May Day Report – Penzance, Cornwall, 1st May, 2017
Well, as planned, I kicked off Europe’s first protest for Darren Rainey today, in a very modest way. This time last year, I organized a demo outside Penzance Hospital, in support of the National Health Service – those were days of Momentum, before it played out – the spirit was weak but the flesh was weak. Luckily this – the fizzling of momentum, left me free to devote myself to helping Harold Hempstead with his work on the Darren Rainey case and other matters relating to the Florida Department of Corrections.
It was a chilly and windy day, overcast and threatening storm. The town was nearly deserted – it’s what the English call a ‘Bank Holiday’ which I think all other nations call a public holiday. We are not ruled by banks in Britain, don’t get me wrong. Anyway, it’s the kind of day when people go elsewhere. They go to other places than the centre of Penzance, which is where I was going. Well, it wasn’t quite empty, truth is, the centre of town has been taken over by a group of street-folk, whom I have nothing against, though they can be a tad noisy at times. A fella came up to me, his voice subdued, opiated; his face blenched white, eyes pinned. He took a leaflet and mumbled something, seemed like a nice fella really, just poppied-out somewhat. Well I stood there with my three cardboard signs that I’d stayed up most of the night making – they still looked very home-made – each one was double sided – I’d been thinking of doing a ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ number with the shuffling sign-boards. It was very windy, as I said and the cardboard was flapping a bit. My plan was to regularly shuffle the signs, I was holding all three so I could simply turn over the one at the front, then the next one, etc.. This was to be my ‘act’, whilst I also held a handful of small flyers, hoping to entice punters with these strategies. Dumb old me, I’d forgotten what a miserable bunch of shallows the British Punterhood actually is. As the occasional minute trickle of citizens walked by – many of them obviously avoiding me – I stepped up, offering a flyer and, as I imagined, cordially inviting them to ‘Oppose Torture’ or even go so far as to ‘Stand up for Human Rights.’
Well, let me explain something to those of you who live outside Britain or are not familiar with our national psyche… We’ve been conditioned over here to believe that it’s alright to be cold and unhelpful, as long as it’s done under a veneer of politeness. Trouble is, this strategy wears a little thin in some situations and is a poor substitute for human warm, or even direct honesty. So I’m there going ‘Human Rights in America!’ and trying to give out leaflets and honestly, about nine out of ten of them would walk by and say ‘no thank you’ in a horribly English way. It would be better if they said nothing at all. I can’t help it, it brings out the sarcasm in me. So when I say ‘Human Rights’ and they say ‘No thank you’ in a weirdly plummy, emotionally cold and disconnected way, I can’t help laughing – as if they really do not want any rights. What they are saying is they do not wish to consider whatever it is that I might be saying. They’re not saying they want anyone tortured to death – they’re just saying they don’t want to talk to a bloke in the street holding a cardboard sign. They’ve been conditioned to get their info through shiny channels, not dodgy-looking home-made ones. I admit, after very little sleep, that their lack of interest was mildly annoying and perplexing, but then there were the other ten per cent who make it worthwhile.
So despite thin numbers and broody, moody, uncheerful weather, I still managed to get rid of quite a few flyers and then I remembered the Limpets. I’d done a rare thing and printed out a load of copies, printed on both sides! That’s up-market stuff to me. It was issue 170, one that means a lot to me, as it’s Harold Hempstead’s blog entitled ‘A Fight For The Value Of Life’, which I find very moving, and the front cover is my poster of Darren Rainey in the stars, which also means quite a lot to me, as I wanted a positive, spiritual and strong image of him out there. Quite a few people showed mild interest and a few stayed and talked in a little more depth. Another thing to bear in mind is that in Britain the right-wing press has for a long time been associating the term ‘Human Rights’ with stories of foreigners exploiting the law and using it to worm around various things. The dumb tabloids have trained the uncritical to react to the term ‘Human Rights’ with a knee-jerk reaction of scathing suspicion, as if it’s a by-word for fraud. Rather sad really, when you think that establishing Human Rights in conventions, treaties and international law was how the ‘allies’ defined post-war western civilization – in contradistinction to nazi ‘culture.’ All the great Human Rights Declarations and Conventions of the post-war epoch are exactly that – an attempt to legally define just what it was that made us different from the fascist enemies we were forced to fight and kill – well, our grandparents were, I should say… so it’s saddening to realize that people, well, some people, are suspicious of ‘human rights’.
Being out in my local street like that reminded me of just how closed most people are. But it was also very rewarding to engage with the caring minority of the people. Those who obviously care. Those who grasp the subject quickly, not staring blankly with bored eyes, but eyes that show life, interest, comprehension.
Sadly, no press turned up, nor any friends with cameras so the event itself went unrecorded (they even turned off the Orwellian street cameras some years back, after the local authorities blew all the town’s money on an erotic adventure to Thailand or something) I got there before 12, and left soon after one, feeling chilly but satisfied. Just as I was packing up, I heard my name called and there across the street were two friends of mine, an old activist guy who’s a barricade-rat from decades back and a poet lady who spent years in Egypt and witnessed the blood there. What a pleasant end to my demo. They were going to our local left-wing café, where some friends were having a get-together to celebrate the Spring. We were soon all babbling away, with Pete taking the lead. He’s a personal friend of Corbyn, going back many years and we debated, or were treated to a debate on Party-Political matters. After a while, ol’ Pete kindly agreed to do a brief film clip of me, a kind of micro-version of the protest, as it had not been filmed. We trooped out into the main drag of Penzance and I ranted at the camera for a few moments, with my poet friend egging me on with a couple of questions in a mini-interview type thing. When we went back into the café I joined a salsa combo on congos for a few tunes, I’d played with some of them years before, ha- before I quit the band to concentrate on campaigning to Save The Holy Headland….. that’s going back a while…… anyway, I jammed with them on guiro, that scratchy-reggae bead-gourd-thing, clave etc.. and then the guitar player approached me. I’ve known him for years. Last time I’d seen him he had annoyed me by criticizing my flyers for the Darren Rainey justice petition. I’d told him then that they were done in a rush and the message was the main thing. He reopened the topic. He got out his flash phone and even showed me a mock-up version of a flyer he’d designed himself. It had that grotesque drawing that looks nothing like Darren Rainey on it with some bland text and no proper link. I asked him if he had signed the petition. He had not. He had done nothing to promote it, but spent considerable time designing a dummy flyer just to show me how it should be done. He hadn’t even signed the petition. Then he started criticizing my ‘attitude’ and that’s about when I said a loud and hearty ‘fuck you’ to his face and walked out, trailing ripples of turbulent air. I laughed to myself as I relaxed soon afterwards. People think it’s a game. Perhaps they’re right. I see it as a titanic struggle – perhaps I’m wrong. Either way, let each go their own way, the way they think best and to many folks, the crusted layer of cynicism is worn like a helmet-hat to protect the hollow head – I’d rather go hatless and blundering towards what I think to be true. I just had a lesson in the people’s prevailing – but not total – indifference. I still believe most people are good if you can get through to them – but it’s such hard work, it would break the nose of a rhinoceros.
Pretty much the biggest buzz came from knowing that my friend in Georgia was marching on the Courthouse in Gwinnett County, also choosing May Day as the day of action for justice. Well done, Mori and I hope it went off without any trouble. When I think of what you go through in your land, the ‘land of the free’ it just inspires me to carry on, in my relatively safe European home, where guns are rare and parole is the norm. Where prisoners in medical distress get taken to a clinic, dentist or whatever they need. Where, though the system is ancient and somewhat crusted with archaic rust and corrosion, at least we have some basic rights, children are not tried as adults, people are not kept in solitary confinement for more than three weeks maximum and we no longer kill our killers to prove that killing is wrong, like they are in Arkansas right now.
P.S. When I get the film footage – I’ll put it up….. The signs mentioned Krishna Maharaj and I discussed him with some people. It’s a shame the local press didn’t show up. They’re owned by big business, so I think they have a policy of strict control over political news. It probably would have stopped them from covering or mentioning the holocaust until decades later too. So I didn’t get a chance to talk to any press about an innocent Brit in the FDC and about how my MP won’t respond to me on it. A non-conspiracy of apathy, cynicism and silence. No wonder poor Kris is still literally rotting in jail. They have flesh-eating bacterial disease in the South Florida Reception Centre, you see, and I tried to tell Derek Thomas MP and ask him to communicate with Foreign Secretary Clown Johnson, but Derek couldn’t deign to reply to me. That’s why we pay him £68,000 per year.
My ‘Boycott Florida’ protest was small, low-key and humble, but it’s a start. The first Rainey Protest outside USA, probably outside Florida! I wish they would spread to France, Germany, Ukraine…. Portugal, Holland, Norway, all my neighbouring states… I certainly reached a few people and planted a couple of seeds and it’s always good to get out on the streets, take Democracy back to its original home and birthplace – the Agora. Be not afraid.
Fe@r not – fight b@ck. H@ppy M@y D@y Brothers @nd Sisters.
When I got home I found this incredible film on youtube, combining some things I dearly love: Paul Robeson singing Joe Hill to a group of Scottish Miners....... what a deep joy that gave me. I hope you all can feel it like I did.
Joe showing signs of road-fever? Looks like Tory Crimes on drums - how apt.
Whatever happened to that ol' spiky sound?
The Selecter - Out In The Streets.....
Please see Harold's growing archive of evidence in the Darren Rainey case, thank you.