[diggers350] RTS complaint

ian ferguson fergusonian at hotmail.com
Tue Oct 26 11:45:19 BST 1999

This was taken today from the Urban75 site (http://www.urban75.com). Please 
send me any examples of shoddy or innaccurate journalism, for a possible 


RTS submit complaint about Sunday Times arms allegation.
Reclaim the Streets (RTS) have submitted a complaint to the Press 
Complaints' Commission following claims made in the Sunday Times that the 
campaign group are amassing weapons. Under the headline 'City anarchists 
stockpile arms' (17/10/99), The Sunday Times stated that RTS are 
"stockpiling illegal weapons including tear gas and stun guns for a planned 
riot in the City of London on November 30". The allegations were repeated 
both in the Evening Standard (20/10/99) and in the Daily Telegraph 

The premise of Reclaim the Streets' complaint is two fold. Firstly that 
allegations of arms stockpiling are a deliberate media fiction motivated by 
political mal-intent and secondly that there is no planned demonstration for 
November 30th. City of London Police have said there is no evidence or 
intelligence to support allegations of arms purchases by RTS or indeed that 
the group have any intention of organising a demonstration in the UK on 
November 30th. Despite being unable to offer the police any evidence, The 
Sunday Times claimed that "In two separate transactions in the past six 
weeks, at least 34 containers of CS gas and four stun guns capable of 
delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock were purchased by Reclaim the 

According to Det Chief Inspector Kieron Sharp: "June 18 was organised with 
all the fliers, things on the Internet, information about who was going to 
be there and what different groups were planning. But there is nothing out 
there at all for Nov 30".

However, despite Det Chief Insp Sharp's refutation of the existence of any 
evidence or intelligence to back up the Sunday Times' allegations, he still 
offered the Daily Telegraph an extraordinary prognosis: "I would think if 
such stockpiling is going on, it would be for a much larger event on a date 
as yet unknown in the future." It is highly unusual for a senior policeman 
to make such spurious suggestions without the backing of either evidence or 

Media coverage of the June 18th demonstration - particularly that presented 
in the Sunday Times - has brought British journalism into serious disrepute. 
On the two Sunday's following the event the Sunday Times 'Insight' team ran 
full page articles which they referred to as 'Investigative'. One article 
was based round the subject of demonstrators smearing themselves with tomato 
ketchup to exacerbate claims of police brutality.

The other article claimed that demonstrators had been paid both a wage and 
travelling expenses to attend the event. Examination of both articles 
reveals the only source for the 'investigations' was anonymous city traders. 
Hardly reliable sources for such high profile 'investigative' journalism. 
The bylines for the profuse spate of Sunday Times articles about Reclaim the 
Streets and J18 have always included Mark Macaskill, a new boy at the paper.

Insiders at the Sunday Times have told SQUALL that Macaskill has been given 
a brief to "dig the dirt". During the course his brief journalistic career 
at newspaper, Macaskill has intimated in his articles that he is party to 
anonymously sourced information from MI5. (report from SQUALL)

Comment from RTS

The allegation that Reclaim the Streets are 'stockpiling illegal weapons 
worth thousands of pounds' in preparation for 'a planned riot in the City of 
London on November 30th' is so ridiculous that it is hard to decide whether 
to laugh hysterically or weep at yet another example of the press - and 
particularly the Sunday Times - refusing to let ethics get in the way of a 
good story. Not to mention facts.

One might think that it would not be possible for the media to drag itself 
further into disrepute, but your paper has managed, against the odds and 
some pretty stiff opposition in the rag trade and elsewhere, to do just 
that. All that really remains a mystery is whether this was a clever wheeze 
dreamt up by a few bored hacks hoping to milk the June 18th day of action 
for a lot more than it's worth, or whether we can detect the not-so-well 
concealed hand of the City of London police and their oft-touted 'war of 
attrition' against groups like Reclaim the Streets.

There were, after all, plenty of red faces in the City after June 18th, from 
the Lord Mayor down through the ranks of the City Police, who are as a 
result now fighting for their survival against a Metropolitan Police 
corporate takeover. And who knows, maybe our old friend 'Jumpin' Jack Straw 
has had a hand in things too, especially now he's reinvented the role of 
Labour Home Secretary as the undisputed king of no frills, no mercy 
law'n'order with a hefty side order of anti-refugee xenophobia.

Reclaim the Streets in London, (it's important to distinguish since there 
are RTS groups all over the country and the world), has spent plenty of time 
since the planet-wide J18 action of which it was just a part discussing the 
best way forward for itself. We have seen the efforts of papers such as the 
Sunday Times to paint RTS and the direct action movement from which is has 
sprung as mindlessly violent.

It also looks on the political front that direct action of all kinds may 
well be classed as terrorist activity in the soon-to-be-updated Prevention 
of Terrorism Act. Partly as a result of this 'war of attrition', (and partly 
because it happens to be a good idea), the group has decided that the best 
tactic for the moment is to take every opportunity to be visible on streets 
and in communities, and to carry on the process of communicating our ideas 
in an accessible way. (This is not to forget that J18 was awash with 
information about what we are for and against; it was perhaps unsurprising 
though that the media decided not to disseminate information about shocking 
concepts such as 'social justice', 'ecological protection' and 'mutual 

So in the knowledge that there was to be a global day of action to coincide 
with the meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle on November 
30th, we decided that the best course of action was a campaign of 
'information as action', comprising leaflets, stickers and posters laying 
out our case for the dismantlement of the WTO and, indeed, global capitalism 
itself. So in the light of this approach, one might think it somewhat 
contradictory to be out on the street buying various verminous forms of 
weaponry from equally verminous people. Which is why no one involved with 
RTS has done such a thing. All we have been stockpiling is text for 
leaflets. Oh yes, and paintbrushes and wallpaper paste.

Now RTS is just one loose gathering of fairly like-minded people that 
believes in taking imaginative, challenging direct action for its beliefs. 
There could be a few insane people somewhere in the south of England who 
might consider blasting their way into the City of London with CS gas and 
stun guns on November 30th, but fortunately we don't know anyone with such a 
plan. (And incidentally, on June 18th wooden posts were brought in for the 
hanging of banners, and breezeblocks to 'brick up' the Futures Exchange.)

We challenge the Funday Times, with the overpowering might of its tireless 
team of investigative journalists to rise early from their lunches and 
produce the evidence of their absurd assertions. Because what they are doing 
here is really very serious: RTS is a group that for many reasons has 
provided a focus for the huge dissent felt in the country at the way wealth 
is distributed, about the way the planet is being slaughtered for the sake 
of a fast buck etc. So by sidelining us as terrorists with nothing on our 
minds but violence, the establishment is seeking to drive us underground and 
so strangle part of the UK leg of what is beginning to be a very real 
worldwide movement of resistance to exploitation and greed. But it won't 
work, as we won't be driven underground in order to become useless martyrs 
and provide catchy, melodramatic headlines.

We'll carry on taking direct action, but we'll also carry on talking to 
people about what we believe in passionately. Our leaflet on the WTO will be 
everywhere, as will the stickers and the posters on November 30th, and we'll 
continue to reinvent our resistance so as to keep a few steps ahead of the 
plodding boot of the powers-that-be and their yapping lapdogs the media, so 
brilliantly personified by the Sunday Times and its crew of disillusioned, 
desperate hacks. Long live the revolution.
Signed: another London RTS person (not speaking for the group!)


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