Monday, July 10, 2006

Knifeman and Cybermen

I was glad to see Alec McFadden apparently in good form chairing a session at the conference of trades union councils in Torquay last month, with wit and good humour. Only a few weeks before this Merseyside delegate Alec had been attacked on his own doorstep by a man with a knife.

He nearly lost an eye in the attack, and was only saved from more serious injury because his daughter called the police, and the assailant who had slashed his face ran away.

Alec McFadden is known for his part in anti-racist campaigns. This attack followed confrontations with the British National Party, whose former Merseyside candidate Joey Owens, a minder for French fascist Jean Marie Le Pen on his visit to the North West, sent Alec an e-mail containing a photograph of his home and car a few years ago. The far-Right website Redwatch had also carried Alec's name, picture and address.

The trades union councils' conference in Torquay on June 3-4 passed an emergency resolution unanimously expressing our sympathy and solidarity with Bro.McFadden, condemning the attack, and going on to urge that action be taken to curb sites like Redwatch, by making it an offence to publish individuals' addresses without their permission. Wishing full support to Alec McFadden, of course, I voted for this resolution, though I wondered whether we'd hear the usual excuse from government that nothing could be done about Redwatch because it was hosted in the United States. Delegates said there were precedents in that action had been taken over paedophile sites overseas.

I think we have to be cautious about encouraging governments to take more powers to themselves than they already have. History shows that laws and powers accepted because they are supposed to deal with fascists can often be turned the other way. Seventy years ago, after Oswald Mosley's provocative march into the East End was halted in the famous "Battle of Cable Street", parliament passed the Public Order Act. The first people dealt with under it were not fascists, but left-wing miners in Nottinghamshire. Even the ban on political uniforms was used in the late 1950s to forbid members of the Maltese Labour Party from wearing red ties!

Still, the issue of the attack on Alec McFadden and Redwatch was raised in the House of Commons on 21 June. Urging action after the attack on her constituent, Labour MP Angela Eagle (Wallasey) said:
"There appears to be a pattern of violence which is aimed at individuals who are targeted by this website which cannot simply be a coincidence. ....Hate websites do not deserve the protection of the principles of freedom of speech when they seek to prevent others from exercising their democratic rights."
The MP also referred to previous calls by the teaching unions for action against Redwatch, after their members were targeted.

Venon Coaker, a junior Home Office minister, said it was difficult to shut down websites that are hosted overseas. However people who incited others to commit crimes could be prosecuted regardless of where the website was hosted.

For the full exchange see:

Reporting the moves to ban Redwatch, the latest issue of Searchlight names Kevin Whatmough, a Yorkshire-based former member of Combat 18 as the man behind Redwatch, but says BNP members and officers have supplied the site with information. Searchlight reports that in Canada a man called Jean-Sebastian Presseault could face prison for inciting hatred on a website, though his lawyers tried to argue the Quebec court had no jurisdiction because his website was hosted in the USA.

Perhaps the alacrity with which the British authorities have extradited citizens to the United States will be reciprocated with US action against hate peddlars and come to that, child pornsites, etc. hosted on US soil? Not that I am holding my breath.

Arson and a Tall story from Puddletown

ANOTHER hate attack reported by Searchlight also has an internet connection, apparently. In the early hours of June 9 a fire gutted the offices of Positive East, a charity helping people affected by HIV and Aids. It is being treated as arson.

Searchlight notes that the charity was based in a private house, with no outward sign of its purpose. It also notes that Mark Santos, who runs the charity, was a Labour candidate in Hainault ward, in the London Borough of Redbridge, in May. Julian Leppert of the BNP was elected in Hainault

As Searchlight points out, the local charity and Mark Santos were the subject of an attack on the blog site run by a mysterious person calling himself "Laban Tall", after a character in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd.
He objected to the aids charity receiving funding from local taxpayers.
Bit odd considering the strange Mr."Tall" claims a past left pedigree including the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

A friend of mine found herself the subject of 'Laban Tall''s ire after writing a letter to the Ilford Recorder about Redbridge as a haven for refugees from Nazism, among others, having its reputation now tarnished by a BNP councillor. This woman knows a bit about the BNP - her son was the victim of a violent attack for which BNP officer Tony Lecomber did three years. But "Laban Tall" finds it strange that she has supported the rights of Palestinians, protesting the witholding of EU funds to Palestine. "Me no understand" comments this Leeds University Politics graduate. Seems in his book you can be anti-Jewish or anti-Arab, or both, but not neither.

He may not understand consistent anti-racialism, but for someone who claims to be engaged in agriculture in Puddletown, Dorset, "Laban Tall" obviously keeps a close watch on people and politics in suburban Essex. At least on those who may have upset the BNP. But whoever his eyes and ears are, we can't accuse him of having a hand in anything someone does there, nor of himself having BNP sympathies.

Not only does Mr."Tall" confess to having been a leftie, even a onetime member of the Militant Tendency, but it seems he saw the light after reading the writings of that wise woman Melanie Philips, who as we all know is the scourge of antisemites. Not only does his blog have a link to her, but also to Emeritus Professor Norman Geras, a "Marxist", pillar of Engage and co-author of the Euston Manifesto, who was kind enough two years ago to post an interview and glowing introduction to "Laban Tall", his background and tastes.

Only thing Prof. Geras forgot was to tell us who this "Laban Tall" really is. Maybe if the brave, outspoken sage of Puddletown remains too shy and modest to come out, Prof.Geras in a spirit of Eustonian glasnost can be prevailed upon to put this matter right?

Footnote: "Laban Tall" has now (February 22, 2008) drawn attention to this news item, and also added a remark about someone else in Dorset. As the person he mentions has nothing to do with this story, but is mentioned by name, whereas Mr.Tall remains behind his alias, I am omitting his comment, but hereby acknowledge and reproduce the information.

21 Dec 2006

AN HIV sufferer who torched an Aids charity centre was told by a judge he should be commended by the court for owning up to his crime. On Friday Judge Inigo Bing told Keir Whittaker, 33, he deserved the "thanks of the public" for giving himself up to police.

Whittaker broke into the Positive East building in Mildmay Road, Ilford - where he had previously had counselling - and set fire to the curtains. The property was gutted in the arson attack which caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage - but fortunately no one was killed or injured. Mark Santos, director of Positive East, said: "This was a tragedy on all levels and clearly not the actions of a well man. The building is under repair and we are thinking about reopening it, but the people of Redbridge have not lost out on our services, we are just providing them in a different way."

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard Whittaker had already been locked up twice for arson attacks and he was given three years for his latest offence. Whittaker had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs on June 9 when he felt "impulsive" and broke into Positive East, starting the fire with a cigarette lighter. He handed himself into Ilford police on July 29 and also admitted stealing petty cash from an ex-lover to spend on booze and drugs.

Martin McCarthy, defending, said: "He went to the HIV centre. They were counselling him. After a consumption of drugs or alcohol, there he was, early in the morning. He says, in desperation, acting impulsively and walking around the area, he broke into the property and set light to it."

Judge Bing told Whittaker: "What is remarkable and unusual in this case, for which you receive the commendation of the court and thanks of the public, is that you gave yourself up to the police and confessed to the crime - because without your confession this crime would not have been solved."

Whittaker, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life. He will have 138 days already spent in custody knocked off his term.

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