Lockout 1st Anniversary demonstration

A new political alignment was born in Liverpool this weekend, as the anarchist "Reclaim the Future" alliance threw its weight alongside sacked dockers and their trade union and socialist supporters. A massive anniversary demo on Saturday 28 September triggered a 24 hour strike by tugmen from midnight Sunday, with road blockades and occupations of cranes and Mersey Docks HQ at Seaforth Container Terminal throughout Monday.

Following the tugboat stoppage, industrial action worldwide is expected this week and early reports indicate a 24 freeze on all ACL vessels and containers in Sweden. Danish dockers in Arhus held a mass meeting at 8:30am Monday and decided to go home for 12 hours before reconvening, while their colleagues in Copenhagen did the same for 24 hours.

No vessels entered or left Liverpool on Monday and Mersey Docks shares fell a further 14p on the day while the company proclaimed normal operations were continuing.

The State is evidently more concerned. During Saturday's demonstration, tight lipped Operational Support Division officers dressed in black sealed off access to the city centre. And as the demo converged for a rally on the grass by the river Mersey, a strange bird flew high above the seagulls, trailing a surveillance camera below its rotors.

On Monday morning with protestors already mounted on the cranes and flying flags over the admin roof, the OSD began picking off peaceful protestors on the ground. By the evening 41 people including around 10 dockers had been arrested and many were injured.

While environmentalists, anti-roads protestors, unemployed activists, direct action pacifists, syndicalists and class-struggle anarchists were warmly welcomed by the dockers and a high level of tactical cooperation was evident, T&GWU General Secretary Bill Morris was dismayed. Morris informed the "Financial Times" (1.10.96) "We deplore the violence and unlawful action that has taken place. The dockers must disassociate themselves from those who have become involved in the dispute. The union is very concerned that people who are not dockers and were not employed by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company are embroiled." The union believed the dockers had a "just case" but it "could only be resolved through negotiations," Morris told the FT.

National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill welcomed the new allies and told Saturday's rally that Morris should initiate industrial action by his membership every Wednesday until the dispute is settled, and the rest of the trade union movement should follow suit.

Andrea Needham, one of four women recently acquitted after disabling a British Aerospace Hawk trainer aircraft due for sale to the Indonesian government, was cheered as she declared the Maritime Union of Australia was now boycotting trade with Indonesia in protest at the imprisonment of two trade unionists there. The MUA has repeatedly held up ships trading with Liverpool.

Port shop steward Kevin Robinson defended the dockers' new found supporters and told the "Daily Post" (1.10.96) "The rooftop protest was to raise the profile of the dispute. I was in radio contact acting as a go-between between those on the roof and the authorities. We're pleased with the excellent help we've had today - not with the overkill by the police."

Monday's clashes jarred with the opening of the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool and were heavily reported on national and local TV and radio.

The peaceful occupations began at dawn, and at 8am a contingent of dockers and supporters passed through the fence by the Kelloggs Grain terminal where Port Shop Stewards secretary/treasurer Jimmy Davies was arrested. Davies had told Saturday's rally the dockers were now demanding the physical support of the entire trade union movement.

Soon 200 protestors had broken through but were penned in by Operational Support Division officers. As they retreated towards the main Freeport entrance, the black clad OSD who operate without identification numbers began arresting protestors for offences such as walking along a road where traffic was already blocked off by police. The sight of comrades handcuffed and thrown into vans swerving along the demo provoked a road blockade near the Freeport entrance which recurred throughout the day.

Motorways leading into Liverpool were blocked by police as 7 coachloads of supporters were prevented from reaching the port.

By 10 am a group of 40 dockers and protestors had broken through the fence at Seaforth Container Terminal and were demonstrating below the rooftop occupation of the Mersey Docks and HarbourCompany building. After 30 minutes, agreement was reached for the group to withdraw without victimisation. But on emerging through the gates, dock stewards Mike Carden, Tony Nelson, and Terry Teague were snatched by the OSD.

One protestor was taken to hospital by the police after being severely beaten by scabs inside the docks area, but most of the injuries were inflicted by the OSD. One lad suffered a suspected broken cheekbone after being spotted peeling a peach with a penknife.

After a negotiated ending to the peaceful crane occupation in the late afternoon, an OSD van mounted the pavement and ambushed a group walking home, assaulting them and making arrests while declaring "Now it's our turn".

Police intimidation continued until 9pm at the building squatted by "Reclaim the Future".

The anarchists are unlikely to be put off by their welcome to Liverpool.

LabourNet Report
by Greg Dropkin

Reuters report. - UK dockers march for jobs in year-long dispute


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