How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security


7:00 pm - November 8th 2010

by Kate Belgrave    


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On Saturday, I went to the Shepherd’s Bush library on the Westfield shopping site to help out at a small protest that a group of Hammersmith and Fulham librarians had organised.

The librarians’ salaries (library assistants earn about £21,000) are due to be cut as part of Tory Hammersmith and Fulham council’s gleeful pursuit of ‘savings’. The home library service is to be dismantled and word is that some local libraries will shut.

Three or four librarians – all middle aged women – stood outside the library for about an hour in their own free time and handed leaflets about their worries to members of the public.

I was there – no spring chicken myself – along with two long-time reps from the Hammersmith Unison office, and a well-known local blogger and a reporter. My leg hurt and we were all moving slowly, because it was cold and we were all getting old. Armed rebellion was hardly on our agenda.

Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by four or five very heavy-looking guys in black jackets – Westfield security. Thus the high camp began. These guys were ridiculously combative – Christ knows what they had on the PS3 back in the office. At least one member of our group was hanging out to meet the resource-allocation genius that decided to send in five heavies to take out three librarians.

The first guy in the video below was incredibly aggressive – ‘you can’t be here. You haven’t got permission. You have to get out.’

He got very upset when he saw I was filming. He came after me down the street, putting his hand out every now and then towards me – I thought he was going to try and grab the camera and maybe even grab me.

I hurried down the road – another slow-moving, near-fogey on the run – then back up Uxbridge Road and down a side street so that I could film the scene from across the road. So far, so very tragic. People on the sidewalk were laughing, watching my little legs trotting off to safety.

You can see three of these guys on the film, standing over the women who were protesting:

You can also see one of the guys rush at the camera on Chris’ blog.

This is how public sector cuts for the hell of it look when you get down to it, people – four or five probably-badly-paid security guys trying to score points off three greying librarians on a pavement.

And all for a handful of change in public-sector savings. I don’t think that this is us at our best, you know. I’d cry, if I was the type.

Here’s one of the library assistants – a ten year veteran of the job – explaining the reasons why she wanted to hand out leaflets (it was her day off, so she wasn’t on library time). She also talks about the work library assistants do.

I’ve had a lot of stupid days in my life, but Saturday really took the biscuit.

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About the author
Kate Belgrave is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a New Zealander who moved to the UK eight years ago. She was a columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald and is now a web editor. She writes on issues like public sector cuts, workplace disputes and related topics. She is also interested in abortion rights, and finding fault with religion. Also at: Hangbitching.com and @hangbitch
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Fight the cuts ,Local Government

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Reader comments


One of the growth areas of the private sector Cameron, Osborne and Clegg droan on about: “security”, along with private companies finding there’s gold in them their benefit claimants.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) is one of ‘Call Me Dave’s’ favourite councils, he cites the council as a ‘model’ of “compassionate conservatism”. This “compassionate conservatism” seems to consist of cuts to the elderly, disabled, homleess and now libraries.

One Tory councillor in H&F is Harry Phibbs who in the ’80s was used to wear ‘Hang Nelson Mandela t-shirts and prominent in the Federation of Conservative Students, a body so far right that Norman bloody Tebbit shut it down (a fellow FCS-er was Nick Robinson, now BBC political editor).

Phibbs is now a Daily Mail columnist, blogger and general Tory troll. He believes H&F can ‘cut costs without sacrificing quality’ (except if you are elderly, disabled or homeless obvs.)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1254876/Take-note-BBC-You-CAN-cut-costs-sacrificing-quality.html

But obviously this does not apply to that tradtional, right-wing trough “national security” i.e. defence and defence procurement (apt word).

‘Improving national security must come before cost cutting

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1316181/Improving-national-security-come-cost-cutting.html

The Independent’s Johann Hari ventured out west to H&F to find out the truth; it wasn’t pretty.

‘Welcome to Cameron land’

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-welcome-to-cameron-land-1962318.html

This sounds all too familiar. If you were on public highway, then not only can you film, you have the right to film. Check out Indymedia UK or SchNEWS for more on the legalities, and please pass on to others. Do not let these security goons and privatised thugs intimidate you.

3. Cynical/Realist?

Nothing proves power corrupts more than fucking security guards. Or anyone with a yellow tabbard. They do seem to think that whatever comes out their lips is law itself.

Which is sad considering they get more screwed than most professions with porr pay and long hours. But they get empowered seemingly to act as though they are The Authority.

@Captain Swing (1) – So the Tories have been a matter of months and you are saying that they are the reason for these heavy handed goons. Such goons have been around for years. They are a product of the Labour government. Not directly, but they are a result of the policies of Labour. And it’s not just H&F council. Any other place will have such stupid security – including PCSOs with more power than sense. Just google “photographers pcso”.

These dudes are hardly the SA, but I totally understand your point. I’ve had a couple of encounters with hired goons; not at all pleasant. I don’t particularly care that the majority are low-paid and overworked – it is still their decision to behave like licensed thugs, which they do with alarming regularity.

Perhaps it takes a certain type of person to “put on the uniform” and start throwing their (often considerable) weight around – I don’t know. I remember seeing, on one occasion, two bouncers manhandle a quiet, miserable drunk out of the club and literally throw him face-first onto the street. He was knocked unconscious and had to be carted away in an ambulance.

Another time, two bouncers shoved an underage guy who’d been refused entry (in the back) down a flight of stairs; I think he broke a few bones. More employment for the local paramedics.

The police never do anything – indeed, they are often the ones dishing out the random violence:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-11152883

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-11190561

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2N-89uFJ0Y

(Not to mention Jean Charles De Menezes, Ian Tomlinson, etc…)

@ 4 . SadButMadLad

I know these goons have been aroud for years and New Labour is partly responsible, so were the Thatcherite Tories, this boom in “security” began in the ’80s

At one point in Camden Town, including police & PCSOs, there were five different bodies (including private ones), looking after “security” there.

What I am arguing is H&F is a particularly nasty council, with some right sleaze balls and shits on it hiding behind the facade of “compassionate conservatism”, and it’s probably an indication of what lies ahead for us with other councils.

And like I said, the “security” business is going to boom as the cuts bite and ordinary people start to bite back.

Capisce?

Thanks Keith – will do. I wish I’d got more footage – I had to leave because that guy would have gone after the camera and then I would have had no footage at all. Getting a few shots in across the street was better than nothing.

The stupid thing was it was all so excessive. We looked and acted like a knitting circle, not an uprising. A copper got involved at some point and he apparently told the security guys to calm down and compromise. They should have just said – ok, ladies, hand out your leaflets and then that’s that.

I’d expect Stephen Greenhalgh to be pretty pissed off about this – not about the library protest, but about the fact that Westfield’s response to it has drawn such attention to the protest and the reasons for it. The whole thing would have passed unnoticed if those guys hadn’t made such a scene. Makes me think that they don’t get much in the way of training – ie to spot which incidents are real threats and which ones are better left alone.

It’s not just the private security services replacing the functions that should be done by the police resulting in security for some and none for others, it is also the privatizing of public space, that the area immediately in front of a library is privatized just like everything else. We have allowed our common freedoms to be gradually taken away whilst living in a bemused zoned out state, distracted by sports, gadgets and celebrity and it will continue until we have nothing left.

This story epitomizes it.

@Captain Swing – I see your point.

i’m a security guard. we’re treated like rubbish, are always the first to be cut. most guards don’t get breaks and we have to pay £250 every 3 years for a licence which then we have to display or we are then landed with a £1000 fine. no doubt that the guards were sent to tackle the peaceful demo by management who are too lazy/ cowardly/ incompetent to ask a few librarians what they are doing. i admit that some guards act like himler but they are a minority.

Think you’re probably bang on there, Chris – that’s why I wrote the last line about neither security guards nor librarians being paid very much. That’s the whole thing about the sort of ill thought out blanket cuts H&F goes for – just leaves everyone at the other end slapping it out among themselves. Beneath us all, in my view.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  2. Taobh Clé

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  3. Tyrone C.

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  4. Wendy Maddox

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  5. Peter D Cox

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://ow.ly/36mxn | Our taxes to stifle protests #ConDems

  6. socialworkuk

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  7. Kate B

    LC: Westfield security vs librarians: http://bit.ly/dtaQwh . Vodafone protestors at Westfield wd probably get the chair #ukuncut

  8. Jill Goble

    RT @hangbitch: LC: Westfield security vs librarians: http://bit.ly/dtaQwh . Vodafone protestors at Westfield wd probably get the chair # …

  9. CathElliott

    How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Li1gJZj via @libcon

  10. Bex (arbitrary)

    RT @monstertalk: RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  11. Paula Barker

    RT @CathElliott: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Li1gJZj via @libcon

  12. jim mcvicar

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  13. Adam Bienkov

    RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security by @hangbitch http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  14. Kathy Bartlett

    RT @AdamBienkov: RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security by @hangbitch http://bit.ly/aMwTM8

  15. Kathy Bartlett

    “@AdamBienkov: RT @libcon: How even a protest against library closures brings out heavy security by @hangbitch http://bit.ly/aMwTM8”

  16. Mili

    Librarians: public enemy number 1 in Hammersmith & Fulham. http://bit.ly/aj3Fx3

  17. The Freedom Bill must restore the right to campaign | Bright Green

    […] of attempting to collect petitions was unsurprising, but no less shocking. So too the stories circulating the internet of the library assistants outside their workplace being moved on by Westfield heavies, the Jubilee […]

  18. Kate B

    @tamsinchan http://t.co/7DFhAk9e





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