Archive | November 5, 2011

Fireworks and Guy Fawkes Fuel Occupy London

…and Occupy London Statement on Today’s March

British children may be in for history lesson, as for them the only legacy of Guy Fawkes has been the nursery rhyme commemorated every 5th November when an effigy of Guy Fawkes is placed on top of a bonfire, and fireworks are set off symbolizing his Gun Powder Plot.

However, 400 years later, Guy Fawkes has been resurrected by the “Anonymous of the U.K., who marched on the very Parliament that Guy Fawkes once attempted to blow up. Along with members of Occupy London City Movement, the feelings of a growing number of people were felt. Clownish masks were donned by hundreds of protestors not only in London, but also in New York all expressing their sentiments towards the establishment.

Born on April 13, 1570, Guy Fawkes lived at a time when the position of Catholics was perceived as Muslims are today. As Queen Elizabeth’s I reign came to a close, Catholics were perceived as terrorists, or as enemies of the state. Deprived of rank, status, and occupation, acts of worship could only be carried through the Church of England if not they were fined. After James I succeeded to the throne in 1603 he expelled Catholic priests from the country in response to Parliament.

As anger grew amongst Catholics, Thomas Percy, Jack Wright, John Winter and their leader, the Robert Catesby conspired, and recruited mercenary soldier, Guy Fawkes for his expertise with gunpowder.

The summer and autumn of 1604 and 1605 was a period of planning, and the setting was the reopening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. Percy leased a cellar under Parliament House to set the fuses and gunpowder, while Catesby recruited cavalry from the rich Catholics. Catesby instigated a Catholic uprising as they set to blow up Parliament with the aim of succeeding to the throne Princess Elizabeth.

The number of plotters had increased to include:

  • Sir Thomas Percy
  • Jack (nicknamed John) Wright
  • Thomas Winter (or Wintour)
  • Robert Catesby
  • Guido/Guy Fawkes (aka John Johnson).
  • Thomas Bates
  • Sir Everard Digby
  • Robert Keyes
  • Ambrose Rookwood
  • Frances Tresham
  • John Grant

However, when Catesby rode to the Midlands to raise the cavalry on Monday 4 November, the King’s men searched the cellar. Fawkes was arrested, a warrant was out for Percy, the others fled, and the Catholic community did not consent to create an uprising.

The date of the intended plot instead was met with celebratory bonfires across London on news of the foiled plot. Eventually Catesby and three of the other plotters were killed, and taken to the Tower of London, others were arrested, Treshsam died in prison, and Guy Fawkes was tortured for the details of the plot, then tried at Westminster Hall along with others, then hang, drawn and quartered for treason.

The outcome for Catholics was worse than before making it dangerous for them to practice their faith.

Although the foiled plot is only know and celebrated in the U.K., one can find elements of support for Guy Fawkes even though he was just in fact a hired hand, as far away as in Australia where one can find a Guy Fawkes National Park, which is 200+ years old since its colonial inception. 62,700 hectares of land located in New South Wales is known for its wild horses.

Occupy London Statement on Today’s March

As we write this, several hundred protesters are being kettled by police in the vicinity of Parliament Square. We have received reports of arrests, which observers from GBC Legal are investigating.

This afternoon, Occupy LSX convened a rally outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Those speaking included Caroline Lucas MP, Bruce Kent and Josie Long. Once the speakers had concluded, a call was made for those attending to march to Trafalgar Square, the end point of the 2011 Jarrow March, to show solidarity with those there. In the event, this turned out not to be possible.

Our march was escorted by police, who led those assembled not in the direction of Trafalgar Square, but towards Whitehall. Given that police were onsite at St Paul’s on Saturday morning to warn us that any attempt to march in the direction of Whitehall (which was not our intention in any case) would be blocked, this is rather puzzling.

We understand that police are containing protesters under the terms of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA). Section 132 of the Act states that any demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament require authorisation, which must be applied for a minimum of seven days before the planned action.

Occupy LSX have learned tonight that authorisation for a demonstration in Parliament Square was applied for and granted well before that 7-day time limit. We understand that veteran activist Chris Coverdale is in possession of two separate authorisations for protest, in the names of
Democracy Village and Make Wars History. These two documents – and only one would be required – explicitly state that permission for a demonstration of “no more than 15,000 people” has been granted by police, under the terms of the Act. What is happening in Parliament Square is not, therefore, an “unlawful protest” under the terms of SOCPA.

This afternoon, Chris Coverdale attempted to join the demonstration at Whitehall, with his authorisations (which he has in writing) in hand. He was prevented from joining the others assembled, even though police had the opportunity to see both of his authorisation documents at first hand. Occupy London understand that Mr Coverdale will be applying for a judicial
review of police action on Monday.

In the meantime, we advise anyone arrested today to ensure that police are made aware that they are taking part in an authorised demonstration under SOCPA rules.

Should you witness an arrest or want support, the GBC Legal hotline is 07946 541 511. In the event of arrest, we recommend you do not rely on the duty solicitor but call one of the following:

Bindmans: 020 7833 4433

HJA: 07659 111 192

ITN: 020 8522 7707

Sources:

Hui, S. “In UK, Guy Fawkes Remembered With Protests.” http://www.officialwire.com/main.php?action=posted_news&rid=95841&catid=2

“Story of the Gunpowder Plot” http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesBritain/EarlyModern_GuyFawkes01.htm

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