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Going Ballistic: “I don’t want to live in a building with armed police at my door and missiles on the roof”

By Brian Whelan

Until two months ago I was happy to have the Olympic stadium next door to my apartment in Bow Quarter, East London – I thought there would be traffic issues but never worried the games would intrude on my life.

I was never excited to have the Olympics here, but I certainly wasn’t opposed to the games and had naively believed that they would do more good than bad for the area. In retrospect I was living in a dreamworld, I woke up to the Olympic nightmare on April 30th when a leaflet from the Ministry of Defence announced plans to turn my apartment block into a small military base.

I was to live in the shadow of a missile battery on top of the roof, staffed by 10 soldiers working around the clock and guarded by armed police lurking at the end of my corridor. This imposition would be part of a much bigger security plan involving missiles at five other locations across London and an aircraft carrier in the Thames. At Bow Quarter we reacted quickly to the announcement forming a campaign with members of the local community, pursuing a legal challenge and hosting public meetings. We demanded the MoD explain when it became acceptable to turn civilian homes into military installations and what purpose missiles with a range of just five miles could serve over Tower Hamlets, one of London’s most densely populated areas.

The MoD have failed to address even our most basic concerns, stating that the location is not up for debate and citing ‘national security’ and prevention of terrorism as their motivation. Of course nobody wants to see the Olympics attacked but the supposed threat of terrorism should not be used to shut down debate or infringe on people’s rights to enjoy their homes. The MoD thought they could sneak this plan under the radar with a leaflet delivered at the very last minute, but with their arrogance they have provoked a critical campaign that is determined to stop them.

At the Fred Wigg tower in Leytonstone families have launched their own legal challenge against their building being commandeered as a missile base. In Blackheath, South London Against Missiles (SLAM) have taken up the fight holding marches and campaigning with the support of the local community. The campaign is at its strongest in Bow, where 200 locals packed out a hall to voice their concerns at a debate the MoD initially agreed to attend but later ran away from.

Since putting my head above the parapet and having the audacity to voice my dissatisfaction with a part of the 2012 Olympic games preparations, I have had my tenancy terminated and will now have to move out before the opening ceremony this month. I have also been contacted by scores of people in similar situations – people who were busy going about their lives before having the Olympics land on top of them. Every week I hear from tenants evicted because their landlords want to charge huge fees during the games, local teenagers who face curfews to keep them out of sight and families who can’t use local sports amenities for the duration of the games.

At Mile End stadium US security services are to be deployed and the centre will be closed off to the local community to allow American athletes to train. It is unlikely that armed FBI agents we be made unwelcome. I don’t want to live in a building with armed police at my door and missiles on the roof, I don’t think they serve any practical purpose to make the city safer. I think my roof is a handy shop window for the arms industry to show off some hardware and for the MoD to flex some muscle and give the illusion of safety. They admit themselves they see the missiles as a ‘deterrent’.

If the price of hosting the games is having snipers, sound cannons, an aircraft carrier, automatic weapons on the tube and 13,500 troops deployed then we should ask ourselves if it is really worth it. We cannot create the precedent of allowing the military to intrude into our lives and take over our homes. The Olympics should be an opportunity to showcase the greatest sporting talents from across the globe, not for showcasing military hardware and cracking down on civil liberties.

* Join Stop The Olympic Missiles for a march in protest against the Olympic missiles on June 30th starting from Mile End to the Olympic park.

This piece is to appear in the July issue of Occupied Times, first published online in advance of the Stop The Olympic Missiles protest at theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=5708


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