Refugee crisis. A dispatch from Deutschland.

On a recent trip to Hamburg in northern Germany REEL NEWS witnessed first hand the brilliant response from ordinary German people and activists to the unfolding European refugee crisis.

In the main rail station activists have set up a permanent reception area for refugees arriving by train. They are given food, tea and advice on how to claim asylum or travel onto further destinations if they wish. Meanwhile the city’s main conference centre is presently hosting 1,200 refugees with the adjoining exhibition space being used to sort tons and tons of clothes, tents and toys donated by local people and businesses.

It is a considerable task. At weekends a car or van arrives with donations every 30 seconds. Each day 6-700 volunteers come through the building to help process the numerous items. Sanitary packs are made up for women and children. Clothing and toys are safety checked then bagged up for either immediate distribution or to be sent elsewhere in Northern Germany. Such is the scale of generosity in this one city that they are now exporting aid to other areas.

As volunteers leave the building after their shifts, they stick their nametags to the corridor around the exit. In just a few days the area has become literally wallpapered with the names of those taking part in the relief effort. A visual testament to the scale of this one aid operation.

Meanwhile activists are also responding in solidarity with deteriorating situation for Kurdish people both in Turkey where a bombing campaign by the government has recently begun. Also in Europe, where small Kurdish communities are being threatened. By both repressive anti terror laws (the PKK is falsely branded a terror group), and also from local Turkish nationalists.

On Friday September 11th local antifascists staged an impressive show of force against in solidarity with both German Kurds, recently arrived Kurdish refugees and those fighting for autonomy. Particularly in the Rojava rejoin of Northern Syria where Kurdish forces are reclaiming territory taken by the murderous islamist ISIL group.

The protest marched through the city led by Kurdish groups and finished with speeches and music outside the local detention centre. Flares and fireworks were let off on the roof of an occupied social centre on the route of the march. Anti fascists are clearly making the link between the current situation in Turkey and the activities of far right Turkish nationalist groups like the Grey Wolves who had a protest planned for Hamburg the following Sunday.

Then on Saturday September 12th Hamburg became a police state as a modest 2,800 riot cops were drafted in from all over the country along with 10 water cannons and a helicopter. The reason? A threatened march by German neo Nazis. The police had argued that the march should be banned as they did not have the resources to control the backlash from local people. A feeble excuse, given the size of the police operation.

For those residents wishing to oppose the Nazis without actually having to look at them a non-confrontational protest was organised in a square addressed by the mayor and other politicians.

Meanwhile local antifascists, trade unions and leftist groups organised a march starting from the main station where Nazis defying the ban were expected to arrive. The police estimated the total attendance of both protests to be at over 20k.

As the march from the station began Antifa called their activists into the station as a train carrying a small group of boneheads was spotted arriving. Concerned that the Nazis trapped in the carriage might be overheating; the anti fascists took immediate steps to improve the ventilation of the carriage with those conveniently sized rocks that lie around railway lines in abundance. Riot cops were briefly prevented from getting to the platform in question as more anti fascists linked arms to obstruct their passage. The Nazis remained trapped on their train, any plans of marching in Hamburg destroyed by militant action.

Then around 45 minutes later a second group of fascists arrived. This time they managed to leave the station as the march had left. But within about 2 minutes they were running for their lives back inside as reports from spotters reached the demo.

Protected by a ring of many riot cops the Nazis (most of whom looked like a cross between hipsters & metal fans) started doing that usual thing that the far right specialise in. I.E. acting all tough and doing their utmost to provoke the increasing numbers of anti fascists, while enjoying the protection of the state. Before long, it was raining cobblestones on the police lines whom brought in water cannons for protection.

The fascist were then informed by their protectors that they would be searched ID’d and then removed from the city for their own protection. By now hundreds of Antifa and other activists were had them surrounded and more cops were brought in to keep them at bay.

Antifascists jeered at the Nazis as they were searched and corralled. Not exactly shining examples of Aryan perfection that they claim to be the ‘masterace’ whined that they were being victimised while dodging flying bottles and masonry. All in all it was a very bad day for National Socialism as those of them who accepted the ban on their event in Hamburg were also attacked and prevented from marching in Bremen.

Here at REEL NEWS we are very far from naïve about the real reasons for the supposed generosity of Angela Merkal towards refugees. Not least the economic incentives for recruiting grateful workers from desperate situations. However a weekend in Hamburg has done much to boost our faith in the ability of ordinary people and activists to organise in solidarity with refugees and against the moronic racists who are trying to exploit this crisis for their own purposes. Nice one Hamburg!





Anonymous Million Mask March London 5-11-13

Here at REEL NEWS we’ve never really understood why people celebrate November 5th? This is after all the date that Mr Fawkes and his comrades saw their mission fail. It is like having an annual night of celebration for still not finding a cure for cancer. However we love fireworks and setting stuff alight so we went to have a look at the London arm of the worldwide Anonymous Million Mask March.

Attempts by the Police to keep protesters out of the road when they arrived at Parliament Square failed miserably as hundreds of people poured into the area around Parliament and set up several sound systems. A number of vehicles including a bus were trapped in the crowd so the TSG were deployed to rescue them. This resulted in scuffles but without any violence. More protesters came to join the party from Westminster Bridge where the Peoples Assembly had been holding a rally and blockade.

The sound systems were complimented by the performances of hip hop artists and also a fire breather. A large part of the crowd then went for a walk towards Buckingham Palace before heading into the West End with outnumbered police trying to keep up. There were further scuffles at a McDonalds and a firework was shot at Buckingham Palace.

Other reports: (1) (2) (3) (4)

55,000 March for the NHS outside the Tory conference

The title of this year’s Tory conference is ‘For Hard Working People’ which seems like an attempt at irony coming from such avid fans of both tax evasion and inherited wealth. Meanwhile outside the Manchester GMEX Centre over 55,000 hard working people demonstrated their disgust at the privatisation of the NHS. The protest called by the TUC was most heavily supported by members of UNISON which was unsurprising given their status as the biggest union in NHS. There were also large turnouts from the PCS, UNITE and GMB.

Photos by Guy Smallman



Issue 37, Aug 2013

DVT100 Standard DVD Trapsheet

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Let us know if you want the DVDs

1)    Fracking: The Truth (Reel News,Frack Free Fylde) 26:45

Fracking produces earthquakes, poisons the water supply, and causes cancer. The shocking evidence from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Lancashire.

2)    Divided Families Campaign (Reel News) 9:02

Families separated by impossible regulations on earnings tell their own heartbreaking stories.

3)    Fracking: Balcombe 1 (Reel News) 16:39

Villagers in West Sussex rise up against the decision to give Cuadrilla permits to start exploratory drilling for oil.

4)    The Hunt for Hunt (Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign) 6:35

Spectacular victory for the campaign to stop cuts at Lewisham Hospital.

5)    Fracking: Balcombe 2 (Reel News) 8:56

The permanent blockade of the fracking site continues by possibly the fastest growing environmental movement ever seen.

6)    Chicago Schools 3 day march (Labor Beat) 26:10

54 schools threatened with closure – but an unprecedented rank and file movement of teachers and pupils is determined to keep them open.

7)  Visit Faslane Peace Camp (Camcorder Guerillas) 10:15

Legendary Glasgow videoactivist collective The Camcorder Guerillas celebrate their 10th anniversary in September. This is their latest film – an urgent call for support.

8)    Crossrail: Bond St (Reel News) 4:47

The campaign over blacklisting on the Crossrail project is winning, as Kier start to lose multimillion pound contracts.


Select your location

Support Reel News!

If you like what we’re doing, become a Reel News Supporter to help us keep making films! Starting at £3 monthly.

Let us know if you want the DVDs

Fracking: Balcombe blockade intensifies

The blockade of Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Balcombe, Sussex is now permanent – and inspiring a fast growing movement as new groups start up all over the country, and the horrific process of fracking is catapulted into the national consciousness. After only four days, the police operation is already estimated to have cost over one million pounds – and this is just the first well of thousands, all of which look like they are going to face similar protests.

Balcombe anti-fracking protests intensify

The battle of Balcombe is hotting up as more and more environmentalists answer the call from activists and local villagers to stop Cuadrilla from destroying the local countryside and water supply. Protesters have been slowing the arrival of equipment to the site which is now reportedly several days behind its drilling schedule. Meanwhile two activists were arrested yesterday (July 31st) for gluing themselves to the gates of the site holding up deliveries for several hours. Today an old fire engine is blocking the gate with several demonstrators locked onto it. Local people continue to welcome the activists camping at the gates by bringing food and other supplies.

Villagers have also uncovered documents from the land registry that seriously question the legality of the drilling project. Restrictions on the land include not causing “annoyance”, “nuisance” or “damage” to local people and their property. The storing of dangerous chemicals is also prohibited. So many are wondering if the police shouldn’t be arresting the drivers of the delivery lorries and giving out community service awards to the people trying to stop them?

Elsewhere the father in law of Chancellor George Osbourne has become a one man PR disaster for the Tories by saying that fracking should only occur in the “desolate” North East. He went on to alienate the rest of the North of England by saying he actually meant the North West. The Tory peer has become an instant figure of hate for everyone residing north of Watford as well as his own party’s press and communications department. With the media becoming steadily more hostile Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan has been trying to reassure local people that the drilling rig will not result in any long term damage to the environment. Today (August 1st) a coachload of activists will be arriving in Balcombe from Blackpool bringing evidence of what Cuadrilla’s activities did to their local area.

Another cause for concern among local people is the mounting cost of the police operation. Anyone attending a festival or football match will be aware that policing costs are covered as part of the ticket price. However it has emerged that Cuadrilla (a multi-billion pound company) are paying nothing towards the bill which is being picked up by local tax payers. Activists noticed a large cherry picker being brought onto the site yesterday suggesting that G4S have serious concerns about keeping it secure when/if the drilling starts. REEL NEWS contacted the Press Office of Sussex Police to ask about the cost of the operation. We were told that no figures would be available until after the protests end. Also that on Wednesday “75 officers were deployed to the protest”. We know this to be untrue as we counted 60 being used to escort the lorries in. A further 29 around the camp, 5 evidence gatherers, 6 more further down the road towards Whitmans Green, 3 police motor cyclists and four more traffic police stationed at the roundabout towards the M23. The operation is 24 hours a day. So estimates that it has cost over 1 million pounds already do not seem to be an exaggeration. Why so many police are required for what is an totally peaceful protest with local support remains a mystery?

Photos by Guy Smallman


Blacklisting on Crossrail – The Proof

To mark the British mainstream media finally exposing the illegal practice of blacklisting on primetime TV (Panorama, 10/06/13), We present the first in a new series of regional reports from around the UK on blacklisting.

Number 1: South East

Crossrail are blacklisting trade unionists – and here’s the proof. Testimonies from people with direct experience of blacklisting by Crossrail at Westbourne Park in London, and Chatham docks in Kent. Plus: the extent of blacklisting from Chatham to Basingstoke and Southampton – and the growing resistance.

The Crimes of Franco’s Fascist Regime 5: The Apparatus of Repression

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Tuesday we met Ramon Saéz, who is a class of person who you might have some difficulty coming across in Britain – a radical judge. He met with us to explain the legal framework for the oppressive apparatus of fascism in Spain.

Judge Ramón Sáez
Judge Ramón Sáez

Basically the core instrument used for oppression against people fighting for basic rights was the military tribunal – not just during and immediately after the Civil War from 1936 – 1939, but right up to the end of the dictatorship, as can be seen by the use of military tribunals to pass the last five death penalties in Spain in September 1975. (See Military tribunals were a way of pushing decisions through quickly with few, if any, rights for defendants.

In the 40s there were the tribunals of masonry and communism, used against anyone with different ideas to the state (masonry in Spain at the time, although a secret society, was associated with liberal and republican ideas). These were used to jail, exile and execute – and as a result to scare people into submission and accept the regime.

They were also used to expropriate money and property retrospectively. For example, Blas Infante, the celebrated Andalucian leader, was executed in 1936. In 1941 he was found guilty retrospectively of political crimes, and the house of his widow and children was taken by the state.

“Political crimes” became a catch-all term for anything the state didn’t like, or went against the twisted morality of the catholic church in Spain. So “political crimes” covered all forms of association in public places such as demonstrations and meetings; any form of organisation outside the state or church such as trade unions or political parties; freedom of expression such as criticism of the state or even statements of peace; sex outside marriage including adultery and homosexuality; the list went on and on. Ramón described it as “an absolute and ferocious control of the people to keep them in a permanent state of fear.”

The position of women under fascism was horrendous; quite simply they had no rights at all. They had trouble finding work, and if you got married you had to give up your job immediately. Only men were allowed to sign commercial contracts of any type (mortgages for example) so as a woman you had no right to own any property – your father or husband signed any contracts that needed signing.

As with other fascist states, Franco’s regime could only work by having a significant popular base. There was a whole network of formal and informal informants, collaborators and secret agencies of information to control the population. The taxi driver who just gave you a lift could be part of it, as could the caretaker who looked after your block of flats. The popular support came from a number of factors –  a lot of it was down to currying favour with the regime out of fear that the widespread oppression of the civil war might return (around 75,000 people were executed between 1936 and 1939), but there was also the fact that you were more likely to get a job or increase your income – plus the fact that a significant part of the population had been won over to the ideas of fascism. However, Ramón pointed out that a lot of the time people were controlled because they’d internalised their fear of the regime – because they assumed they were being watched anyway, there was no need to waste resources on constant surveillance.

If communites got too uppity. “states of exception” were declared, where the few rights that did exist would be suspended completely. People could be arrested and detained indefinitely, and police could enter people’s houses at will and impose curfews. The first instance of this was during the Asturian miners’ strike of the mid- fifties.

There was a circular logic to the repressive apparatus, which continued even after Franco died, and the law was changed in 1976 and 1977. The culture was still the same – so the police could get away with atrocities such as the massacre in Vitoria in 1976, when police opened fire on a workers’ assembly in a church during a huge strike. 5 workers were killed and over a hundred seriously wounded – but as the police had done the shooting, obviously the workers must have plotting crimes against the state. Simiilarly, if you were arrested and then complained when you were tortured, you were likely to receive an increase sentence for telling outrageous lies about the police.

La Comuna demo yesterday: "Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism"
La Comuna demo yesterday:
“Against Impunity: Solidarity with the victims of Francoism”

Ramón supports La Comuna’s fight for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, and the lifting of the law of impunity for such crimes passed in 1977. He rejects the idea of “reconciliation” that is put forward as justificaition for the law – as he says, you can’t have reconciliation without first officially recognising the suffering caused. He also pointed out another key point which shows why La Comuna’s struggle is so important as a prerequisite for a better world today. As he said, “The colour of the uniform may have changed, but the culture lives on, because the dictatorship has never been discredited.” You only have to consider how little the culture of the Met police in London has changed to see how true that is – and the Met police’s culture has been discredited not once, but at least twice, after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and after the 1981 riots.

La Comuna have now found a judge in Argentina who is prepared to put the fascist regime on trial under international law for crimes against humanity, in an ironic reversal of the trial in Spain against the generals of the military dictatorship in Argentina. Although this is largely symbolic, the trial of the generals did increase the pressure for justice and reparations that the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo had been bravely calling for, a struggle they ultimately won. This could be the first step in a similar process, but they’ll need international support and solidarity. This could take the form of messages, demonstrations, donations to the campaign – they need money in particular in the short term so that ex-political prisoners can travel to Buenos Aires to give their testimony.

In the meantime, La Comuna will hold a demonstration every Thursday, just as the Madres did, until they get the justice that the Spanish people so richly deserve.

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.


The crimes of Franco’s fascist regime 2: Women in Prison

Update: This article is now available in Danish.

During the 60s and 70s, General Franco’s fascist dictatorship in Spain responded to an increasing movement for basic human rights with horrific violence. Thousands were jailed, tortured, or assassinated, mostly for doing nothing more than being a member of an “illegal” organisation, such as the clandestine trade unions, and political parties, handing out political leaflets, or going on a demonstration,all types of which were illegal.

 In other parts of the world, such as Argentina or Chile, the perpetrators of similar crimes have been brought to justice – but not in Spain. Reel News is in Spain for two weeks to work with La Comuna, an organisation of ex-political prisoners fighting for justice and reparations.

On Sunday we met Pilar Arias, Maria del Valle and Isabel Pérez Alegre, three activists who spent time in Delicias women’s prison in the 70s. All three were active in left wing political parties and in clandestine trade unions as the movements against the dictatorship grew.

Isabel Pérez Alegre
Isabel Pérez Alegre

They told us how organising clandestinely affected their lives. Many of their fellow activists were being arrested, and Maria spoke of a constant state of fear and tension, always looking over your shoulder to see who was watching you; of meeting in secret and having to be careful what you said to family or friends; of having to survive on hardly any money, and of living with instability when you did have a job, because of the constant threat of the sack due to being a member of a clandestine trade union.

Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol
Dirección General de Seguridad, Plaza del Sol

When activists were arrested, they would be taken first to the interrogation centre in Plaza del Sol, the DGS (Dirección General de Seguridad).  Isabel’s memories of this place are so bad that even after 40 years she didn’t want to talk about it. Maria explained that the interrogation seemed to go on forever. She spoke of being beaten and being deprived of sleep. The room had no natural light so you had no idea whether it was day or night, or how many hours or days had passed. When you were finally taken to prison, Isabel said it felt like a palace in comparison; although political prisoners were put in smaller cells than other prisoners, at least she finally had a bed and could take a shower.

Maria del Valle



Pilar agreed that the conditions weren’t too bad in Delicias – there was even a small cinema where they could watch films – but the first time she was arrested, at the age of just 18, she was sent to the notorious Alcara de Henares prison, an old converted convent. She said it was terrifying; the rooms were freezing, very little natural light, the beds were dirty and uncomfortable, and wardens would pull back the shutters on the metal doors to the cells all the time to intimidate you and to see what you were doing.

Delicias Prison
Delicias Prison

In prison, they organised in communes or “comunas” – hence the name of the group that is fighting for justice and reparations for the crimes of the Franco regime, La Comuna. Pilar explained that it was a mirror of how they organised outside, so the main organising tool was the assembly, where all decisions would be taken collectively. Everything they had was shared amongst everyone; money, food, tobacco etc.

They set up political discussion groups, using the time inside to educate themselves, and they would act collectively to improve prison conditions, not just for themselves but for the other prisoners – many of whom were inside simply for being people that the regime didn’t like. There were many prostitutes inside who hadn’t had the money to pay an on-the-spot fine; women who had been caught smoking a spliff; many women whose only “crime” was to be gay.

Pilar Arias
Pilar Arias

The ultimate weapon of the “comunas” was the mass hunger strike, accompanied by solidarity actions outside prison. It could be quite difficult to get the message out because you were only allowed visitors from your family. Pilar explained how she would shout loudly into the microphone to her mum “We’re on hunger strike! Tell everyone outside why!” so that all the visitors could hear. Of course they would cut off the microphone and punish her, but the message would already be out.

The biggest  hunger strike, involving all the political prisoners in the country, took place in September 1975, when the dictatorship condemned 11 activists to death. 6 had their sentences commuted but 5 were shot by firing squad, triggering huge protests inside and outside Spain. Yesterday we interviewed two of the activists who had their sentences commuted, so more on this later this week.

All three women spoke of the violence that accompanied the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in November 1975, when armed fascist gangs were allowed to operate with complete impunity and hundreds were murdered. The still intact apparatus of the dictatorship was trying to keep the fascist state going, but the people continued to fight back. The failed military coup in 1981 would signal the end for the fascist state in Spain.

15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12
15M demo in Madrid, 25.09.12

Obviously the democracy that followed didn’t go anywhere near as far as people had hoped – but as we spoke about the situation now, the women pointed out that the drive for austerity meant that the rights that they did win are gradually being taken away one by one, and that the peaceful popular resistance represented by the 15M movement  (the “indignados”) is being met by increasingly violent oppression yet again.

The lessons of the past show how our rulers turn to fascism in times of recession when they are unable to control a growing movement against them – and that’s why the struggle to bring those responsible for the crimes of Franco’s regime to justice, particularly those still in the state apparatus, is so important in the struggle against austerity today.

We will need to make trips to other parts of Spain in order to help in this crucial struggle for justice – but we need money to do it. Obviously there is no funding for a project of this sort in Spain, and with the brutal austerity measures, our fellow film makers in Madrid have no money either. If you can help, please click the donate button below.