The London Olympics will begin in just under three weeks, but the accompanying security measures and marks of privilege in the city have been visible for some time.
Be it the 17.5km electric fence around the Stratford site, the warnings about travel delays, or markings appearing to identify specific roads for Olympic traffic only during the event, one thing is clear — the Games have come to town.
Activist groups covering a range of issues have come together to form the Counter Olympics Network (CON), stating in a press release that “CON helps to provide a co-ordinated voice for a wide range of groups which share the desire to provide a counterbalance to the overblown mainstream pro Olympics propaganda. CON is also concerned that the Orwellian security apparatus and regressive legislation put in place to protect brands, privilege, and privatised public space won’t all disappear after the Games.”
Issues of concern for CON signatories include evictions of local people from their homes, the introduction of repressive policing and surveillance tactics, the encouragement of nationalism, high levels of public expenditure on temporary structures, the sanctioning of “gender apartheid” (for example, the Saudi Arabian government’s ban on female athletes forming part of the Saudi team), and the hypocrisy of sponsorship for the Paralympics by ATOS, the company responsible for the disgusting disability assessment programme, which aims to force disabled people off benefits.
The CON website is acting as a hub for a range of events and protests around the Olympics this summer.
This includes cultural events such as The Clays Lane Archive exhibition at Bethnal Green Library, looking at the work and testimonies of residents of the Clays Lane estate, once Europe’s second largest co-operative housing estate before it was demolished to make way for the Olympic site, and Playfair’s Alternative Opening Ceremony at Rich Mix on Bethnal Green road.
Protests and campaigns are also reported on on the website, including the planned demonstration on 28 July and information on Simon Moore, who has been placed under an ASBO with the purpose of preventing “conduct leading to the disruption of the Olympic Games”. Simon, who was involved in a peaceful protest in the Lea Valley Regional Park, argued that “the effect of this ASBO is to criminalise peaceful protest.
“There are legitimate issues for concern around the Olympics such as the destruction of Leyton Marsh in East London for a temporary basketball training facility and the ethics and human rights records of corporate sponsors for the games.”
Hopefully, during the event, CON will continue to document useful information on similar acts by the state which suppress the right to protest. A lot of the security measures being put in place are extreme, bizarre and in some cases dangerous, for example the case of anti-aircraft missiles being put in housing estates. Exactly what would happen if a plane were shot down over East London doesn’t take a lot of imagination.
Other measures include an integrated CCTV system capable of tracking an individual across the city and the use of security-camera equipped drone aircraft.
It is not merely a matter for “activists”. The heavy handed security measures will impact on individuals going about their every-day lives, whether it’s young people being stopped and searched, or workers having to calculate in a few extra hours to their journey time to and from work.
The Counter Olympics Network will act as a valuable hub of information for a variety of similar issues around the Games.