ways to begin to achieve radical changes in society. We cannot be debilitated by these new malign strategies of suppression –  kettled, arrested, processed, released under threat of being hauled back into custody if we dare attend another protest in breach of bail conditions.

The state and the police cannot simply be asked to stop what they are doing, or behave more nicely towards protestors. By it’s nature, protest doesn’t ask for permission.

It’s been clear for a long time that this type of state sanctioned non-protest should end. It’s no longer merely a matter of frustration at their ineffectiveness, but now also of the safety of friends and strangers who come to protest on our streets. While this type of non-protest is accepted, everyone who doesn’t think it is legitimate, or who doesn’t know the rules of the police’s game, is liable to arrest. Negotiating with the police now means putting protestors in serious danger; negotiating with the police is complicity in the suppression of protest.

The action we must take is to encourage and pressure all organisers of protests, from all organisations, to refuse to negotiate with the police in any form. No negotiation of times, dates, rally points and routes of the march.

While this may not prevent mass arrests absolutely, they are arresting us on mass anyway, by the hundreds. Can they arrest us by the thousands? Even if they could, we would at least all be acting against the police’s efforts to suppress protest, collectively. 

There can be no false separation of good and bad protestors, legitimate and illegitimate protestors; that is used to weaken protest and social movements. We can’t dismiss those arrested as not really part of the demo, or as hijackers causing trouble for not obeying protest restrictions. The complicity from organisers in this police practise of de-legitimising genuine protest must end. Acting collectively in this way means that we will all be illegitimate together – which makes us legitimate.

We must attempt to win back some space on the streets for protest ourselves. This is a direct appeal: do not be complicit in endangering protestors by collaborating with the police, and cease all negotiations with the police immediately.

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