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In 2004, Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s ‘pimp’ for getting the super rich to fund Blair’s school academies project, visited the then Labour-run Brent Council and persuaded it to support the building of an academy on the Wembley Park sports ground. As usual this was kept secret – but the unions soon found out.
We fought back hard using a variety of tactics, which escalated over the long struggle to save the sports ground. It began with the usual meetings, pickets of council meetings, letter-writing and petitions. The council was embarrassed but determined to proceed. We knew we were gathering support and in 2006 their stance against the academy played a key part in the Lib Dem win at the council elections (see box, right). The academy was withdrawn – victory.
A few months later, however, it was all back on the cards. The new consultation was even more of a con than the first one and we treated it with the contempt it deserved. Meetings were disrupted and we even took over one and ran it ourselves. We produced a number of scurrilous broadsheets – scurrilous because the truth was scurrilous! Eventually we occupied the sports ground. This started with just two of us striking up a tent and then others joined us.
The original sponsor of the proposed academy backed out – but another group stepped in: ARK, a group of multi-millionaire hedge fund speculators (leading lights are Arki Busson, Paul Marshall and Stanley Fink), who worked closely with all three main parliamentary parties to ensure that they stayed on board with their privatisation agenda.
Our occupation continued. Our protest actions included building tree houses on the site, numerous public meetings, forming an alliance with the local residents association, organising a ‘flash camp’ for a week outside the town hall, launching a legal challenge, getting thousands to sign our petition, having over 100 camping on the site overnight, and having many hundreds visiting during the day and supporting some of the fundraising events.
We left after six months when the lease on the sports ground was extended for a year. Then the council reneged on that agreement and moved to evict the people who ran the site, including a nursery. We occupied again but this time they went for court orders. The fantastic support meant even this had to be delayed. We held a rooftop protest by camping on the roof. Finally, in July 2009, after we had been evicted, another group reoccupied the site before being violently removed after a couple of weeks, when the whole sports ground was secured with guard dogs patrolling.
We held up the process for five years, which we consider a partial victory. We have to remember that we are in a war to save state education and we will not achieve complete victory in every battle. In making it increasingly difficult for the privateers, though, we start to turn the tide. Our action spawned others all over the country, including the occupation of the school roof at Lewisham Bridge, which defeated the academy proposal there, and a victorious campaign at Royal Docks school in Newham against ARK taking it over.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns